Our Blood Oath 001-007 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Blood is thicker than water, especially if you’re a vampire! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Our Blood Oath makes the bold choice of eschewing basic character introductions in favor of jumping right into the action. After a brief flashback establishing the titular Blood Oath between our two siblings, Ko and Shin Hizuki, we snap to present day, where both are on the hunt for a horrific, vampiric beast that’s out for blood. Unfortunately, for as bold an opening as this is, Our Blood Oath gradually slips into sloppy story-telling habits, failing to make Ko, Shin and other characters impactful, creating a mish-mash of action and awkwardly placed world-building, all together crafting a series that simply put; fails to ever truly enthrall the reader. Let’s Jump In!
Returning to the first few pages, this opening is indeed a bold move. Opening straight to action can be difficult. Without context more fantastical action can come off as merely flashy art panels that fail to pull the reader in, and even worse, potentially leave them disconnected from the rest of the series’ introduction. But Our Blood Oath succeeds in these first few pages, enticing us with a grisly slaying of stray cats as a trail that leads to a rather unique monster design. This Vampiric Beast, with its almost demonic pokemon-esque appearance, catches attention right away, helping to keep the reader interested, even before we know any of our heroes. The chapter’s success doesn’t stop there. After the beast is slain by Ko and Shin, we follow the random young man who was caught in the beast’s sight home, where we get a strong, uncomfortable hint that all is not well with his family. Something evil is afoot.
Unfortunately this is where Our Blood Oath suffers a fairly significant dip in quality. Snapping to the next day our introductory character, Shino Yuki, meets Shin and Ko again after school. The chapter quickly devolves into a fairly predictable conversation where Ko and Shin pry into Shino’s home life. Dialogue becomes forced here as Shino decides to blame the fact that he was adopted (a good decade ago) as the reason his family has recently turned cold toward him. It’s all so Ko can then push back on the lack of blood relation as any reason for family not to treat family as family and hammer home the ‘message’ of the series. This is a pretty significant misstep as we learn little else about the two brothers to solidify them in readers minds as enticing leads. We really need some strong character interaction, or memorable dialogue, to sell Ko and Shin as worthwhile characters and that simply isn’t present here.
From there we rush to the ‘surprise’ twist; where Shino’s family turns out to be possessed by horrid vampiric spirits seeking to devour him. Action follows not a moment later as Shin rushes to Shino’s aid. A more action packed opening like this can work but Our Blood Oath isn’t content to just have the chapter progress with Shin and Ko battling it out to save Shino, while dropping in subtle hints as to their tragic backstory and true nature. As the fighting takes a dramatic turn, putting Shin’s back to the wall, we snap into an exposition heavy flashback, laying out Shin and Ko’s tragic backstory in one go. We cram what could be heart-wrenching tragedy into a meager three pages, as if our author, or the editor, doesn’t truly believe audiences would find these events, even fleshed out, all that gripping. And I suppose to be fair, as presented Our Blood Oath’s deeper tragedy isn’t all that unique, but that in itself is a problem, and merely skipping over it doesn’t solve how tired a tragic origin it is. From there Our Blood Oath devolves into predictable twists, with the younger brother Ko turning out to be a startlingly strong Vampire, who obliterates the vampiric spirits in one go.
While this first chapter is undoubtedly wonky, its always possible to right such a start with tighter subsequent chapters that build upon, or repair any awkward elements. Unfortunately Our Blood Oath isn’t exactly a predictable series. For as happy as it is to fall back on tropes, Chapter 2 is anything but the expected next step.
Instead of repeating similar events to Chapter 1, to prove that the series works with a smaller page count, and provide audiences a second start in case they somehow missed the first, or building the story in a way that makes it obvious what to expect week to week, Chapter 2 is instead the kind of inconsequential, sweet, slice of life tale you’d expect to see some ten chapters down the road, just prior to the series switching over to a long-running arc.
And that’s kind of how the series continues to progress. An awkward slice of life like chapter, followed by another that acts as a second introduction, followed by a world building chapter that again feels like it should be saved for later down the line, Followed then by a two part story that’s darker and more dramatic, but lacks the required familiarity with our cast to leave a lasting impact. Specifically Chapters 5 and 6 focus on Ko and Shin’s ordeal in helping their friend, Izuki (Shino Yuki, for as familiar as he became with Ko and Shin’s secret identity, disappears after Chapter 1 for reasons unexplained) whose sister has been kidnapped by another Vampire looking to kill both Ko and Shin. The trouble here is that Ko and Shin, even with awkward slice of life and world building chapters, still feel like distant, unmemorable leads, lacking in both charm and charisma. Izuki as a character is even worse. Introduced in Chapter 3 as their pretty boy classmate, Izuki’s inclusion in the story is otherwise fairly minimal, and undermined quite quickly as his loyalty as a friend is called into question at the very end of his introduction, with hints that he’s something akin to a unwilling minion for a greater evil (The vampire who eventually attacks both Ko and Shin in Chapters 5 and 6.) Because Izuki is so under-serviced as a character its hard to feel much of anything, even as he struggles to save his sister, and comes to learn the truth about Vampires.
Our Blood Oath seems like a very haphazard series, where the story doesn’t build in a natural way that grabs our interest. Instead by the end of Chapter 7, where Izuki is taken around by the brothers to meet the other vampires secretly living in human society and we’re teased with another set of even more powerful vampires, I find myself entirely unimpressed. Sure, I don’t know what’s going to happen each chapter, because sometimes the series will randomly offer up world-building or silly slice of life shenanigans instead of what was teased at the end of the last chapter, but I know we’re otherwise basically building to another stereotypical supernatural, over the top shonen action battle between vampires. And that would be fine, if Our Blood Oath actually managed to make Ko and Shin charming or charismatic. Without either feeling unique, Our Blood Oath fails to keep me hooked.
That’s it for this week! Let me know your own thoughts on Our Blood Oath!
Our Blood Oath is published in Shonen Jump.