I said “reviews will resume” but I did not tell you that they would resume with a veritable masterpiece. Today, Guest Reviewer Bruce P offers up what I sincerely believe to be the most masterly review I have ever read, just in time for Halloween!
Lesbian III: Bloodsucking Women, (レズビアン3 吸血令嬢) is the latest volume of Senno Knife’s manga centered on lesbians, but not really. As was stated in a review of Volume I there have typically been no lesbians in these lesbian stories. And there are none in Lesbian III. There are only female vampires living in a world unaccountably devoid of men, so their targets are necessarily also female. And although they do seem to enjoy the lovemaking that takes place before getting down to business, those naked preliminaries appear to be of somewhat secondary interest to the women involved (if not to the intended audience). Unlike stories in previous volumes, Lesbian III is pure melodrama with a lack of actual love between any of the characters.
While the previous volumes consisted of short stories, Lesbian III is one long epic. This provides the author with less room for creating different artistic atmospheres, one of Senno-san’s strengths, but provides a chance to see if he can expand a simple idea into a sustainable narrative. Does he succeed? Heavens no. But it’s a pretty ride.
Asari-san, a beautiful woman, is in the vaguely 1930’s-style Capital City looking for employment, but has had no success. It’s dark. She’s despondent. And then an expensive limousine pulls up, from which a mysterious, beautiful woman emerges, offering Asari-san a ‘job’. In the live-action movie this is the point at which the audience yells “Don’t get in the car.” She gets in the car. She’s blindfolded. New to the workforce, she figures this must be what they call commuting. Arriving at a very gothic Japanese mansion she is led to a padlocked tower and informed that the beautiful woman’s daughter is languishing within, suffering from a mysterious medical condition. With a bit of a shove and a ‘good luck,’ Asari-san is locked inside. It’s only now that she gets a sense that something dreadfully peculiar is going on. And you wonder why employers were not terribly keen on hiring her.
The girl in the tower, Saya-san, is very beautiful. Actually, every character in the manga is either a beautiful woman or a beautiful girl, except for a few grumpy looking nuns who don’t get much page time anyway. Saya-san is charmingly straightforward about the situation – she’s a vampire, Asari-san’s a buttered scone, and it’s way past tea time. It seems that Saya-san has been bitten by one of those beautiful Eastern European piano teachers of whom you must be so careful. Asari-san is horrified by this declaration of hellish intent and thinks: oh such pretty eyes. So they undress and fiddle around a little before Saya-san gives her eternal life and all the issues that go with it. Recoiling at the enormity of her fateful actions, Asari-san thinks: pretty lips, too.
Existing now in a timeless, twilight world, undead and never-aging, Asari-san has no need for a pension plan and is much more employable. She is given a job teaching at Saya-san’s pseudo-Catholic school where she and Saya-san begin systematically seducing other girls to the ranks of the undead. Incidentally the type of vampire in this story, while preferring the night, has no real problem with daylight. Or with crosses, or presumably with the garlic in the refectory’s lobster bisque. This is most fortunate for a vampire teaching day classes at a Catholic school. Asari-san and Saya-san soon enough have their hands full. Teachers and students, each one prettier than the last, form a line to the couple’s door, eager to shed their clothes and join the army of the damned. It’s great fun. It’s a long line.
So everyone’s becoming a vampire. But like a plague that begins spreading and killing millions in a crowded city, eventually somebody’s going to notice, what with all the blood everywhere. The nuns turn for help to the dormitory guardian, a literally 10 foot tall armored woman who leads an elite troop of jack-booted hall monitors. Meanwhile Eliza, the piano teacher who started it all, reappears. She surprises ex-pupil Saya-san with an urn of ashes, the remains of that famous literary vampire Carmilla, who in this version had been burned at the stake by hooded executioners from the Vatican. Eliza intends to revive Carmilla in the crypt beneath the school.
Inserting Carmilla at this point is a little like when they put Dracula into an Abbott and Costello movie. You have to feel a little sorry for the old bloodsucker. The story of Carmilla, like Dracula, is of course relatively old, in a literary sense, with roots going all the way back to the Sakura Taisen Dramatic Card Game Series, and, um, possibly even earlier.
While it sounds very much as though the story has long since merrily degenerated into bad farce, you don’t notice this so much as you are reading. In fact if your reading consists of just looking at all the naked vampires you won’t see any problem at all.
Anyway at this point a great deal of swashbuckling hurly-burly takes place, naked vampires vs. sword-wielding storm troopers with pretty eyes. Carmilla is being revived with vampire blood, Asari-san has escaped the school dungeon but is about to be impaled with the dorm guardian’s two-handed longsword…
And then she wakes up. It was all a dream. Or was it? As she rides off in the moonlight with Saya-san and Eliza and an urn of Carmilla ash in Eliza’s expensive 30’s-style roadster she takes a nibble at Saya-san’s wrist. While you can argue that this ‘it was only a dream’ type ending is a lousy way to end a story, the greater disappointment, for the majority of folks who have made it all the way to the end, will be that as they disappear into the night they still have their clothes on.
Art – 8. Precise, Paul Delvaux inspired mannequin-like characters and sharply drawn gothic backgrounds.
Story – Are you kidding?
Characters – 7. They may chew on each other, but they’re very nice about it. Good vampires and bad pseudo-Catholics.
Yuri – 9. 100% women, but despite all the lovemaking, there’s little love in all that vampirism.
Service – 10. It would be 9.9 because of the fully clothed ending, but when closing the book, the back cover probably gives it that extra tenth.
Overall – 6. A fine example of the fact that just because something is bad – and this one is bad – there’s no reason that you can’t say what the hell and enjoy it.
Erica here: Bruce, you’re killing me. Please write all my reviews so I can just read them….!