Red Angel, Vol. 1
written by Makoto Tateno
If you look closely, you might notice that Mika has wings. Red wings. But she’s no angel — she’s a bloodsucking vampire, and it seems her wings are red for a reason.
In a series of strong vignettes, Makoto Tateno shows her talent as both a storyteller and an illustrator. Her drawings are beautiful, and instead of doing generic vampire stories, she gives her tales new twists and perspectives. That makes the book stand out.
In the first story, Mika is a new girl at school and befriended by the amiable Nana. When Nana meets Mika’s frail older brother Eru, she is smitten. He’s unable to go to school, but he doesn’t look frail and he’s very good-looking. Except… he’s not really Mika’s older brother at all. He’s Mika’s twin persona, a part of her soul. When she looks into the mirror, she’ll see Eru’s reflection instead of her own face. And they both mean Nana harm.
The next story takes place with Mika in New York City, where her acquaintance Anney is getting engaged to the man she thinks is perfect for her. She doesn’t know what danger she’s in being near him, or what danger he’s in being near her.
After that, a young man presents himself to vampires for their judgment after he killed one of their own kind. The reason for his guilt is because the vampire he killed was once his friend. While things seem clear, there’s a twist at the ending.
Next Mika goes to a psychic after spotting a man with red wings like her own. The psychic, who is Chinese, talks about a belief in China where people have two souls inside themselves: a good one (called “hun”) and a bad one (called “po”). This quickly leads us off into another intriguing story, with the two souls of both Mika and the psychic.
The vignettes in Red Angel aren’t really complex, but they’re tight and they work well. They’re lush and moody, with a dark but pretty atmosphere. There are several good twists where stories change course and aren’t what they originally appear. So the stories are gratifying, and the art is definitely lovely to see, with Tateno taking great care to make her characters very attractive. This feels like a good book for teen librarians to look into, because it’s well-done and likely to be read.
Altogether, Red Angel is a treat.