ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘The Vampire and His Pleasant Companions,’ Volume 2

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The Vampire and his Pleasant Companions
Content Warning: The Vampire and His Pleasant Companions Volume 2 and this review talk about animal abuse

The Vampire and his Pleasant Companions is a series that has captured my heart even as it retraces problematic tropes of both the BL and vampire genre. In volume 1, readers were introduced to Al, a vampire who resigned to live homeless, surviving only on slaughterhouse scraps in the United States. But, when he was frozen in a meatpacking plant and sent off to Japan, he found himself arrested as a deviant only to wind up in Akira’s apartment. While that volume dealt with sorting out the misunderstandings between Al, Akira, and his detective brother, this one picks up where it left off – surprisingly, with Al bleeding in the park after becoming a target of a serial killer.

Still with me? Good. The Vampire and his Pleasant Companions Volume 2 is illustrated by Marimo Ragawa and features an original story by Narise Konohara. The volume is published and localized in English by Yen Press, translated by Taylor Engel, and features letters by Abigail Blackman. Now in volume 2, the series’s focus is less about  Akira coming to accept his now live-in vampire roommate and all about capturing a serial killer while feelings begin to blossom between Akira and Al.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the series, Al’s vampiric nature is the only thing that prevents him from becoming the latest death in a string of serial stabbings. Found by Akira, Al has his first chance to taste human blood, the only thing that will get him back on his feet. After nursing him back to mostly health, Akira offers Al his blood, and in typical “your blood is delicious” fashion, Al overindulges. Understanding how much of a burden he has become, both with his hunger and inability to work due to the language barrier he is slowly overcoming, Al uses his unique ability to help track down the man who stabbed him and solve an open serial murder in the process.

While I still feel that the series is moving slowly overall in romantic, emotional development (mainly because in this one volume, Akira asserts his straightness multiple times), The Vampire and his Pleasant Companions Volume 2 offers up moments of pain that pay off in immediate emotion. That is to say, while Akira is unable to admit his feelings for Al, and Al only admits them in his thoughts, the two show immense concern when the other is hurt. Leaving the audience to wait for their inevitable confession.

That said, as much as this volume is about the building of an emotional relationship, primarily with Al becoming a janitor at Akira’s funeral home, it’s also about building suspense. The appearance of a serial killer last volume took me by surprise. It was the added drama you could expect from a series, but it came out of nowhere. While I was worried that this thread would be dropped, instead, it’s used to build Al out as a character. While the first volume left me annoyed with the character, mainly how referred to the speaking of Japanese as some vague onomatopoeia instead of, you know, Japanese, this volume made do a complete 180.

Al wants to be loved, and he wants to be useful. His keen sense of smell can help him do that. We’re given flashbacks that allow us to understand more about Al, and more specifically, while he was changing into a vampire, the process became corrupted. This left him changed but unable to control his transformations into a bat and without fangs. We also get a glimpse at another vampire who, truth be told, brings an ominous cloud with him – even if it is just a flashback.

This is where we have the meat of the volume. Al confronts the man who stabbed him, and with his bat-nose, Al knows that he is the serial murderer. But, unable to transform into a human on command like other vampires, Al is defenseless. While I enjoyed the overall volume, the pages that show Al being tortured, his wings clipped, screeching, and his poor body ripped open by the murderer are too much. It gets the point, but it’s hard to read, especially for animal lovers. That said, the afterward, with Akira staying by his side when he transforms into a human, with wounds on his face and body, is sweet. The panels themselves are graphic, but Akira, an embalmer, is unphased by Al’s appearance. He’s really only scared that he’ll lose him.

That’s the crux of the series that I want to see explored more. The connection between Akira and Al is why I care about The Vampire and his Pleasant Companions, and while it’s developed this volume, it’s also undercut. With Al’s thoughts, we learn that he wants to hold and kiss Akira. For him, kindness has transformed into something more. But when Akira is confronted with the possibility, he pushes back, distancing himself from the idea of being gay or even bisexual. It’s frustrating and feels more equipped for a 90s BL than one released in 2021. And that’s par for the course given that illustrations harken back to a 90s bishounen aesthetic, and of course, with Ragawa’s history in the medium, it’s to be expected. This isn’t a knock on the art or the quality of the series as a whole, but more so, me recognizing the tropes pulled into queer romances that aren’t executed well.

Overall, I am hooked on this series with The Vampire and His Pleasant Companions Volume 2. I need to know what happens next as much as I need our leads, Al and Akira, to finally get together. Time will only tell, but with its first arc solidly wrapped up in this volume, I’m excited to see where it goes next. But, we have to wait until June.

The Vampire and his Pleasant Companions Volume 2 is available wherever books are sold on March 30, 2021.

 

The Vampire and his Pleasant Companions Volume 2
4.5

TL;DR

Overall, I am hooked on this series with The Vampire and His Pleasant Companions Volume 2. I need to know what happens next as much as I need our leads, Al and Akira, to finally get together. Time will only tell, but with its first arc solidly wrapped up in this volume, I’m excited to see where it goes next. But, we have to wait until June.