Usually, when reviewing something I dislike I tend to put a cute introductory paragraph in to help soften the blow of the hatred I am about to spew. In this case, I am not going to do so, simply because Vampire Cheerleaders does not deserve it. This time, I'm going right for the jugular.
Put simply, Vampire Cheerleaders is the single most charmless, insulting, dull and outright least fun manga I have had the displeasure of reading in recent memory. This title was so bad that I had to take frequent breaks to read chapters of Yotsuba&! and Bunny Drop to ease the pain my soul was experiencing from having been exposed to such a terrible manga.
The title is split into two halves, with the focus and primarily female characters of each being self-explanatory: Vampire Cheerleaders and Paranormal Mystery Squad. Each has a different artist, and share the same creatively bankrupt writer. Both stories fall into the same unforgivable traps of sloppy uninsipred writing and execution to such a degree that they almost feel like parody.
Vampire Cheerleaders follows the exploits of a group of... well, guess, as they initiate a new member into their ranks, give her a massive infodump on how they operate, and then utterly fail to generate any tension with a lackluster storyline and limp towards a horribly exploitative ending that leaves you feeling dirty. The whole arc feels as if it has been given the barest of thought, and no character or event has any measure of depth - nothing to sink your teeth into (pun intended). Every line spoken is either expository or a flat statement of what the character is thinking at that time, making everyone feel as if they are cardboard cutouts barely propped up on the page. Every last panel and line feels devoid of any gravity, making the whole story an utterly unsatisfying read. The art is monumentally dull, being devoid any identifying charm or "quirk" in either characters or backdrops. So bland is the result that you cant help feeling insulted after reading - did someone really think that such an uninspiring sequence of panels was acceptable as a form of entertainment?
The one thing I can say in Vampire Cheerleaders favour is that at least it does not dance around the whole "vampires = sexuality" trope, instead embracing it with open arms and then promptly ruining it in a ham-handed way anyway.
Paranormal Mystery Squad gets a mild upgrade in terms of art, although even this advantage is squandered because the lion's share of this attention has been lavished on the main character, a painfully generic gothic lolita girl whose entire purpose is to speak her mind in every panel that she finds herself wandering into. On the flip side, this improvment in art comes at a heavy cost - the already weak grasps at humour displayed in Vampire Cheerleaders are even worse in Paranormal Mystery Squad; these include references to menstruation (Paranormal Mystery Squad = PMS hurr hurr), masturbation, yaoi, furries and so on. Surely there are better ways to construct a joke than just pointing things out and expecting the audience to say "Oh man, isn't this crazy!". Hell, the story even takes great pains to set up and make a He-Man reference, something which made me groan and then feel very old indeed.
Paranormal Mystery Squad at least makes attempts to set up a narrative, but due to the characters inability to do anything other that spew exposition or directly stating their emotions there is no tension whatsoever. After around a third of the story, the well of idea runs dry and yet the manga continues, failing utterly to segue into a follow-on or greater plotline until a forced “twist” shows up to try and salvage things. The series even contains the most signposted use of Chekov's gun (or in this case, insulin injection) that I have seen in a long time. Such effort was lavished on this normally minor event that as soon as it happened I knew it would be involved in the final, utterly unsurprising "twist" at the end of the tale. No tension, no build up, no payoff.
In both stories, the cast of characters are keenly, painfully forgettable. The final nail in the coffin has to come at the end of the volume, where you see the character biographies - these are woefully short, and include the female characters breast size measurement. Really? Was this necessary? Did you feel embarrassed writing a smattering of tropes as an excuse for a character description and so decide to add a titillating detail like cup size as an apology to the audience? Give me a break.
You often hear about the idea of something being "so bad its good" - this is not the case with Vampire Cheerleaders. Its just bad. Unforgivably bad, even. I will admit, however, that it has made me thankful for the otherwise high quality manga that is released in the UK, even if it has to be shamed by sharing a shop shelf with this tripe.