#DRCL: Midnight’s Children is a unique retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Created by Shin-ichi Sakamoto, the manga tells the story of Mina Murray, the only female student at the prestigious Whitby School. Together with her classmates, she founded the Camellia Club to destroy ancient evil. The premise is quite mysterious – and hints throughout the book invite readers to question how real what they are witnessing is. Unfortunately, this mystery is overshadowed by one serious flaw: the identity of Luke/Lucy Westenra.
Debuting in English on September 19, Midnight Children reminds audiences repeatedly that this is a story in which gender, nationality and social status are disregarded in the face of a common enemy. A flashback provided by Quincy shows how important it was to him that his close group of friends be as diverse as possible. The boys torment Mina, but it seems like they will change their ways once the plot actually gets going. Then readers are introduced to Luke Westenra, aka Lucy Westenra, and confusion ensues.
The Luke/Lucy identity feels more uncomfortable than inclusive
Luke is a delicate boy with a soft personality; an artist prone to poetic, flowery language. Mina calls him “Lucy,” making him a male replacement for the original Lucy in Bram Stoker’s story. This in itself would be an interesting and unique twist. However, the waters become muddy when readers learn that Lucy is more than just a cute pet name. Rather, this is the name of Luke’s alter ego, a female personality that only Mina seems to know. While this is usually a positive sign of gender non-conforming representation, the confusion comes from the context surrounding the transition between Luke and Lucy.
When Lucy is first introduced, she is depicted curled up in a birdcage hidden underneath Luke’s suit jacket. When he opened the coat, the cage opened and Lucy was freed. This feels like a reflection of how someone in 19th century England, like Luke, might have felt that their true identity had to be hidden and locked away. Mina then explains that Lucy only goes out at night, apparently due to sleepwalking, and that she doesn’t remember anything that happened while Luke was in control. Although more explicit than the birdcage image, this explanation seems less specific, instead suggesting that Luke suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder.
#DRCL unfortunately has negative stereotypes
While it is not possible for people with DiD to have personalities that identify as different genders, the fact that the line between this explanation and Luke being gender non-conforming is so blurred has become a problem . Instead of emphasizing the move away from stereotypes that Midnight’s Children wishes to advocate, Luke/Lucy’s characters return to potentially harmful stereotypes and emphasize them, taking away from their character. and leaves readers confused trying to figure out exactly what they are being told.
Sakamoto sought to create a modern feel to the classic Dracula story, turning it into a manga with stunning art and a unique setting, and the story’s main character is the young girl Mina. However, Luke/Lucy’s confusing description muddled the story and took the reader’s focus away from where it should have been. Traditionally, the night symbolizes a time when people can discover their identities away from prying eyes, but can also be seen as the trigger for Luke’s identity switch. The fact that the “real” explanation is never made clear only reinforces negative opinions about being transgender, something #DRCL: Midnight’s Children will have to be resolved.
#DRCL: Midnight’s Children available in English from Viz Media.