Trap of Blood (Japanese Title: 血の罠 – Chi no wana) was a 49 chapter epic originally serialized in Manga Erotopia magazine every fortnight, and later collected into 6 tankobon volumes by Sun Publishing under their “Joy Comics” name. The story’s serialization began in late 1979 with the first of the 6 volumes being published on November 3rd 1981, followed by the sixth and final volume which was published on the exact same day one year later in 1982.
Trap of Blood is the story of an unloved, and often abused, orphan by the name of Ryuji Kiyama. His story begins in his home city of Osaka where, despite his genuine efforts to get along with his peers, he finds himself a constant source of ridicule by his classmates due to his very poor upbringing. Ryuji’s foster mother is nothing short of a whore who routinely brings home men and openly copulates with them in front of him, and the closest thing he has to a father figure is a drunk construction warden who forces Ryuji to work the moment he gets back from school. Growing up in abject poverty, coupled with years of physical and mental abuse, ultimately prove too much for Ryuji to take and before long he sets about getting his own back on those that hurt him. Unfortunately for those that caused him to suffer, Ryuji quickly shows that he’s willing to go to extremes in order to exact his revenge with the very first chapter seeing him construct a crude, hand-made shotgun before using it to blow away his abusive foster father. His vengeance doesn’t end there though as, within the very same first chapter, we also witness him blackmail a female classmate who he caught having sex with their teacher, extort her for money, and then finally kill her too by pouring sulfuric acid on her face! At the start of the second chapter we learn that despite Ryuji repeatedly asking his foster father who his real mother is, he never got any answers. However, upon searching his cabin after killing him, Ryuji discovers a photograph of his birth mother hidden away in one his drawers. Coupled with a necessity to flee Osaka thanks to his double homicide, and a yearning to track down his real mother, Ryuji heads to the neighboring city of Kyoto.
Upon arriving in Kyoto, Ryuji soon finds himself picked up by a married couple who happen to be part of a protest group opposing the colonization of a particular university within the city. During the first night that Ryuji crashes at their place, an intruder breaks in claiming to be in search of Ryuji Kiyama. Despite the couples protests, the hitman opens fire on the couple killing the husband outright and injuring his wife. Ryuji quickly kills his would-be assassin by using one of the couples’ homemade riot weapons and successfully escapes the house before finding shelter within the boarded up university building. The following morning, a huge contingent of riot police attempt to overthrow the students squatting within the university premises. Amongst the ensuing chaos, a couple of hitmen disguised as plainclothed officers penetrate the student defense and go in search of Ryuji. Through sheer luck, both hitmen are killed in the crossfire but, as one of them lays dying on the floor, he reveals to Ryuji that it was actually his own mother that put a hit on him.
Devastated and confused by this revelation, Ryuji vows to find his mother and heads to Yokohama where he lands a part-time job as a dishwasher in a Chinatown restaurant. Before long, one of the waitresses takes a shine to Ryuji and ends up dropping by his apartment. Shortly after, the couple begin having sex when a stranger bursts into the room claiming to be Ryuji’s father. The man explains that he and Ryuji’s mother were an item but, since he is infertile, they couldn’t have kids. He then goes on to explain that his mother was raped, causing her to fall pregnant with Ryuji, and that she ran away from home just before she was due to give birth. By the time the man tracked her down, she was married to a wealthy businessman. Clearly on the brink of madness, the man asks Ryuji for some money but when he is turned down he tries strangling Ryuji to death. Ryuji blacks out from the attack only to regain consciousness in the kitchen of his workplace and in the company of a mysterious old man…
The old man reveals that he is actually the father of the escaped mental patient that raped his mother, and therefore Ryuji’s biological grandfather. He tells Ryuji about his mother and where she lives and explains that she is married to Kiichiro Abe, the CEO of Abe Corporation; Japan’s largest trading company. Not only is she married to one of Japan’s wealthiest aristocrats, but she also has another son called Shuichi Abe that bears a striking resemblance to Ryuji. It soon becomes apparent that Ryuji’s mother wants him dead so that she can move on with her new life of luxury without any threat of her past catching up with her. Disgusted by his mother’s wishes for having him killed, Ryuji sets about killing his identical younger brother and taking his place within the Abe hierarchy by becoming “Shuichi Abe”. Successful in his attempt, the tables are dramatically turned in what unfolds to become an epic story of revenge and deceit with some truly horrific moments along the way…
As was common with much of Maeda’s work during the early years of his career, Trap of Blood was a manga that is very dark in tone. The detailed artwork and rich storyline really capture the evil nature of the protagonist and its mind-blowing to think that Maeda was still only 26 years old when he drew this manga. In fact, what really makes this a stand out piece of work is the fact that it’s the first manga that was entirely drawn and written by Maeda without any outside input from editors whatsoever! I have spoken with Toshio many times about this manga and he has stated on numerous occasions that alongside it being his personal favorite, he would often find that his peers in the manga industry couldn’t believe that a 26 year old mangaka could construct such an epic story all by himself. Well folks, he did!
Another interesting point about Trap of Blood is that the reader can see that Maeda long had an interest in English language because there are many instances throughout the story where the characters speak English to each other! This surely must have been an unusual sight in Japanese comics – especially way back in 1980!
Trap of Blood proved to be a hit among readers and it even got a second publication run some 5 years later in 1987 when a different publication company, Byakuya-Shobo, acquired the rights to publish it. The original “Joy comics” 6 volume run also contained 5 standalone mini-stories which were totally unrelated to the main story called “Rape Runaway” (レイプランナウェイ), “Beautiful Temptress” (華麗なる淫獣 – Kareinaru Injū), “Get wet then cry!”(濡れて泣け – Nurete nake), “Angel of Ecstasy” (恍惚の天使 – Kōkotsu no Tenshi ), and “Playgirl” (愛戯婦人 – Aigifujin). I do not own the Byakuya-Shobo reprints of Trap of Blood so I can’t say for certain but, considering the fact that the re-run was also 6 volumes long, I would assume that these 5 mini-stories are also contained within them. Trap of Blood is an incredibly well written manga and well worth your money should you come across a set. Unfortunately, due to it’s age, finding a set of the original “Joy Comics” run is very hard nowadays but the Byakuya-Shobo reprints pop up quite frequently on online bookstores and auction sites in Japan so be sure to check them out. The GREAT news however, is that Trap of Blood has actually been translated into English and can now be read by “Tentacle Club” members over on Toshio Maeda’s official site so if you haven’t signed up already, now’s your chance!!
Here’s the original Joy Comics covers (Click to enlarge!):
And here’s the Byakuya-Shobo reprint covers: