When sinking your hooks into the audience, unarguably the best spot for doing so is the beginning. “Doesn’t get good until halfway through!” doesn’t make for the most marketable copy. How, then, does the writer ensure that the start of their narrative doesn’t turn a reader away? For that question, there are as many methods as there are grains of sand on the Earth, and a certain grain that Our Blood Oath plucked up is to be avoided at all costs.
The first chapter does all right. It makes background agents of the main characters, a younger brother who’s a vampire and an older brother who’s his servile bitch, with the primary conflict orbiting a boy whose family has come under possession of canine demons. It’s hurting for better storyboarding, but for what it is, it’s passable. The succeeding chapter could pick up the slack and carry its momentum onward, but it fails to do so. Completely and utterly. I’ve seen and read stories which have lackluster or less-than-impressive starts, but Our Blood Oath really drops the ball with how poorly it follows up its debut.
Stepping forth from the action and mild suspense of chapter 1, chapter 2 has Ko, the younger brother, play babysitter. It would be neighborly of me to provide a summary rather than end the description there like a smartass, but Ko chasing around some random brat who snuck into their mansion is all that merits summation. Not even the demon which shows up is worth a mention because Shuu, bitch boy, makes an eleventh hour appearance and puts it down in 0.4 nanoseconds.
Being so underwhelming that even a summary makes it a snore is the least of the second chapter’s issues, which are aplenty, ranging from logistical errors to a complete disconnect from the identity of the series’s first impression.
If you’ve done any amount of research on narrative framework, chances are that you’ve come across a graph that looks like this:
It’s the ideal pacing chart, dictating the level of tension as the frames roll or the pages flip. Standard stuff, and examining it, one can guess that Our Blood Oath was trying to keep faithful to its curves, with the second chapter being that dip right after that exciting first chapter. Makes sense. You want the audience to settle in with the setting and its characters rather than blasting them with nonstop action. But Our Blood Oath becomes too settled and introduces a scenario that, plainly, has nothing to do with the story at large. Breather episodes serve a purpose, but placing one beside the start like this creates confusion. If a series is clever enough, it could join a link between babysitting and fighting demons, but as the second chapter proves, cleverness isn’t this series’s forte.
The whole plot of a boy sneaking into their mansion makes little to no sense. The brothers live in the mountains. How in the world did a boy, who probably isn’t even five, make his way from the city and up a mountain without pissing himself in terror or getting devoured by carnivorous squirrels? But supposing he managed that much, how did he get in? Do the brothers not have locks on their doors and windows, or are they partial to robbers? And on the topic of their shoddy security system, how did the demon get in?
It’s trickier to argue against demons invading an estate, since they can presumably phase through walls or punch locks apart, but the absence of any sort of countermeasure betrays the lack of adequate worldbuilding. Just like a real structure, a world is best built gradually, and this chapter could’ve placed the first brick on top of the foundation laid down by the first chapter. Maybe arcane seals painted around the mansion keep the demons out, and the brat spills juice or something on one, canceling its effects and inviting in demons squatting on the doorstep. Doubtful this would make for a masterpiece of a second chapter, but it adds something to the overall series, and something is more than the nothing the second chapter adds.
It’s at this point where I might reference another series that accomplished what Our Blood Oath failed at, but in an odd distortion of reality, this manga learns from its own mistakes and corrects them for chapter 3.
The formatting from chapter 1 returns, where the protagonist role is temporarily given to one of Shuu’s classmates, a stalker with a crush whose jealousy of Ko warps her into a demon’s vessel. With the primary setting being Shuu’s high school, it provides insight on the daily life of the eldest when he’s not a badass slayer of demons and gives us more information on how demons come to manifest themselves in their hosts. Don’t think it’s flawless, but it puts the series back on the rails chapter 2 jumped from.
Like a bronze bell, which is fine from the outside but hollow on the inside, there isn’t a single thing to chapter 2 of Our Blood Oath. Its sloppy attempt at following the pacing graph makes a mundane, inconsequential episode at a point where the series needs to be working on collecting and retaining as much readership as it possibly can, and that’s its biggest flaw. The first few chapters of a manga are what the reader samples to get an idea of what the series is about, but Our Blood Oath, in wasting its precious second chapter on an irrelevant scenario, shows that it’s about nothing at all.