Manga Reviews Reviews

Manga Review: #DRCL Midnight Children Vol. 1 (2023) by Shinichi Sakamoto


By Nubia Jade Brice

“As Mina struggles to find her place as Whitby School's first and only female student, a devilish horror is unleashed upon the academy and its unsuspecting students: Count Dracula. However, when this unspeakable evil lays claim to her beloved Lucy Westenra, Mina stands ready to join forces with her fellow students and fight against it with everything she has.” (Viz Media)

Released just in time for the spooky season, comes a tale of otherworldly terror and the ill-equipped children forced to confront these horrors head-on. In 's latest release, midnight children, he puts his spin on the Bram Stoker novel, adapting Dracula to make it more approachable for modern audiences, especially younger readers who may be unfamiliar with the original story. 

From the opening pages, readers are immersed in the action aboard the Demeter. Without ever seeing what the crew is up against, the introduction manages to immerse readers in a sense of suspense and fear that carries on throughout the volume. Sakamoto uses the crew's lack of knowledge to elevate the tension quickly while maintaining a reasonable pace to the story, allowing panic and dread to develop slowly throughout the volume. Although it would have been satisfying from the reader's standpoint to see more of Dracula's physical presence, this approach allows the reader to familiarize themselves with the vampire's menacing nature without taking the story's main focus off of Mina Murray and her classmates. 

Even though the initial chapters of #DRCL seem to draw in readers by playing up their discomfort while piquing their curiosity, the rest of the manga is handled more slowly and delicately. It isn't just the promise of a good scare that keeps one's attention in the following chapters, but the characters and their interactions. As the obvious outcast in everything from status to gender to appearance, Mina remains easy to root for because of her indomitable approach to the obstacles around her.

The contrast between her and her socialite peers, though a bit cliche and underdeveloped at times, adds a certain degree of intrigue to Mina's mysterious relationship with Lucy instead. Still, several characters could benefit from being more fleshed out because while the mysterious approach works well in terms of plot, it does not translate as successfully to the supporting roles, making them hard to like or relate to. 

In terms of visuals, #DRCL is a stunning read sure to captivate even the pickiest of horror enthusiasts. Sakamoto does not shy away from depicting the most gruesome of moments in great detail. Despite the manga's dark subject, the illustrations are still clear, vibrant, and easy to interpret. There's a noticeable difference between the more realistic panels featuring scenery or character expressions and the supernatural ones featuring creatures like Dracula, in which Sakamoto's drawings become more fluid and fantastical. It works especially well for a period piece like this, as he's constantly creating a clear separation between the real and the supernatural. 

Overall, it's unmistakable that #DRCL midnight children is meant to be followed up by more content, as the ending is quite abrupt, and numerous plot points need to be expanded upon. However, as a first volume, it sets the stage nicely for what is sure to be a deeply layered story with many twists. While it follows the basics of Dracula, it doesn't follow the novel verbatim, which makes this interpretation feel fresh as opposed to a regurgitated scene-for-scene retelling of the familiar classic. Given what the first volume manages to accomplish in terms of setup, it feels like a worthy investment for both horror aficionados and fans of classic literature. 

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