Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Reformed by Christopher Hart and Anzu

When Vampire Giancarlo rescues a girl from off the street, he is struck by her beauty. Instead of making a quick meal of her, his finer instincts come into play and he takes her in, for she has no place to go.

Jenny is charmed by this elegant gentleman who protects her from men who would do nothing but use her and treats her with unfailing courtesy. When he takes her into his incredibly elegant but somewhat creepy mansion, she expects him to charge her in the form of sexual favors, but he doesn't. He tells her to change out of her wet clothes, lays a fire to keep her warm and feeds her a good meal. She calls him a good man, and he asks if she thinks that even bad men can do a good deed once in a while. She says that her experience has been that, no, they don't.

Meanwhile, Blue, Giancarlo's manservant, warns him against falling in love with Jenny, for falling in love would only lead to his downfall and death. Giancarlo refuses to listen, saying he knows the risks. He tries to warn Jenny to stay away from him, but her kiss disarms him, and they end up sleeping together.

Meanwhile, the body of a dead prostitute has been discovered, and the lead detective on the case, Frost, is convinced she has been killed by a vampire. The other cops jeer, but are silenced when he shows them the fang marks in the girl's neck, and says he is sure they will find the body drained of blood. Sure enough, there isn't enough blood left in her body to feed a mosquito. Frost has a suspect in mind for the killing... Giancarlo, and Frost means to bring him to justice.

In the morning, Jenny finds Giancarlo has left her to attend to other business, but asks her to meet him that night and to wear the designer dress he purchased for her. She does so, and they attend an art auction together, but Giancarlo is confronted by Frost, who asks him why he is never seen in daylight, and basically tries to get Giancarlo to admit he is a Vampire. Giancarlo manages to answer all his questions with aplomb, but when Frost tries to get Jenny on his side, Giancarlo gets irritated and sweeps her off after nearly crushing Frost's hand to bits.

The next day, Jenny leaves to think about things, and tells her friend about Giancarlo, telling the other girl that she plans to clean up her life because Giancarlo made her want to be a better person. She is leaving and not coming back. She gets a new job as a waitress and tries not to slip back into her old habits.

Frost, however, is relentless, and tries to get Jenny to see that Giancarlo is a vampire. He takes her to the records building and shows her Giancarlo's entry visa to the United States... from 1931. He hasn't changed in over 75 years. Jenny is shocked, but manages to explain it away as it being his grandfather or another relative. She is angry at Frost and runs away from him.

Frost goes back to Giancarlo's house to once again try to get him to admit the truth, but although they trade insults and threats, nothing comes of it. But Giancarlo has more than the detective to fear, for another vampire is tracking him down, ready to kill him for leaving the brotherhood the vampires are a part of. But with Giancarlo weak from not having slaked his thirst on the lovely Jenny, does he have enough power and strength to fight off the other vampire, or will he fall to the demonic creature's might?

This was a very intriguing manga with an interesting question: can the most evil of creatures be redeemed by the love of (and for) a woman? In this instance, we only get to see two vampires: Giancarlo and Urso. While Urso looks like a demon, complete with wings, horns and a tail, Giancarlo looks human (and presumably more than looks, since he and Jenny spend the night together without her remarking on any extraneous appendages). Even in flashbacks, though, he looks human.

Yet, Giancarlo has several other standard features of the vampire. He doesn't go out during the day, but he doesn't seem to sleep in a coffin. He doesn't eat or drink, and seems to be able to subsist wholly on blood. He isn't a dead (or undead) creature, though. When he is taken to a hospital in the course of the story, he is apparently alive enough for his state of health to be normal to the doctors. It is mentioned that he is severely anemic and has several extraordinary numbers, presumably in his blood chemistry. And he's potent enough to make love like an ordinary man, and to impregnate Jenny from their night together (yes, on the first try. Ain't love amazing?), which most vampires would *not* be able to do.

The author, in his afterword, says that the genre of the story is crime horror noir, a mix of all three types. And the story is good, I will admit. I only wish it had been longer, for I felt it could do with more pages. Several scenes are rather cut off, and instead of seeming quick and smart, it seemed cut short and truncated. In other words, it was good enough that I wanted more, In fact, I think a longer treatment of the story would have made for a much better manga. Say, an extra 25 to 50 pages. That would have allowed for better development of the story and the ideas in the theme. It's still good, but it could have been magnificent.

I'm still glad I purchased the book, and the good points outweigh the bad, but I would have liked to have seen more scenes of Giancarlo and Jenny interacting, as I felt her interest, love and willingness to defend Giancarlo from Frost's accusations simply developed too quickly. Okay, perhaps she was willing to defend him because she slept with him the first night that she met him, and she didn't want to feel that she had made a bad or a stupid choice. But the story could have shown that. Or perhaps she already knew she was pregnant as was defending her child's father. Again, if that's the case, it should have been shown. So, again, I liked it, but I am saddened that the story came as a quickly dashed-off tale rather than a nuanced story.

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