Murcielago - My New Fun, Transgressive Trash

At some point in my decade-plus manga-reading career, there's always been some kind of pulpy, gory garbage manga that I can't get enough of. As in, I buy every volume as it comes out, without fail, and never stop talking about it. The first one that stands out to me is Princess Resurrection, a criminally underrated little series about vampires, werewolves, and really pretty blond ladies cutting things apart with chainsaws. Unfortunately, the series petered out with time, and sooner than later, my trashy gore manga plate was empty.

That's when I found Dance in the Vampire Bund. I'll probably write something more in-depth about that series one day, honestly, but I'll keep it brief here. Stumbling onto that first volume of Nozomu Tamaki's boob-and-butt-laden, blood-and-guts-filled, stupid-lore-enriched saga was a life-changing experience for me, to be honest. From 2009 to the very last volume of Scarlet Order, I poured myself into it. Every spin-off that came out. Every piece of fanwork. Even the heavily truncated and ultimately disappointing anime. Despite a rushed and disappointing ending, there'll always be a place in my heart for Dance in the Vampire Bund. I can only hope that the creator's next action series, Soul Liquid Chambers, lives up to it and doesn't get cancelled prematurely. Oh, and that his upcoming Don't Meddle With My Daughter isn't total trash.

But hope doesn't get me a new manga. That's why I was interested to hear the buzz for the upcoming Murcielago, whose third volume just released this week. Going up to the first volume's release, there was a lot of hot discourse surrounding the series as a whole. "Too violent." "Too gay." "Too morally reprehensible across the board."

In other words? This sounded right up my alley.

As luck would have it, three volumes in, it very much is. Murcielago is one of the most gleefully sadistic and twisted manga I've read in quite some time. And I do mean gleeful - it's clear that the creator is having fun on every single page. For all intents and purposes, it's filled the Princess Resurrection/Dance in the Vampire Bund void in my life. A gory, sexual, stupid romp that tightrope walks between the serious and the tongue-in-cheek.

The plot follows Kuroko, an ex-mass murderer who's enlisted by the state to take out high-priority targets. Looks like a blend between the Slit-Mouthed Woman and Ringu's Sadako, with the same evil leer to her as Revy from Black Lagoon. She's violent. She's sadistic. She's probably crazy. Oh, and she's also a complete horndog. When she's not indulging in a bit of the old ultra violence, she's shacking up with sex workers, co-workers, and any woman she can honestly get her hands on.

Kuroko puts Lupin the Third's horny antics to shame, honestly.

What's fun, too, is that Kuroko isn't really shamed for who she is. She's an openly gay woman and nobody draws any question to that. What's more concerning to the other characters is her seeming glee at murdering people. That's it. Nobody cares that she's gay, and in an action manga, that's pretty transgressive in its own right.

Aside from a winning protagonist and casual acceptance of her sexuality, the narrative arcs in Murcielago are bonkers, and filled with some truly stupid (in good way) plot choices that belong in a middle schooler's sketchbook. There's a former pro wrestler who injects himself with too many steroids and turns into a hulking, crazed monster. There's a mysterious billionaire who gathers a ton of strangers and forces them to survive in a Saw-esque murder mansion. There are cars jumped off and through buildings, explicit sex scenes that make liberal use of Kuroko's abnormal tongue, and lots of things done with the human anatomy that push the boundaries what's possible.

It's all an absurd, violent, funny, gonzo gay romp, and I wouldn't have it any other way. There hasn't been a manga that's been this consistently fun and thrilling to read for me since, well... Dance in the Vampire Bund. Along with current fave Please Tell Me, Galko-chan, Murcielago has become one of the few manga that I'll keep buying volume to volume for the foreseeable future.

Check it out and let me know what you think. I, for one, can't get enough of Kuroko and her weird, creepy tongue.


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