When Watanabe stops to help a bleeding stranger, he finds himself caught up in a mysterious world of vampires and reincarnation in Shimada’s unique, but imperfect collection of stories. This collection features five tales, three of which are about Watanabe and his vampire, Mizuo. Shimada’s writing style is both a strength and weakness here. She dumps readers headlong into her tale, which makes the story more interesting. We find out what is going on just as Watanabe finds it out. Unfortunately she doesn’t have a strong sense of when to stop being subtle. Parts of the tale are simply too vague to make everything clear in readers’ minds, a style that would be fine in a longer work, but with only three chapters it means that readers are left feeling like Watanabe and Mizuo’s story is unfinished. However Shimada doesn’t make the mistake of simply sticking to the usual conventions of both vampires and yaoi relationships. There are the usual clichés, but in fewer numbers than expected. Mizuo and his longtime associate Lon-Yeh can be cynical, but they avoid most of the tedious angst that permeates too many vampire stories.
The final two stories seem to be an excuse for Shimada to draw pretty men in historical Japanese and Chinese style outfits. “Tiger & Dragon” features the fateful meeting of a shogun and a mysterious warrior. It only has the barest of plots before moving right into the sex scenes, but the story is interesting enough. Unfortunately it comes too close on the heels of the Mizuo stories which might confuse readers who will be expecting it to tie in with them. “Strobe Lights” is an adorable story about two young men who fall in love over cosplay. Sticking with Shimada’s subtle storytelling style, they never express their feelings in so many words, but in this story that subtlety is not a weakness. Instead it makes the characters more believably male, reticent to tell their deepest emotions to another.
Luckily for her, Shimada is very successful at drawing the period style costumes that she obviously adores and luckily for readers, she is also successful at drawing very pretty men who also look like men. She has a number of bishonen, but they have broad shoulders and muscular throats, keeping them just this side of too-pretty. Her sex scenes are as understated--sometimes too much so--as her writing. She mostly avoids the uke/seme divide, only slipping into a more obvious pairing in the final two stories. DMP has included some translation notes with this work, since there are cultural and language terms that might not otherwise be clear to American readers. For readers who enjoy a good vampire romp or like men in historical outfits and who don’t need their sex scenes to be in-your-face obvious, then How to Seduce a Vampire might be worth a shot.
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith on April 6, 2010