The competitive world of digital comics is about to get a lot bloodier. On January 23, at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan press conference, the usually sombre Mamoru Oshii spoke about his latest creation, Chimamire Mai Love (My Soaked In Blood Love or Blood-Stained Mai Love).
It's a black comedy about a high school student with a fetish for donating blood and his strange friendship with Mai, a wandering Transylvanian vampire — who is too timid to actually bite anyone. When the two form a friendship — well, in situation comedy parlance, "wacky, bloody chaos ensues".
It's the kind of slapstick comedy that Oshii, perhaps best known for the Ghost in the Shell anime, said he has not done in years.
"I can't stand the sight of blood myself."
The story is told almost entirely from a first person perspective, with a minimal amount of animation, highly detailed drawings which are intricately coloured and some sparse sound effects.
When we asked Mr Oshii why he thought so many Japanese teenagers were drawn to giving blood, the so-called 献血マニア (kenketsu-mania), he laughingly quipped, "I can't stand the sight of blood myself but I love getting IV transfusions. I get them whenever possible. It makes me feel great."
He then launched into a long monologue on the Japanese fascination with blood, including the practice of defining people's personalities by their blood types. "Blood is the only part of the body that we can take into ourselves and put back. It has no shape in and of itself. We can store it up and put it back — derive power from it... Like certain athletes," he added, making an oblique Lance Armstrong joke.
Oshii stated that part of the inspiration for the comic strip were his thoughts on blood itself and from wondering about how different types of blood would affect a vampire. He himself seems to have more sympathy with the vampires than with the serial blood donors but did admit, "I don't want to sound like a dirty old man but I don't think I'd mind having almost all of my blood drained out of me by a very attractive young vampiress."
You can download Chimamire Mai Love on iTunes.
Jake Adelstein is an investigative journalist and the author of the excellent Tokyo Vice. Read more of his work at Japan Subculture Research Center, where a longer version of this story originally appeared. Follow Jake on Twitter.