[Manga Review] #DRCL midnight children Vol. 1

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has inspired numerous adaptations and reinterpretations since its publication in 1897. The tale of good triumphing over evil, laced with its romanticism, darkness, and fear-inducing descriptive visuals, all come together to create a timeless classic horror that continues to dazzle us to this day. Now, we see it reimagined once more in Shin’ichi Sakamoto’s latest manga, #DRCL midnight children Vol. 1, which boasts stunning imagery that disturbs, confuses, and astounds in its execution.

Starting off in the middle of the classic tale, we witness the last voyage of the Demeter and get a glimpse into how Sakamato interprets the vampiric creature of legend. The first chapter sparks questions right off the bat. Is this new Dracula of organic matter? Mineral? Vegetable? Animal? It’s hard to say as Sakamoto’s art starts off simply before leaning into a mixture of expressionism and surrealism, with evocative imagery that distorts the reality that is depicted on the page. Through his depiction, we can see how truly terrifying and unstoppable this new interpretation is, but more questions are sparked than answers.

Our gang of heroes is reimagined as boarding school students at Whitby School. Wilhemina (Mina) Murray is the school’s first and only female student. She’s a tomboy determined to find a way to defeat the evil that destroyed her mother. Jonathan, now depicted as Mina’s brother, is absent outside of one appearance. Arthur Holmwood, Quincey Morris, and Suwa Jo (this iteration’s Jack Seward) are thick as thieves and seem to have an antagonistic relationship with Mina.

Artwork vs Story

#DRCL midnight children Vol. 1 does something beautifully different here with Lucy Westenra, depicting the character as trans or at least gender fluid. However, Lucy, particularly later on in the volume, is a bit hastily done as in Renfield. A combination of art renderings as well as storytelling make certain moments with both characters a bit confusing. Readers can put pieces together, but the frantic energy that takes over once Dracula interweaves himself into Whitby school makes the story execution a bit clunky.

That’s not to say that the artwork isn’t stunning. Dracula is depicted as ever-changing, overwhelming the page with his otherworldly abilities. It makes us question reality and, for our teen heroes, it makes them question themselves, in particular, their bravery once compared to Mina’s own. The artwork compels, but can’t quite hide the chunks missing from the story that would otherwise make for a stronger story.

The conceptualization of Dracula provides a surreal interpretation of body horror. Not quite gory or traditionally horrifying, but it makes you not want to look away. You know that this thing, this being, is dangerous, but the inability to peg down what exactly it is makes it so that we’re constantly left on edge.

Is #DRCL midnight children Vol. 1 worth the buy?

For a first volume, #DRCL midnight children sets the tone for its characters as well as the mystery that will grip Whitby School. Mina is a compelling heroine. She has motivation for being at Whitby. Throw in this fascinating interpretation of Dracula, who is now threatening her friend Lucy, and we have the set-up for a nail-biting showdown in future volumes.

Even if it weren’t for the set-up, the artwork done by Sakamoto is enough of a sell. Beautiful, terrifying, cerebral, and fluid, it begs you to keep staring at the page to take in all the details. As for the questions sparked by Dracula’s multiple transformations, all we can hope is that we get some answers in the next volume. Until then, just be spellbound.

#DRCL midnight children Vol. 1 is available for purchase now.

Sarah Musnicky
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