Bloodsucking Freaks

Bloodsucking Freaks
Vampire of the Rising Sun

Fintan Monaghan | 15 Feb 2011 08:50
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In Western fiction, the vampire also began life channeling the public's fear of suspicious foreigners. After all, Bram Stoker's Dracula was the mysterious Count from Eastern Europe. With the arrival of the silver screen, Bela Lugosi's performance further strengthened this link, lending the Count his now iconic heavy Hungarian accent. Yet over the years the western vampire has become absorbed and assimilated. While still mysterious and otherworldly, movies like The Lost Boys shifted the popular perception of the vampire into the modern era. Gone were the flowing capes and cheesy accents. No longer tied to the image of the 18th Century European aristocrat, western vampires could now be both as American and as modern as Kiefer Sutherland in a black leather jacket. True Blood's vampire queen might dress like a 20's socialite and Bill Compton may still speak like an old fashioned southern gentleman, but the vampires of that world are steeped in the culture of the American South. Social class is also generally much less of a factor. Buffy's vampires shy away from the idea of class and aristocracy. Her vampires could be anyone from a cheerleader to a bleach blonde Sid Vicious impersonator. Today's vampires tend to retain the core mythos of their forbearers, but their allure comes from the supernatural rather than the exotic. The modern vampire is as likely to live in a seedy strip club as a gothic castle, and sounds more Californian than Transylvanian.


Not so the Japanese vampire. No one would argue that the Japanese don't play fast and loose with the classic vampire mythology - the vampires in Trinity Blood have their origin in alien bacteria for goodness sake - yet there remains a strong recurring theme of the vampire as foreign invader. Nowhere is this more striking than in Blood: The Last Vampire. Set around Yokota Air Base, an American military outpost near Tokyo, the story draws on long running antipathy toward the continuing foreign military presence on Japanese soil. Controversial incidents perpetrated by American soldiers are represented as the work of vampires hidden among the foreign population.

Similarly, the trope of the vampire as an anachronistic aristocrat, fallen somewhat out of fashion in the West, remains a mainstay in Japan. Hellsing's Alucard dresses every bit the Victorian gentleman, while the villains of Vampire Hunter D, obsessed with purity of blood, even refer to themselves as "nobles." Interestingly, when it comes to heroic vampires, Blood's Saya and D himself also have ties to nobility: Japanese nobility. Both protagonists are very closely associated with their swords, a reference to the feudal era when only the aristocratic samurai class was permitted to carry the blades.

Vampire fiction continues to diversify, and every year brings new variations on the old archetypes. Yet distinct traditions are still readily apparent as the bloodsucker's distinct evolution East and West lends it a different cultural resonance. Tales of the vampire are seldom simply about the supernatural, instead drawing from the cultural mindset of their time and place. Our relationship with the bloodthirsty immortal will ever be influenced by the ghosts of the vampires with which we were raised.

Fintan Monaghan hunts vampires by night, but by day he is a news editor at a 24 hour news channel.

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