This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to sexual assault and physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, as it appears in the manga series Rosario+Vampire.
Tsukune Aono is as average as they come. However, as average as he is, his poor grades make it, so he cannot attend any of the local high schools. Thankfully, though, he receives an acceptance from the mysterious school aptly named Yokai Academy. On the surface, it seems to be an oddly decorated school campus. However, Tsukune quickly realizes that he should have never come to this school because it is not for average humans like him. Instead, it is a school specifically for creatures like vampires, werewolves, succubi, and ghouls – all creatures that seem to have an ingrained hatred for humans.
Thankfully, though, as Tsukune comes to terms with his risky predicament, he meets vampire Moka. Not only is she cute, but she is sweet, too, and she finds herself inexplicably drawn to Tsukune's blood. However, much like Yokai Academy, not everything is as it seems. When Tsukune removes the rosary around Moka's neck, she transforms from her bubbly pink-haired, green-eyed self to a silver-hair, red eyes badass with the ability to kick ass as a full-blooded vampire. Tsukune should not like Moka, but even with her split personality and her want to suck him dry, he can't help but be drawn to her and resolves to stay at Yokai Academy to stay by Moka's side.
Of course, this scenario couldn't be that simple. Moka isn't the only one drawn to Tsukune, romantically or otherwise. All manner of things that go bump in the night ends up being drawn to Tsukune, and he must somehow survive each encounter with Moka at his side.
Let me go ahead and admit this series has been my guilty pleasure for a long, long time, so I must admit I am pretty biased in terms of the perceived quality of this particular series. I remember reading this as it was coming out in the United States and made it about halfway through the season two manga before dropping off. I recently re-read it, and while I don't think of it as much of a masterpiece as I once did, I'd be lying if I said I didn't still have a soft spot for this series.
I will also go ahead and admit this isn't the best manga in the world. It definitely is your standard panty-shot, boob-in-face, nosebleed, harem fanfare you have probably seen in a million manga series out there. However, what I think makes this particular series special is the male lead and the art over the course of the series.
First, let's talk about Tsukune. As with most harem manga, he is as average of a male lead as they come, yet inexplicably draws in all of the beauties within a certain radius around him. Something fairly unique, though, is that he starts out weak. I find that most of the time, the male lead is overpowered and finds himself protecting all of the ladies in his harem. That is not the case here, at least not from the start, which is really refreshing. The women are all badass in their own way and hold their own in the many fights that take place.
Once he does start gaining his supernatural abilities and gains his own strength, he quickly graduates from that plain male lead to someone I was constantly fawning over. I was really rooting for him, which I don't usually find myself doing in harems – I'm usually rooting for a girl. Still, Tsukune was just so lovable and grew so much that it was impossible not to root for him to find his own happiness.
Then you have the art. Even looking at the covers from the first volume to the last, they almost look like entirely different artists. I am pretty picky about art, and if this were just serializing today, I don't know that I would have picked it up based on the original art. However, I am so glad that I started reading this back when I did because there is something so satisfying about seeing the creator's art develop and grow. The first season's art is worth reading through just to see season two. It is honestly some of the prettiest manga artwork I've seen.
I feel like I have to recommend this because it is such a great example of the harem manga that was coming out at that time. It is also an excellent example of how quickly a mangaka can grow just throughout a series. It looks like an almost entirely different series from volume one of the first season to the final volume of season two. It definitely isn't for everyone, though, especially those who are not into the usual harem fanfare we get in every run-of-the-mill manga. Still, it is a fun romp with many cute girls, and I find it worth it just for that.
Have you read Rosario+Vampire? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!