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YMMV / The Saga of Darren Shan

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  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Are the vampire clan a race of arrogant knight templars no better or even worse than the vampaneze, whose bigotry and pride prevents peace from being achieved between the clans? Or do they have a point, in that the vampaneze are such a threat that they need to be eliminated?
    • Mr. Crepsley's claim of Steve having evil blood. Was Steve truly born evil or was it a lie by Mr. Tiny in order to break Darren and Steve's friendship?
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    • Annie at first refuses to believe it when Darren fakes his death, spending several days telling him to Please Wake Up before he's buried. Is this simply childish denial? Or since she knows about Madam Octa and seems suspicious about Steve's miraculous recovery, can she sense that something about Darren's sudden death just doesn't add up?

  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • There were times in which Darren acted like a Designated Hero, sometimes agreeing to do certain actions because it benefits him more and can be spiteful sometimes. The manga makes him more naive and heroic.
    • The manga shows the point of view of other characters, not just Darren like in the novel.
    • Kurda's two assistants only exist to be used as cannon fodder and nobody bats an eye when they die. In the manga, Kurda is clearly upset about their deaths and part of why he decides to stay in the Lake of Souls is to be with them forever. They get drawn into a lot of the illustrations, and they even appear on a cover.
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    • The ending of the books was criticized due to Darren going back in time so that the events of the series never happen and the Black-and-Gray Morality and ambiguous "heroics" of the cast. The manga ending however rectified this by showing what happened to the rest of the characters after the time-reset, having Darren's friends helping him to deliver the books to Mr. Tall and alternate world!Darren still being friends with Steve. The manga ending also puts more emphasis in Darren and Steve's broken friendship, to the point it's a vital part of Steve deciding to abandon his obsession with becoming a vampire in the new timeline.
  • Awesome Art: The manga features gorgeous artwork and character designs. It only gets better as the series goes on and it helps it's a mostly faithful rendition of the novels.
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  • Americans Hate Tingle: In the western part of the fandom, Glalda and Cyrus are hated due to participating in Kurda's ill-fated plan. However in the Japanese fandom, they're quite popular for being just minor characters.
  • Awesome Ego: A number of characters are beloved not just in spite of their arrogance, but because of it. Vancha probably tops the list, but honorable mentions include Steve and Arra.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Steve. Many despise him for his continued antagonistic behavior towards Darren, acting like an Ungrateful Bastard for his sacrifice and manipulating the events that resulted in Larten's death. Others believe he was forced into villany due to being manipulated by Mr. Tiny from the beginning and feeling betrayed and abandoned by Darren. Also, his friendship and eventual Foe Yay with Darren is seen as either one of the best written relationships in the franchise or borderline abuse (Though few would call it very healthy).
  • Broken Base:
    • The book ending splits fans pretty evenly. Was Darren pulling a Reset Button by going back in time as a reconstructed Little Person and scaring away his younger self so that the events of the series happen to someone else — a fitting end to the saga or a cheap cop-out that renders the reader's investment in the series completely pointless?
    • Speaking of introducing the franchise to newbies, "what to watch first" between the books or manga is a contentious topic. What most people can agree on is that the 2009 movie was a terrible Compressed Adaptation.
    • Back when the series was originally being printed, Darren/Steve was the series's pairing of choice, to the point where the manga made their friendship more codependant before their fallout. But as the fandom's matured, a lot of the more uncomfortable aspects of their relationship have been acknowledged. Not to mention "Sons of Destiny" reveals they're related.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Desmond Tiny is a sadistic time traveler (and Darren's father) who is revealed to have manipulated almost all the terrible events in history just for his own personal pleasure. He brags about the way he likes to drink the blood of children, claiming "it's so sweet", and on another occasion claims he is excited to witness a volcano that will kill thousands. He pitted Darren and Steve against one another, insisting that the vampires only have three chances to kill Steve before he overthrows the Vampires. Whichever boy won-Darren or Steve-would become the Lord of Shadows, kill all of their friends, and became the ruler of the world. When Darren decides to Screw Destiny and let both himself and Steve die, Mr. Tiny instead creates dragons which results in the Post-Apocalyptic world as seen in The Lake of Souls. His motivation is he looked into the future and saw that things were going to be too peaceful for his liking, so he set the stage for a lot of chaos to amuse him.
    • The Vampenze Lord, aka Steve "Leopard" Leonard, is an unstable tyrant who starts up a war with the vampires to get back at Mr. Crepsley for turning Darren into a vampire and not him. Among his actions are seducing the hero's sister in order to get her pregnant; using his own son as a bargaining chip against Darren; and snapping the neck of Evra's eight-year-old son just for his own sick joy. Even the other Vampenze dislike him and only serve him because they have to.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: The series is relentlessly grim, with common criticisms being that nothing ever goes well for anybody.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple:
    • If you look on Fanfiction.Net, Deviant Art or any other poll site, you'll probably notice that Darren/Steve is the most popular. Either because of their Foe Yay in the books, because of the subtext they have in the manga, or both. It doesn't help that Takahiro Arai (the artist for the manga) likes them and deliberately added more scenes of them together that weren't in the original books. Also his next work AR∀GO: City of London Police's Special Crimes Investigator features Arago and Seth, whose designs resemble Steve and Darren respectively.
    • Darren/Larten is also very popular towards those who saw their close bond as more than father-and-son.
  • Fandom-Enraging Misconception: Calling it an 'English' series is bound to set off a few fans. Author Darren Shan is Anglo-Irish and uses some English slang terms in his writing (for example saying 'trainers' instead of the Irish 'runners'), so there is some merit to this. But the books were written and published in Ireland. The name of Darren's father (Dermot) is distinctly Irish, and certain minor aspects of the series point to an Irish setting.
  • Fanon:
    • Vancha being the older of the Harst brothers, because he's taller and older-looking compared to Gannen. The Japanese translation has it this way, because in Japanese, it would be an awkward usage to call someone a "brother" without specifying older or younger. The Saga of Larten Crepsley implies it's the other way around, though.
    • Glalda's surname being Erefith. There's no mention of him having a surname either in the novels or manga.
    • Kurda being the youngest of the vampires due to his looks. Jossed, as The Saga of Larten Crepsley reveals he's actually 30-40 years older than Gavner.
  • Funny Moments:
    • Mr Crepsley is unimpressed by Gavner's attempt at sneaking up on them in his introduction. Darren tries to reassure him that he was surprised, and Mr Crepsley damns him by faint praise, saying he'll be useful "if you are ever called upon to sneak into a nursery."
    • Gavner at one point has to strip to his underwear, revealing himself to be wearing boxers with pink elephants on them. He insists they were a gift from an ex-girlfriend.
    Gavner: She was a lovely woman really. She just had bad taste in underwear.
    Darren: And in boyfriends.
    • Darren angsting about how he can't be in a relationship with Debbie.
    "Bloody humans...bloody vampires...we should just be turtles or something."
    • It turns out Seba was an even stricter mentor to Larten than he is to Darren, which the boy finds very satisfying. Larten once wanted to speak as grandly as Seba did, so the latter resorted to plucking a nose hair every time Larten used a contraction. Larten attempted to avoid this by burning all his nose hairs off, but Seba just took them from somewhere else. He refuses to admit where, so Darren just asks Seba. The latter looks very pleased with himself when he replies "his ears".
    • Darren's hangover after a night of drinking with the others in Vampire Mountain. He wakes up to see a gleeful Harkat standing over him. The Little People have a much stronger tolerance for alcohol. Darren?
    Harkat: Have fun last night?
    Darren: I've been poisoned!
    • Following on from the above, Darren is dragged to the showers against his terrified protests to sober up. After much screaming, he then sees a similarly hungover Mr Crepsley on his way back. Wishing him good morning just gets an angry snarl.
    • There's also the description of Vancha stepping aside to reveal "a bound, gagged, enraged Chief Inspector Alice Burgess trussed up on the floor". Darren also remarks that she's trying to speak through the gag and guesses that "she weren't saying hello or wishing us well."
    • Darren reuniting with his ex-girlfriend Debbie Hemlock - when she's his teacher in English class. Look at it from the perspective of her students: the new guy hugs the teacher and starts chatting to her like they're old friends.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The books were incredibly popular in Japan, thanks in part to the manga adaptation.
  • Ham and Cheese: Ken Watanabe is hamming it up quite nicely in the film adaptation.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Larten's grudge on Murlough and his words to Darren about not getting obsessed with revenge. The Saga of Larten Crepsley reveals that Larten's best friend, Wester Flack was obsessed with revenge after Murlough killed his family and this resulted in a grudge against vampanezes and killing Larten's girlfriend and putting the blame on a vampaneze in an attempt to start a war against vampires and vampanezes. Even though Larten killed Wester and acted like he didn't exist for the rest of the books, it's clear it has affected him and didn't want for Darren to go through the same path as Wester.
    • In Cirque du Freak, we get Steve making it clear that he would be broken without Darren at his side. It's heart-warming at the time, in a weird way, but becomes much worse when Steve becomes an homicidal maniac years later without Darren around.
    • The sheer amount of comments and jokes between Darren and Kurda/Harkat that become this when compared to their intertwined fates — Kurda was supposed to become a Prince, and Darren was supposed to be executed on the stakes, but it ends up being the other way around, and both end up becoming Little People. There are comments that allude to all three of these things.
      • Harkat saying that he feels nostalgic upon going to Vampire Mountain, to which Darren jokes he might've been a vampire in his past life. Then Lake of Souls reveals he was Kurda.
      • When Darren first meets Kurda, he asks how you become a Prince, and Kurda asks if he's thinking of applying for the job.
    • Larten, about to be killed by Steve, asks Vancha "will you praise my name in the halls of Vampire Mountain?", to which Vancha agrees. The Saga of Larten Crepsley reveals Wester asked the same thing in his duel to the death with Larten.
    • Just the fact that Darren is forced to kill his revenge-obsessed friend who was manipulated by Mr. Tiny at the end of the story. Larten had to do the same at the end of The Saga of Larten Crepsley.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • Gavner telling Darren that Mr. Crepsley is a good person and he can trust him. The Saga of Larten Crepsley reveals Mr. Crepsley was a surrogate father to Gavner.
    • In Cirque du Freak, Darren mentions about how he never talks about personal problems with Steve because that's not a boys' thing to do. At the end of the manga, doing exactly that is what saves their friendship in the alternate timeline.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Darren in the seventh book goes through an experience that leads to his hair growing back and aging up by a few years. This process's name? The Purge.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Debbie/Alice. According to a post by Word of God, they were supposed to be a lesbian couple but was removed due to Executive Meddling.
    • Darren/Steve has a very notable fan following too, especially in the Japanese fandom.
    • Larten/Darren seems to be another favored pairing in the fandom.
    • Steve/Gannen, due to the later's loyalty towards him. Gannen is just following orders and actually hates Steve, but the fans will ignore that.
    • Kurda/Glalda, at least in the manga.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Darren is shipped with almost everyone in the series: from Steve, Larten, Evra, Debbie, Kurda, etc.
    • Also Kurda has been shipped with Darren, Glalda, Cyrus, Gavner, Vancha, and Mika.
  • Moment of Awesome:
    • In Tunnels of Blood where Mr.Crepsley kills Murlough in 3 moves!
    • Also in the same book, Darren climbing the wall of Debby's house just to go up to her window and kiss her.
  • Misaimed Fandom: The vampires' desire to exterminate the vampaneze is meant to illustrate how terrible the cycle of hate can be. It's also garnered them a number of fans who want them to succeed, given how badly most vampaneze are depicted. It doesn't help that despite The Reveal that the vampires were the ones who started the feud in the first place, there are very few vampaneze who are shown as likable in any way. Gannen Harst is a thoroughly good person, but you hardly ever get to see that, to the point where it's basically Fridge Heartwarming. There's also the fact that the vampaneze's appearances — purple skin and red hair and eyes — are supposed to look horrifying, even though Glalda and Gannen are quite attractive in the manga. On top of that, we're supposed to be happy that Vancha and Gannen are making peace babies with Evanna, but we don't get to see that future. The whole issue has a whiff of not-in-my-backyard about it.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • If turning against Darren, using a decoy in order to make Larten die in a Senseless Sacrifice, impregnating Annie Shan and then leaving her, and killing Shancus Von wasn't enough, then Steve admitting that he made his revenge on Darren so convoluted because it would be more fun for himself is what does it.
    • Desmond Tiny may have already had his a long time ago, as it's implied that he's been screwing with people and time for centuries.
  • Narm: ''Vampaneze" is a name that belongs more in a parody of urban fantasy. Their human army 'vampets' is equally silly. But the good counterpart 'vampirites' is a little better.
  • Nausea Fuel: Book 2 helpfully gives us a description of the gruesome aftermath of the werewolf's attack on Sam Grest. Made even worse by the fact that he's only 12.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Everything from creepy crawlies to out-and-out squicky violence.
    • That said, the scene from The Vampire's Assistant where Reggie Veggie has just had his hands ripped off by a werewolf he'd been trying to "liberate" and proceeds to run around the forest screaming about his "hands, my haaaaands man, my haaaands" is right up there.
    • The main character just barely stops himself from attacking his beloved younger sister. That's bad enough, but he realizes that the only thing he can do to keep his family safe is to fake his own death and leave them and all his friends, forever. He's about 12 years old. It's made worse by the fact that we have to read the reactions of the distraught family.
  • One True Threesome: Kurda/Glalda/Cyrus, at least in the Japanese fandom. It helps that the manga expands their interactions.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Alice Burgess, a police chief, makes her first appearance campaigning against the vampires due to falling for Steve's manipulations. By the end of the series, she's one of Darren's closest comrades and has been an active fighter on the vampires' side.
    • Glalda. In the novels he appears as an arrogant and unrepentant killer who mocks Arra for her gender. The manga shows him from Kurda's point of view, revealing Glalda to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist who shares Kurda's ideals to unite vampires and vampaneze. Justified, as the novel shows him from Darren's point of view.
  • Squick: Evanna having sex with Vancha and Gannen at the end of the series. Especially because The Saga of Larten Crepsley reveals she's their adoptive mother.
  • Ugly Cute:
    • Evra looks like half-snake, half-human, but has an adorable personality.
    • Harkat Mulds, at least in the manga... and at least partially due to having Kurda's cheerful and clever personality.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Well far from the only thing fans hated about the film adaptation, they are as follows...
    • Setting the story in America for no apparent reason, especially considering the franchise's very obvious European setting.
    • Depicting Darren as a bored kid wanting to escape to an exciting life - rendering him like a generic fantasy Kid Hero. The point of his character in the books is that he's a happy child who gives up his human life as a Heroic Sacrifice - and the tragedy it entails.
    • Replacing Debbie Hemlock (who is described as dark-skinned) with a white girl called Rebecca. And giving her a monkey tail possibly to deflect criticism over the Race Lift in the first place.
    • Having Steve's Face–Heel Turn happen so early and provide a baffling climax involving Darren's family finding out he's a vampire and then memory wiping him. Had more films been made, this would have wreaked havoc with the continuity.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Noted here about the tendency for the adaptations to whitewash Debbie Hemlock. She's very clearly described as brown skinned and dark haired in the books, and the film notably completely replaced her with a white girl called Rebecca...and gave her a monkey tail (just adding to the racial implications).
    "Debbie was the ONLY character to be completely erased and replaced with [Rebecca] to be Darren’s love interest. For what reason did they need to change specifically her? One of the only black characters in the trilogy the movie was adapting? Why make [Rebecca] white? Why make her a monkey girl?"
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Kurda. In-universe he's looked down by his fellow vampires because they mistook his pacifism for weakness, but many readers/viewers sympathized with him and were sad when he died at the end of "The Vampire Prince". The "unpopular" part is downplayed in the manga though.
  • Values Dissonance: Setting example. Although the setting is vague, the books were written and published in Ireland, and the setting can be given away for one very specific plot point: Darren's fake funeral. In the UK, it can often take at least a week to have the wake and service. Ireland by contrast usually does things very quickly - within three or four days. The text implies that Darren was lying for only a couple of days. It's also very clearly Catholic.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: This is a kid's book series, but the author himself says that he knows people both above and below the series' age demographics read them.
    • Book two has R.V. recommend drugs to three 12-year-olds, who don't get the reference... but the readers do.
    • Book eight has a character who, though appearing to be fifteen (and probably around the same stage of puberty as any real teen), is really about 27, first outright saying that he wants to date said real teens ("That's the thing I love about high school girls: I keep getting older, they stay the same age") and then trying to do... something to his much-older teacher (who is very likely younger than him.)
    • Plus, the books are so violent and gory, it's not even funny.
  • Wangst:
    • Darren in the first books keeps whining about how much he hates being a vampire. Thankfully he gets better.
    • Also, Steve, who never stops whining about how unfair it is that he couldn't become a vampire even as he tries to murder people and screw with Darren.
    • In the manga, Vancha gets hit with a lot of this whenever Gannen is mentioned.
  • The Woobie: Practically every character in the saga is this, to some extent.
    • Darren becomes a vampire to save his best friend's life, only for said friend to turn on him after believing he betrayed him. He's separated from his family and friends and forced to fake his death. Then he adjusts to his life as a vampire and meets new friends during his journey, only for most of them to end up dead or worse than before. Then Mr. Crepsley (who Darren had begun to see as a father figure) dies and he finds out his best friend now is an unstable murderer and wants him dead. No wonder he snaps after finding out he was a pawn in Mr. Tiny's plans.
    • Steve was born into a loveless family and saw his friend Darren as his Living Emotional Crutch. After Darren becomes a vampire to save his life, Steve sees it as a horrible betrayal and vows to kill Darren in the future, becoming cruel, vindictive, and unhinged to the point of outright sociopathy. Then it's revealed he was just an Unwitting Pawn in Mr. Tiny's plans and dies believing Darren took his dream away. It's especially sadder in the manga, where his friendship with Darren is more emphasized and he's a nicer person before everything goes to hell.
    • Evra. His biological parents treated him like a monster and sold him to a circus where the ringmaster abused him, until he was saved by Mr. Tall. He's remarkably well adjusted in spite of it.
    • Annie who is a loving little sister to Darren at the start of the series, has to live with the knowledge that she's an Unwitting Instigator of Doom who got Steve nearly killed with Madam Octa's poison (and spend several agonising days wondering if he'll die). Then she believes her brother dies - and Darren's narration talks about her heartbreaking pleas for him to Please Wake Up at his funeral. Then as an adult, Steve seduces her and gets her pregnant solely for revenge.
    • Darren's parents Dermot and Angela - Good Parents who love their children very much. First Steve gets paralyzed in their house, and Angela appears to be shouldering some guilt over it (having a child get dangerously ill under your supervision is ultimate Adult Fear). Then Darren appears to die, and they were already suspicious of his parting words to them - so it's possible they wondered if Darren was suicidal without them knowing. When Darren returns to his hometown years later, it's said they couldn't bear to stay in the house and had to move away. Unlike Annie, they never find out their son is still alive.
    • Darius, full stop. The boy lives with only his divorced mother, wondering why his father doesn't live with them. Then his father reaches up to him after years, and he accepts to join his Vampaneze army in an attempt to impress him. Also, his hostility towards vampires and the Cirque du Freak is a result of Steve feeding his head with lies. Then his father kills Shancus Von and finds out the hard way that he couldn't care less about his son and only manipulated him for the sake of his revenge on Darren. And he's unwillingly transformed into a Vampaneze by Steve, in order to mess with Darren more. Even after Darren saves Darius, it's clear he doesn't have sympathy for the boy at all and only sees him as his enemy's son.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: When the film adaptation came out, fans were baffled at the casting choices for Larten and Gavner. Not that John C Reilly and William Dafoe are bad actors - in fact, fans said they'd be better suited to the opposite parts.
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