I continue to cover manga with "supernatural" themes as we start the countdown to Halloween (see reviews of RIN-NE and Soul Eater I posted earlier in the week). Tonight I take a quick look at Darren Shan and Takahiro Arai's Cirque du Freak (which as some might also know, has been adapted to a U.S. live action film which will be coming out soon under the name The Vampire's Assistant).
In the third volume, Darren, his mentor Mr. Crepsley and his friend Evra depart from the circus -- which is we learn Crepsley thinks of as just a convenient cover for their identities as vampires, while Darren has come to think of it as "home" -- for a kind of "holiday." Darren and Evra get a chance to goof off and enjoy activities that "normal" boys get to do, such as playing video games, watching tv, exploring the busy city, even developing a crush on a girl. The primary difference between them and other people, as Evra points out, is that other people also have to go to a job or school....or in other words, those people have purpose.
With too much time on their hands Darren and Evra start to become suspicious about Crepsley's strange behavior, as their strange guardian goes out every night with a haunted look in his eye and returns at dawn, never giving any indication what he's been doing or why he's chosen this particular city for their vacation. When Darren learns about a bunch of bodies -- drained of blood -- have been left for dead in the city he immediately suspects his mentor.
I'm a sucker for conflicted mentor-mentee relationships and this volume of Cirque du Freak tests the already stretched-thin bonds of trust between Darren and Crepsley. Once Darren consciously breaks those bonds he is immediately regretful and he devises dangerous tests of trust and courage that he must pass in order to repair what has been broken. This volume allows Darren (& the reader) to learn more about who his mentor really is, and, therefore, more about what it means to be a "vampire" in this particular version of the mythology.
Cirque du Freak avoids cliched representations of vampires and things that go bump in the night in favor of interesting characterization that drives the plot. I always sense that these characters are people, even if they aren't necessarily "human" anymore.
Review copy provided by Yen Press.