Ah, vampires. A tried and true romance staple. Ema Toyama’s Vampire Dormitory combines these seductive creatures with some good ol’ gender-bending hijinks, creating a drama-filled romance that’s both spicy and sweet!
Mito has beautiful looks, but terrible luck. After her parents died, she was shuffled around to various relatives who all resented having to take care of her. Once she graduated from middle school she was immediately kicked out and left to fend for herself. She’s tried to find work, but she inevitably gets fired when her good looks wind up causing problems. Mito finds herself living on the streets and disguises herself as a boy to avoid unwanted attention from predatory men. That’s when she meets Ruka, a vampire who’s been looking for a pretty young man to become his thrall.
Ruka has an aversion to feeding on women, so a “boy” like Mito would be perfect for the role of his dedicated food source. Trouble is, human blood tastes better when the person has been loved and cared for, and Mito has only known rejection and neglect, so her blood tastes bitter and gross. Not to be deterred, Ruka resolves to shower Mito with love and takes her in. Now Mito has a place to live, is able to attend school again, and has someone whom she can be useful to and who makes her feel wanted. It’s everything she’s longed for, but it could all disappear if Ruka discovers that she’s really a girl! Will she be able to keep her secret now that she and Ruka are living in such close proximity?
Romance stories featuring vampires can sometimes lean towards the darker and more twisted side of the genre, but Vampire Dormitory is not one of those series.
I was actually a bit surprised by how cute this manga is. Because of the set up where a thrall’s blood tastes more delicious if they’ve experienced being loved, the relationship between the two main characters winds up being quite sweet. They seem to have a lot of fun in each other’s company and both try to look out for the other. Mito is earnest and doesn’t hesitate to try and protect Ruka when she thinks someone is threatening him. Ruka, meanwhile, is cool and suave, always managing to swoop in to save the day in the nick of time. He’s also a closeted mega-nerd who loves anime and collecting figurines! This was a surprising, but welcome, twist. The fact that his anime obsession was used as an explanation as to why Ruka doesn’t want to feed on women (2D women are the only ones he’s interested in) was pretty nonsensical, but I was happy to see his character fleshed out in a way that prevented him from being just a generic trope of a love interest. Plus, Mito’s reaction to discovering his hobbies was pretty hilarious!
That isn’t to say that there are no troubling aspects to the romance, however. It’s clear that Mito is falling for Ruka mostly because he’s the first person who’s ever been kind to her and she’s desperate for affection. She was at such a low point in her life before Ruka made her his offer that she briefly contemplated suicide, so there is definitely a power imbalance at play here. Despite this, I found it easy to root for the leads as a couple, probably because they are equally dense when it comes to understanding their own feelings and it was funny to see them get flustered and fail to grasp why.
For those hoping for a sexier romance, never fear, there is plenty of sensual neck biting in this series. As an added bonus, there are also multiple instances where Mito’s secret is nearly discovered while she’s in various states of undress. So, there’s plenty of fan-service to go around!
Plot wise, the manga’s story is pretty straightforward: Mito is trying to keep her secret and Ruka is trying to transform her into a tasty dish (literally) with the power of his love. Since they get along so well, an additional element is needed to cause problems for them to overcome. Enter Ren, another handsome boy who knows that Ruka is a vampire and despises him because of it. Ren is convinced that Mito is in danger and needs to be rescued from Ruka, despite the fact that she doesn’t want his help. Ren has a complicated past with vampires that has led him to believe that Mito is being used, and, while he can be a bit of a jerk, he also raises some interesting questions for our heroine. Like, whether or not she needs to be worried about turning into a vampire herself, for example!
It’s obvious that Ren will wind up becoming a romantic rival at some point, but I’m appreciating that he’s causing Mito to think about whether or not Ruka is truly what he seems. She’s been a little too accepting of this whole thrall situation, and the added helping of drama Ren brings to the table really helps to spice things up.
Vampire Dormitory manages to be both cute and sexy, and I was pretty pleased with it. Some aspects are silly, and it’s not exactly a masterpiece, but it’s fun all the same. If you’re looking for a gender-bender romance with a bit of a fantastical twist, I’d recommend giving this manga try.
Final Score: 7 out of 10.
For more information on this manga, visit Kodansha USA Publishing’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Let me know in the comments!
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