Vampire Game is a fifteen-volume shojo manga. The story opens with a vampire king who’s come back from the dead, and one very bored princess named Ishtar who is very sheltered and very indifferent to the idea of ruling her country. Or in learning to use magic. Or in doing anything except trying to escape the people trying to teach and protect her. She is a trial to both her teachers and her bodyguard who she has a very not-so-secret crush on. The primary reason for her intense dislike of her role as a princess is that her relatives murdered her parents.
Ironically, she and her relatives are descended from a king who became a saint after defeating Duzell, a vampire king who became very bored and decided to play evil overlord. Phelios sacrificed his life to destroy the wannabe evil overlord by using a spell called “La Gamme” which is a Final Strike type spell that takes out both the caster and the person the spell is aimed at. Before Duzell died he swore he’d return after a hundred years and get revenge on the reincarnation of Phelios and destroy his family.
Ishtar thinks this would be a good thing.
Meanwhile, Duzell has reincarnated into the form of a horned feline creature called a kyawl (which, unlike regular cats are vegetarian.) Ishtar finds and adopts him–and is at first unaware that he is anything other than a kitten. Once she finds out the truth, she is very excited by the idea, and offers to help him find the reincarnation of Phelios out of a bizarre sense of fair play.
This begins a quest that takes both of them through the Byzantine plotting of Ishtar’s family and enemies (many of whom also turn out to be Duzell’s enemies.) There are numerous narrow escapes and danger. There is also a lot of gender-bending, cross-dressing and random bisexuality. Over the course of the series, Ishtar slowly gets a sense of responsibility, and Duzell has many Learning Experiences concerning love and friendship.It’s a bizarre and entertaining story, dark in a matter of fact way that might be slightly unsettling or even triggery. (There is an underlying theme of assault and abuse that made me feel extremely uncomfortable reading it, though it’s an interesting series.)
A Short List of Characters
Ishtar: Ishtar is a brat. Despite the brattiness, she is also capable of being kind and brave and other positive virtues. Unfortunately she’s also thoughtless, reckless, and an absolute pain in the neck. She harbors a crush for her bodyguard Darres, the signs of which include giving him an endless amount of trouble. She stumbles into any number of her family’s machinations, and ends up coming out on top with the help of Duzell and Darres and many others.
Darres: Is more or less oblivious to Ishtar’s crush. He doesn’t like having to “babysit” her, and considers her to be an absolute brat. Because of her extreme brattiness, it takes a while before he figures out that Ishtar loves him.
Keld: Keld is Ishtar’s adviser. He raised her after the death of her parents, and thinks of her in a fatherly light. Despite his best efforts, he’s generally failed to teach her to be a responsible adult. Ishtar doesn’t like him very much, being under the impression that he’s only taking care of her because she’s the heir to the throne, not because he cares about her.
Yuujin/Yuujel: Ishtar’s magic teacher, who it turns out, is actually her cousing Yuujel. He’s a very powerful magic user, and often looks after Ishtar. He is fond of Ishtar mostly because she is very straight forward and honest about who she does and doesn’t like.
Duzell: Duzell pretty much steals the show. An immortal vampire, he decided he’d try world conquest out of a sense of boredom. When he returns to life (or what passes for it) he’s a little nonplussed by the cheerful and silly Ishtar whose demeanor is entirely outside his experience. He ends up helping Ishtar because he’s in love with her. He doesn’t say anything about it, because he knows she’s in love with Darres. Instead, he ends up saving the life of both Darres and Ishtar by casting La Gamme (which he should not have been able to use in the first place since it involves “holy” magic.) Ishtar makes a deal with him, agreeing to carry his next reincarnation so he does not have to wait another hundred years–and he ends up being one of twins, the other being the reincarnated St. Phelios.
Falan: Falan is Ishtar’s cousin and best friend. She is also one of the few relatives that Ishtar actually likes. She goes to Ishtar when she finds out that her father is apparently plotting something. She is in love with Illisaide, and was later shocked/horrified to find out that Illisaide was her half brother. They decide to live as brother and sister.
Illisaide: Illisaide is an incredibly powerful half-monster and the bastard son of Jened, the ruler of Ci Xeneth. Illisaide is not aware that he’s Jened’s bastard son until it’s revealed during a visit from Ishtar and Duzell. Illisaide is in love with his half sister. The discovery that Jened is his father and that he assaulted Illisade’s mother, a monster princess leads to Illisaide killing his father. (No great loss since Jened was one of the numerous relatives who want Ishtar dead.) Illisaide agrees to stay in Ci Xeneth, and to distance himself from his half sister, though he eventually leaves Ci Xeneth.
Lassen: Lassen is the Lord of Mil Seii. He’s one of the relatives who are trying to kill Ishtar. He may also have killed his own parents for the throne. (Again, no loss there.) He is determined to become the king of St. Pheliosta. He allies with Sharlen and other vampires in an effort to get rid of Ishtar and to kill Duzell. Duzell casts La Gamme and destroys the both of them.
Sharlen: He is the so-called “King of the Vampires.” Sharlen is a half-vampire who wants to kill Duzell, who is responsible for his mother’s death. He is involved in most of the plots in the story, and is a particular ally of Lassen.
Lailis: In a previous incarnation, she was one of Duzell’s favorite “puppets,” a human named Rishas. She reincarnated because she was in love with Duzell, but when she found out that Duzell had “weakened” she agreed to help kill him. She is Lassen’s lover, but doesn’t care for him very much, and their relationship is extremely bizarre and abusive.