May 17, 2010

I Want to Bite (You)

Between Yashakiden volumes, I just finished translating I Want to Bite, a yaoi light novel for Digital Manga.

It's a vampire story with a "western" urban setting (meaning a mix and match of European names). The geographically nondescript city is sort of a kindlier, gentler version of Demon City Shinjuku, with the existence of vampires (and ghouls and werewolves) presumed as part of social fabric.

The protagonist, Isaac, works for the "Helsing Group" as a "hunter." His job is to track down misbehaving vamps. The uke is Tristan, a boyish-looking vampire with a bunch of ulterior motives. It's derivative, to be sure, but is sufficiently well plotted to qualify as "the same only different."

Of course, it takes place in that wacky yaoi universe where men think like women and a straight guy can turn gay if he meets a cute enough uke. Seriously, I'd recommend the last chapter as a guide to how girls think about sex (because no two actual guys would converse like this).

Alas, my usual reaction in this case (as to pretty much the entire genre) is to imagine how much better it'd be hetero (or for that matter, yuri). Also true of Better than a Dream, that I translated a while back.

Better than a Dream is such a well-structured romance that I had to take care to write "he" instead of "she." It'd be easy to convert it into one of those bittersweet Hallmark movies. You'd only have to switch the pronouns around and maybe finish it off with an "accidental" pregnancy.

Better than a Dream is also a near-perfect implementation of the McKee narrative structure (confirming that like Campbell, McKee is describing the most popular style of universal storytelling, not prescribing it).

With a bit of role reassignment, I Want to Bite would make a great Angel arc, except with Cordelia as the vampire. A touch of this creative role reversal can be found in the inventive (and somewhat controversial) new vampire series, Dance in the Vampire Bund.

Again, like Demon City Shinjuku, it stipulates vampires coming out of the casket (so to speak). In exchange for settling Japan's Greek-like national debt, vampire princess Mina (together with her loyal werewolf guard, Akira) creates a sovereign vampire city-state off the coast of Japan.

The cause of the hand wringing for its importers (anime: Funimation; manga: Seven Seas) is that Mina usually presents herself as prepubescent girl (for logical reasons, as it turns out), and at times runs around without much on. This understandably set off the lolicon alarms in some quarters.

Funimation balked a bit (and is still CYA prevaricating), but Seven Seas has pressed on, again illustrating the perverse formula that words are more "moral" than drawings, which are more "moral" than moving pictures. (A case in point: Treasure Box by Orson Scott Card.)

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