Please be advised this review contains spoilers for FANGS Vol 1 by Billy Balibally and published by TOKYOPOP.
Listen y’all, I may not like to admit this publicly, but I totally had that embarrassing Vampire phase. Twilight? I was on that shit like white on rice. Before the movies (I know what I sound like, but please bare with me, I was 15) I was OBSESSED with the books. You can imagine my dismay when I went to watch the first movie and it was sooo different than the books. (In retrospect, was it an improvement to the books? Can’t tell you.) I let go of my Twilight era (very low key I may add) only to a few year later discover my sister’s bootleg True Blood dvds of the first few seasons and began a second decent into vampire hood. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was not having a second vampire awakening but more so viewing everyone in a lustful gaze as that cast managed to be oh so so fine. However, once that time skip season took place, I quickly abandoned True Blood almost as quickly as I discovered it.
After that, vampires simply bored me. I even gave Vampire Diaries a try but it felt like a less sexed up version of True Blood. Aside from the Vampire Twins in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles (Kamui and Subaru in one of the alternate universes) I could care less about vampires.
That was until I discovered Yaoi and realized that vampires didn’t all have to be boring straights with weird obsessive tendencies pretending to be high schoolers even though they’re thousands of years old. They can actually be cute gay vampires who skate and wear Nike and Gucci…..Wait what, gay vampires wearing Nike and Gucci? Let me back up a bit.
Let’s be real, I really have been avoiding the Yaoi vampire sub-genre. To be honest, I even avoided the shounen/shojo and Josie vampire sub genres! I walk around wearing merch of high schoolers with superpowers, so I can definitely support fantasy genres. But like I said, my generation truly beat the vampire thing into the ground so I gleefully skipped those titles. That was until this last trip to Barnes and Nobles where I found myself face to face with FANGS volume one.
Being a frequent flyer at Barnes and Nobles, this was not my first time seeing FANGS on the shelf. I had contemplated purchasing on previous trips but I wasn’t ready yet. This time, I took the leap and snatched it off the shelf before I had a chance to change my mind. I don’t usually read all my manga when I buy it (hides head in shame thinking of all the untouched manga on my shelf) but after a few drinks, I was really to devour FANGS before i went to bed that night.
FANGS by Billy Balibally and published by TOKYOPOP, jumps right to the chase and starts its story at the FANGS Pairing Party. In this world, Vampires have rebranded and go by the lesser scary term “fangs.” They join up with other vampires, in a ritual called pairing, for lifelong companionship and food. Yes, in this world vampires can feed on each other.
Our lead En is making his debut at this Pairing Party along side his guardian Ichii. En is a 19 year old “virgin” in the FANGS world. In this universe, being a virgin means he hasn’t drank another vampires blood. Ichi, who appears to be around the same age range, is a seasoned vampire who has been around for a few decades or more. A few days prior to the pairing party, Ichii, a FANGS government employee, finds En after he survived a vampire attack and was turned. Ichii takes on the role of caretaking of En and gets him acquainted with this new world.
At the pairing party, En becomes highly sought out due to his virgin status. Ichii explains that there haven’t been any “new” vampires for almost 50 years so everyone excited. Unsure of how to deal with this newfound attention, En blurts out that Ichi and him are considering becoming a pair.
Together with Ichi, En navigates his first few weeks as a vampire and deals with the physical and emotional toll of becoming a vampire. He accompanies Ichii in his role of delivering blood or food supplies to lone vampires and meets other vampires Sugi, Masaki, and Utsugi. While immersing himself in this world, En grapples with his new reality and the possibility of pairing with Ichii. The attraction is clearly THERE and the mix of not knowing how to deal with his new senses and emotions, has En hot and bothered. Lucky for him, Ichii is up to the task of scratching En’s new itch, which only complicates En’s feelings.
En first gets a taste of Ichii at the pairing party, where Ichii kisses En, and En punches him, cutting his lip. En is overtaken by lust/vampire instinct and pushes Ichii down to lick his blood. Now if this wasn’t the sexiest first kiss scene I’d ever seen, I don’t know what is. The art style is intoxicating and En’s desire seems to jump off the pages. Following this kiss, Ichii starts acting more romantic towards. I feel like in this moment, Ichii who already had an initial attraction to En, starts seeing him as someone he wants to pair with.
The rest of the sex scenes in FANGS only get better and steamier. Of course, it wouldn’t be your yaoi story without some of the typical lines during sex, but I swear FANGS keeps them to a minimum and really fleshes out scenes that are sexy and passionate. I love some smut, but when you can feel the love and feelings behind it, babyyyyyyyyyyyy. That last sex scene was truly my favorite yaoi sex, ever.
Aside from the butterfly inducing cuteness of watching En and Ichii fall for each other and the fantastic smut, FANGS really has the complete package with its world building. I was surprised at how easy it was to get immersed into this world. Every vampire story has its own set of rules and FANGS combines some of the common vampire troupes and adds new concepts. I love the fact that FANGS makes it a point to highlight how lonely living eternally can be and why vampires decide to pair up. As it is the first volume, the mangaka also set up a lot of questions to be answered in future volumes. Who is mixed in with Ichii’s blood and why do I feel like they are still alive and going to make a comeback? What really happened with the event that turned En? I feel like there is more there that isn’t being told… Also I want see more hot vampire boys, in designer clothes skating and having fun!
If you’ve been hesitating to give another vampire story a try due to the reasons I’ve mentioned here (see vampire burnout) I beg you to give FANGS a try. It’s a fresh take on an existing concept, with more to come!
Get FANGS Vol 1 below: (The links below are affiliate links which means I may receive a commission if you purchases using the link.)