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Chrono Nanae: Vassalord

{Chrono Nanae} Vassalord V01

Volumes 7 | Licensed: Tokyopop – Incomplete | Read with Lia


Welcome to the inaugural read for the Fujoshi Book Club!

“Charley, a cyborg vampire who does the Vatican’s dirty work, is the thrall of the local vampire playboy Johnny Rayflo.” I saw this description of Vassalord way, way back when Tokyopop (the company it was licensed under) was still a thing and it sounded so deliciously B-movie rated that I knew I had to have it in my hands. I feel old for saying this, but while Nanae Chrono may not be a familiar name to bl fans in the present day, she did enjoy a brief surge of popularity for her slashy series Peacemaker Kurogane which featured the shinsengumi lounging about attractively as pretty bishonen. It was the sort of work that was easy on the eyes but ultimately forgettable. Thus, going into Vassalord, I was expecting more of the same. Imagine, to my surprise, when I found that Vassalord not only lived up to its B-movie potential but was actually really kinda batshit crazy as well. Sure, its plot does have a tendency to careen wildly and confusedly all over the place, but boy does it ever entertain you along the way. – Lia

I have a thing for vampires, I also have a thing for BL, but the meeting of the two has never really captured me. Frankly, it’s been disappointing to see that a genre so replete with homoeroticism has had little success in being reborn into even a half decent BL story, light, average, or otherwise. Vassalord is just one of those titles that have been floating around in my periphery, but, for fear of wasting my time yet again, I kept myself from looking at straight on. Lia approached me about reading this title for FBC and after some consideration, I decided to taker her up on the offer. She promises something of a wild ride, so I have my hopes up a bit, but I’m just going to take slow–page by page, volume by volume–and see where I end up. – Himi


[Himi] Vassalord V01

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My friend said that she found the plot a bit confusing, so I figured that when I reached volume 3 or so, there would be things that contradicted previous events or that persisted for a while throughout the story, but weren’t made clear in a timely fashion. What I did not expect was to be scratching my head in the first volume.

Chris, Charley, Cherry. People get nicknames for all sorts of reasons, but if you’re going to make a point of using it, especially in the mix with other names, there should be some kind of explanation offered. I understand now that he named him Chris, but it was very confusing until I did.

I’m not drawn in by little people, so I was probably more repelled than most people who read this volume. I don’t know what the deal is with the little people and their eyes, but it didn’t help matters for me.

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Princess Marie’s blank stare was creepy. Well, no matter whether she was wide-eyed, possessed, or shedding crocodile tears, her eyes were creepy.

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Cheryl, well it’s not her fault, but I don’t like circular lenses. Never have. And her hairstyle is heartbreaking.

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And this nameless kid has an eyepatch.

And it’s because of their eyes that I immediately became suspicious of them. With what came about with Marie and Cheryl, I feel vindicated for my prejudice. Eyepatch hasn’t really done anything, but he had that paper or newsletter with the bubbling blood and the term Vassalord on it. And Rayflo seems to be wary of him, so, I think I may be 3 for 3.

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There were some funny moments, but I think the funniest was Detective Craig’s line. I died! Another thing about this character is that I appreciate that he isn’t drawn from the go-to caricature template for what a lot of manga rely on to represent brown people.

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I like that Chris and Rayflo’s relationship doesn’t adhere to the usual balance of power between a master and servant. Although Chris needs Rayflo’s blood to survive, they do a good job of pushing each other’s buttons and torturing each other.

I get that Chris is a vampire hunter and I get what his priorities are, but Rayflo seems to be acting on a whim, but only on the surface. So, I’m interested to find out what’s driving him.

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Some more head scratching. Aside from the fact that their are two of them (I don’t know how much I can endure), his name is Johnny Rayflo and she is called Rayfelle, but Rayflo is his last name, so that’s strange.

There’s a difference between mystery & suspense and missing pieces. The former will keep you guessing and intrigued and the latter will keep you confused. I think the pacing for revealing information is a bit off with the story. I don’t think everything should be laid out up front, but somethings don’t need to be a mystery. When the wrong things are chosen to be kept secret, they become a distraction instead of part of a carefully woven plot.

Excusing my above complaints, I did enjoy this volume and I do want to read the next one. There’s still Rayflo’s agenda and his relation to Rayfelle to sort out. And perhaps how Chris came about his new name and why he didn’t just stop at some pearling, a labret piercing, or some gauges with his body modification. But on the other side, there’s Eyepatch and Reverend Mailer to keep tabs on. These are things to look forward to.

One last thing. When I finished this, I thought, “this is supposed to be about vampires, but I’m not getting that feeling.” Even though there’s bloodsucking-centric action on every other page, I felt like something was missing. But now I realize that I was comparing the feeling to my preconceived ideas about BL vampires and all the failed stories that have come before it. Well, so far this has reached the level of Vampire Portrait, let’s see if the next volume can step it up to How to Seduce a Vampire.

[Lia] Vassalord V01

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Oh man, I totally feel  your pain on all the different names that seem to revolve around Chris/Cherry/Charles..etc. The story only sticks to those three luckily… but you’re not gonna like the fact that Rayflo himself has a bunch of other names that he’s known by. It’s not surprising that he’s collected so many different monikers considering how long he’s been around on earth, but it doesn’t make it any less confusing.

Still, I’m glad to see that you liked the dynamics between the both of them! As you said, there’s usually an imbalance of power in most master-servant type relationships so I’ve always found their bickering quite endearing.

As to the whole not-really-vampires feeling that you got… the thought hadn’t really crossed my mind, but I think I understand where you’re coming from. It might have to do with the fact that most vampire fiction focuses on first encounters and the turning perhaps? Along with the period of adjustment that comes after, be it at trying to adapt into a new vampiric lifestyle and/or falling for someone who’s already in one. With Vassalord though, both characters are fully secure in their blood-sucking habits and are not too unduly concerned with the ramifications of being monstrous denizens of the night…

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Probably because most of their attention is taken up in having to deal with the various other murderous vampires out there.

While the very first chapter is enough to make one go ??? it does allow a peek into Rayflo and Chris’ dysfunctional relationship. The latter may be quick to denounce Rayflo as nothing more than a walking bloodbag but the hints of possessiveness Chris displays at Rayflo returning back to the girl along with the way he pretty much broke down when he thought his master was dead does a nice job of hinting at how Rayflo might mean something more to him.

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(Also, Chris’ first appearance as a Vatican vampire hunter cum cyborg who can shoot out a spiked phallus from his stomach was so ridiculous it swung all the way back round to being pretty cool, not gonna lie.)

The party that they attend later on after the whole business with the creepy girl has been resolved is the first time that the word “vassalord” has ever popped up in the story. Only problem is that it’s such a quick throwaway scene that you’d be hard pressed to notice. Chris picks up a newspaper with the word mentioned and… That’s it. A stronger focus on it could certainly have been made, since it’s going to feature as a major plot point later on. It should also have been elaborated on as it would have provided much-needed context for the murders and horrific transformation taking place.

A new character is also introduced at this very same party who just so happens to stumble across Rayflo and Charlie indulging in activities that one should definitely not engage in while at a religious gathering.

pic6_zps9a7a3deeThe bullshit gymnastics that Rayflo engages to explain it is pretty impressive.

I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t too interested in Cheryl when she first showed up because the whole moe/chibi aesthetic doesn’t sit too well with me either. However, my interest was definitely perked when we learn later on that she’s the partner to a female vampire who bears a suspiciously close resemblance to Rayflo.

pic3_zpse622cf14Yeah, same here Chris.

She’s pretty much genderbent Rayflo. We have to note here at this point that Chris thinks this is simply Rayflo crossdressing.

pic1_zps3eb6f64fThe method to his discovery of how this is not exactly Rayflo tells us that Chris really is much more intimately acquainted with certain parts of his master than he lets on.

The chapter didn’t really offer up too much info on Rayfell at this point but I found it really, really adorable how she turns from a confident va-va-voom seductress into a giddy dorky mess whenever she starts gushing over Cheryl.

pic2_zps39a96236The parallels between the two couples do not really add anything productive to the plot in general but I don’t really mind because it’s always amusing to see Rayfell and Rayflo butt heads while Cheryl and Chris commiserate together in the background.

Re-reading all of this, the flaws in the storyline are definitely much more jarring now that the fangirlish force I used to have for this series has faded off somewhat. The series is a comforting guilty pleasure though and I find myself still having a soft spot for these characters even after all this time.

[Himi] Vassalord V02

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I’m glad the story still holds some appeal for you.

Yeah, Rayflo’s freestyle story time to get out of whatever he thinks he would get into with Cheryl, is totally master class. Though it makes me wonder why he felt the need. Yes, she did swing on them, but she’s only two inches tall. I wonder what he really thinks of Cheryl. Does he see through charade? Knowing, probably.

I think it’s going to drive me a little crazy right to the end. I get why Rayflo calls him Chris/Kris and I assume “Cherry” is a reference to his virginity or Ray just making fun of Charley, but why does Kris insist on being called Charley?

In volume 1, Kris mentioned that Rayflo used to be a priest, I want to know more about that. Whether he was one before of after he became a Vampire? On that subject, did someone turn Rayflo or is he first generation bloodsucker? Did I miss that part? I feel like it should have been mentioned already.

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I really like Kris & Ray’s relationship. I haven’t reached the point where I’ve said it enough. Most of the time it looks like Kris is Ray’s caretaker/babysitter, but there are times that Ray looks out for Kris. Ray’s moments are less noticeable because they’re usually obscured by him being willful, coy, secretive, but then at the last minute he turns out to be helpful or the all out hero of the moment.

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Oh, the love!

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Oh, the jealousy! And probably doesn’t help that Ray has a really tender look on his face.

I’m not a fan of tentacles, so there are times I cringe when I see Kris. There are a number of things that bother me about this story, but the story itself is interesting, so I want to keep reading.

The whole thing about the crate of bodies was really weird and totally unexpected and was made even stranger by what Craig told Kris about the deformation. Then there’s Miranda’s mention of :Vassalord.“ So Kris’ memory was triggered, but I wonder if he made the connection to Eyepatch (Harold), but hasn’t said anything or if he’s still trying to remember. And I’d like to say that my suspicions about Eyepatch were completely within reason. AND! I knew Ray was wary of him. (I couldn’t help but snort at Kris’ reaction to Ray saying “special feeling” in regards to Eyepatch). Well, it’s probably going to be that his father is behind that. Perhaps he found a chemical way to turn people into vampires–at least in the short term–but then their molecular composition can’t sustain the metamorphosis and then they just start to liquefy or plasma-fy (it’s word now).

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It’s great how he gets jealous over blood, but not a kiss. I know that Kris knows that Ray doesn’t swing that way, but still no hint of a reaction. Though he’s probably saying, “that’st exactly what you get,” in his head.

That explosion! I love it that their are so many motives (known and unknown) flying around. And so many suspicious parties.

Craig and his olfactory senses!

Rayfelle, introduced at towards the end of the first volume with no explanation and then makes a cameo appearance in this volume, still with no explanation, but has the nerve to introduce another character! Who is this Barry? And her fawning of Cheryl was way pervy and not the good kind. It bothers me that she looks like she’s 4.

About Cheryl. She lied about her lineage. Is what she told Kris even true or more deception? What is she up to? I just don’t trust the little people.

Lia, I know you warned me, but more names?!

While I’m talking about names: Rayflo/Rayfelle – Cherry(Charley)/Cheryl… what’s going on here?

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Not the faces you’d expect people to have right before they’re about to jump into bed to get freaky, but it totally works for them. Their foreplay is kind of dangerous, though. Is Ray’s spine healed? And oh my goodness! The look on Ray’s face when Kris caressed it after being slammed into the wall! But leave it to Kris to ruin the moment–yeah, yeah, I know they still got it on, but if Kris followed through, the kind of face Ray was making would have lead a whole other kind of penetration.

[Lia] Vassalord V02

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Rayflo’s freewheeling personality means that it’s often Chris who has to take on a responsible role when it comes to dealing with serious matters, but yeah, this volume certainly shows that Rayflo does have his moments when he can step in and take charge too. I also liked how Chris’ deredere side was shown off more this time round as well. I’m guessing that anyone would be more than willing to hug a man who’s managed to save the lives of hundreds of people, but the quick kiss he gives to Rayflo is pretty kyun-inducing too.

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I love that for all of Raflo’s lewd advances and double innuendo it’s this simple peck on the cheek that has him blushing like a house on fire and rubbing the act into Cheryl’s face.

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As for Rayflo’s lineage, he’s undoubtedly very powerful and old, but he’s not a first generation vampire. There were some hints thrown about in this volume as to the identity of his former master, so no worries, more will be revealed in due time. All I can say at this point though (from what I recall) is that the one who turned Rayflo isn’t… exactly the nicest man around.

And it’s a good thing that you’re bothered by this story actually ‘cuz I do think that any normal person would be, haha. The airplane explosion scene for example was really cool and seemed like the sort of thing you’d find straight out of an A-list Hollywood movie, but start thinking too deeply into it and any semblance of logic breaks down. I don’t really see how an explosion that punched a hole through the plane could still result in said plane landing safely without one person dying. Still, I’m inclined to suspend my disbelief here because Vassalord has never been the sort of manga known for its intricate plot.

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And with the meta mentions peppered in the beginning, from the glimpses of the overwrought vamp flick Miranda was acting in to her comments on wanting fiction to become non-fiction, it could just be a cheeky nod to the way the heroes in such movies always pull through in the end despite the odds.

More info about “vassalord” is also expanded upon and with it brings the re-appearance of Craig. And oh boy, he’s not the sort of man you wanna cross.

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And yes, his sense of smell! It has to be appreciated just how sharp he is in picking out details. Sure, it’s a detective’s job but he’s also canny enough to know that for all of his suspicions on both Chris and Rayflo, the both of them might prove useful in the long run. Whatever the case I’m just relieved to see that he’s on the protagonists’ side for the moment.

It’s shameful, but I gotta admit that any useful thought regarding the vassalord plot strand simply flew out of my head when the fight scene between Chris and Rayflo rolled around. This manga has never been subtle when it comes to its phallic imagery and I don’t really have a clue as to what prompted the ust-laden fight between them, but I don’t think anyone’s complaining when it leads to scenes like this:

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Chris is such a straight-laced character that any scene which has him showing off his sneaky side and disarming Rayflo always has me doing an involuntary fistpump.

Overall this volume is definitely the shortest in terms of the amount of chapters it contains, with most of them serving as a sort of lead-up to the rest of the series, but it does manage to flesh out some more details regarding the drug and the protagonists’ relationship.

[Himi] Vassalord V03

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Chapters 7 and 8 were such a mess that I seriously wondered if I was going to be able to continue; I felt like I was trying to keep up with someone with ADD. But thankfully things started to settle down in chapter 9.

The warning that started c07 off was really creepy. Some days after I finished this volume I read this and was probably more creeped out by that post than I would have normally been. And I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sorry for Ray that he himself got caught up in what he warned Kris against. However, by the time Barry had his “fun” I was feeling quite nauseous and angry. Even more so when Kris found Ray and was so angry and hurt by what he encountered.

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Barry is another one; a chibi with creepy eyes. But he’s just all over super creeptastic with that affected “I’m harmless, pity me” look, which is very similar to Eyepatch’s default expression, mind you. And even with your pause, “isn’t… exactly the nicest man around” didn’t quite prepare me for this. He removed one of his vertebrae! And played with it! He had just recovered from the back injury he incurred from jumping out of the plane.

The only reason I tolerated Barry was because his arrival ushered in a number of flashbacks to Ray’s earlier life, and they’re pretty interesting. Rather disconnected, but interesting nonetheless.

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OK, but back to this. I didn’t need my heart at all; it was just taking up space anyway.

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Craig is definitely one of my favorite characters in this story. Though I think it’s hilarious that once he’s out of the FMA collared coat, he looks like he’s got the body of Adonis. Even “for the moment” might be too much. When I considered his connection to Eyepatch, I sensed that Craig had his own agenda. Now, we see has/had someone handcuffed to his toilet. So he has history with whatever’s going on. I also wonder if his keen sense of smell could ever work against him, such as an odor that was too strong or too many at once in a closed spaced. Would he experience sensory overload?

And about that fight from v02, Ray seemed to be thinking about the crest or coat of arms that was on the wall when Kris walked in wearing an outfit that he wore in the past. It doesn’t take much for Ray to get in the mood.But the thing about that scene is that they were talking about the difference between the past Kris who set out to kill Ray and the current Kris who isn’t allowed to say “those words” in whatever place they’re in. So, it makes me wonder about two things: first, which words can’t he say and why, and second, what happened between them that he stopped wanting to kill him. Ray found him as a child, cared for him for some time, they parted ways and then what? there’s so much in that gap.

A lot more info is being revealed in this volume, but it feels like it’s too much, like they’ll be too many dots to connect.

At the end of c09, Ray and Kris’ parting was so unfair, for the reader, I mean. I know they’ve know each other for a very long time and Ray should know that Kris knows that there are things going on with him, but I don’t understand why Ray won’t tell Kris about Barry. He has to know he’s going to find out. So why wait until a time when it’s most likely going to be more dangerous or very close to being too late. I wish the story wasn’t taking so long to explain some things about Ray. The lag is skewing my perception of his relationship with Kris and the trust and concern between them.

The use of Japanese honorifics by non-Japanese characters in non-Japanese settings just makes me itch. But I also think it’s one of the funniest things ever.

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Also funny was this. I asked the page what was going on, because to me, on the first read, it looked like Craig was waxing poetic about his memories of Mr. 86. But of course that just couldn’t be.

And I’m totally with Ray, I wanted to hug Kris in his Rave-Punk disguise, too.

And I just love how relieved they look when they see each other after something has just gone down.

And Eyepatch’s father, geez… Well at least he’s not turning into a blob like the others. But honest to goodness, on that one panel he looks like Midousuji from Yowamushi Pedal.

New info, new players, their connections and motives still remain unclear.

Oh, and I’ve been thinking about it and I still don’t get why Ray fell over at the beginning of chapter c07.

[Lia] Vassalord V03

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I’ll have to agree with you on chapters 7 and 8 being rather confusing. It’s not helped either by the rather iffy translation because, if I’m not mistaken, it hasn’t been picked up yet by a proper scanlation group at this point. I think the problem also lies with how the Barry plot was continued from the hints dropped in volume 2 and then immediately dropped when Vassalord shifted focus over to the Cosa Nostra instead. Barry’s arc is properly picked up in the next volume though so I’m glad that you’re still hanging on!

And your reaction to Barry was definitely similar to mine the last time I read it haha. I apologise if I sounded too nonchalant when I first mentioned him in my previous review. Time must have somewhat diminished the gruesome nature of his encounter with Rayflo. Re-reading this now I’m hit once again by just how twisted Barry is. It’s not just ripping Rayflo apart and wanting to keep a piece of his backbone after as a souvenir, but how he’s presumably done those things wearing Chris’ face.

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He’s not just a physical abuser but one who knows how to emotionally manipulate as well. You said that you were frustrated over Rayflo’s refusal to tell Chris more about what is going on and I have to agree that this is one facet of his personality that makes me want to knock some more sense into him (which I’m only refraining from because boy he’s been through a lot in this volume).

Even way back with the whole Marie episode, Rayflo seems to be the sort of character who likes keeping Chris in the dark and simply going off to solve problems by himself without thinking of the danger it would put him in. I mean, alright, I understand that his reasoning for the moment is that he doesn’t want Barry to take too much of an interest in Chris. The further apart they’re kept the better and with what the incubus has done so far, I can see why. Still, the both of them have been together for so long and attempting to keep such a dangerous issue like Barry to yourself speaks less of any sort of heroic protective attitude and more of a problematic one that is unwilling to trust even a close companion.

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So I get why Chris is so devastated as well. It must hurt to have someone important to you not only keep silent about something so life threatening but get grievously injured in the process too.

With the whole messy affair that is the Ray-Barry situation, I’m glad to see that Craig is still one of the most level-headed characters in the story. He has his fair share of awesome moments in this volume too. The previous one has shown just how sharp the man is in picking up details so color me suitably impressed when he bluntly said that Hal knows more about what is going on than he leads people to believe.

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Your instinct to distrust him was pretty much spot-on. It’s always the innocent-looking ones isn’t it? I was also very much amused at how Craig’s badassery means that he’s content to simply stand around peeling oranges even in the presence of the mafia’s most deadly. Like, sure, you may be a trained killer but I ain’t letting that stop me from enjoying this fine piece of fruit. It’s no wonder that Chris got roped in to help even when he was initially unwilling.

Like you said, there are all these new players and connections that have been added in to the story and while it’s generally interesting, I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that Nanae Chrono unfortunately has the tendency to drop and pick plot strands up sporadically. Things don’t really clear up in Vassalord so much as there are periodical glimpses allowed while the reader pretty much flails about in the fog the rest of the time. While the overly convoluted plot can be entertaining (sometimes unintentionally so), Vassalord’s strength has always been its characters and their interactions.

Case in point is the infiltration of the White Despair building. Isn’t Chris’ whole rave-punk cosplay look a bit too unnecessarily complicated for going under cover? Yep. If Rayflo’s superpowers include him being able to turn into a bat why did he have to kill the hitman and take his disguise instead of just flying in? Nobody knows.

Like you, me and Rayflo though, Chris’ costume change was certainly much appreciated.

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So I’ll let it slide for now.

[Himi] Vassalord V04

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Their relationship is unbelievable! I don’t think I’ve felt so betrayed by that uncrossed line since I read Jinjuu Houretsuden.

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Though it still manages to be incredibly hot.

So this volume is where she really tries to tie the backstory to religion–because the presence of The Vatican just wasn’t enough. I guess it was bound to happen in a vampire story, but it’s so vague. Where is she going with this? And what is the purpose of Yaoding? His appearance seems so unnecessary. So there’s his connection with 86, but what purpose does it really serve and what’s Yaodings’ real angle?

When I saw the Merchant’s face, my brain just stopped. What is this story even about anymore?

Barry is such a menace.

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Eyepatch… I can’t stand his lying face.

When Barry’s head went flying, I think I was entirely too happy, but it didn’t last for long.

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The whole Rayfelle/Cherry seduction sequence was also unnecessary. Particularly because this reaction was so darn precious and to see the realization hit him or rather, impale him was just too much.

86 is rather charming if you aren’t looking at him, still scary either way. Characters who at first glance come off as insane, but are actually operating on a rather high and certain logic make me uncomfortable. They are usually not fighting for good or evil–its their own agenda that drives them and you can never really tell who they’ll side with to achieve their goal. Especially when a faction’s usefulness could run out and they could easily switch sides.

Oh, and I… where did he come form, Craig’s assistant? He was just there helping out and I don’t remember him being introduced.

No matter how many times they appear, Rayfelle and Cheryl are just so disturbing. Though this scene does yield clarity for the Adam and Eve thing–a mockery.

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Must he keep breaking Cherry’s heart? Again, he was so happy and The Phantom bit was a nice touch, but did he really have to shut him out like that?

He called Barry a bargain basement monster! Even in the middle of this heartbreak, I couldn’t help but laugh.

I feel like the story is trying to bring the disparate lines back together. If they don’t begin to converge in the next volume, the last two are going to be a confusing mess.

Unfortunately, due to life circumstances, this project had to be abandoned. However, I did manage to finish reading the series.

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