Tag Archives: Vampire

Sharp teeth and a thirst for blood. Thankfully, there is no sparkling. Yet.

Noblesse – Anime Review

Korean Title: Noblesse

 

Related: Noblesse: The Beginning of Destruction (prequel – included in review)

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Castlevania

 

Watched in: Japanese & Korean

Genre: Supernatural Action Fantasy

Length: Two 30-minute movies

 

Positives:

  • Makes you want to read the manhwa.
  • Well-choreographed action.
  • Bloody good powers.

Negatives:

  • Awakening is just the opening chapter.
  • Production issues in Beginning of Destruction.

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Noblesse (French for nobility), based on the popular manhwa webtoon of the same name, has received two short film adaptions, seemingly as a test for the reception of a full series. The first film, Noblesse: The Beginning of Destruction, tells the story of Raizel the Noblesse Vampire and werewolf lord Muzaka in medieval Europe as humans wage war around them, ending in the tragic falling out of these two friends. I assume this is a flashback volume from the manhwa selected as a self-contained story. Noblesse: Awakening is the proper start of the saga, where Raizel awakens from an 820-year slumber to find an unfamiliar modern world. He seeks out Frankenstein, loyal servant and current school principal, for help and ends up attending the school to learn modern life from his human classmates, who soon come under threat from other supernatural entities.

I have good and bad news about Noblesse. The good news? What we have of the series here is strong – I am excited for more. The bad news? That’s all there is in anime form (for now, hopefully) and we have to turn to the manhwa for the rest, which isn’t complete either.

While Awakening is a strong start, it truly is the mere first 2-3 episodes rushed to fit in as much as possible in 30 minutes. We see a bit of every key scene in setting up a larger story. Raizel awakens, meets Frankenstein, goes to class, makes friends against his will in a hilarious scene believing chopsticks are stakes and the garlic in kimchi is to poison him, and then the other vampires capture his friends for the climactic fight. Without having read the manhwa, I would wager it takes more time with these scenes. Still, they do work fine in the anime.

I like Raizel. He is the definition of a Korean drama protagonist. Let me tell you about Korean dramas one day – they’re plenty of fun. For now, the first rule is that the male lead must be tall, slender, handsome, and even a bit effeminate (middle-aged Korean ladies go nuts for that). Bonus points if he is emotionally reserved. Raizel barely speaks throughout both films with maybe 10 lines in Beginning of Destruction. However, he isn’t dull like Kaname, the aloof vampire of Vampire Knight – at least, not in what I’ve seen so far. His inner monologue, as present in the lunch scene, and his imposing manner give him character. When he has to make a hard choice in Beginning of Destruction, you can feel his pain conveyed in few words and facial expressions.

He’s overpowered as hell, though not without consequences. His blood magic looks great, particularly in the prequel.

Speaking of, Beginning of Destruction is the better of the two films when watched as is, owed due to the completeness of the arc. It does have lower production values, however, and I could only find it in Korean, which did work well. This story takes its time with the scenes, giving us enough to connect with the werewolf lord and the human girl he protects before the action starts. The action itself is well choreographed in both films and has a surprising amount of story weight for such little runtime.

Noblesse needs more episodes to deliver its potential, which I hope to see very soon. This is one of few anime adaptions I desire.

Art – High

The prequel may have average production values, but Awakening looks great and oozes style that is classically manhwa. Good animation for the engaging action.

Sound – Medium

The acting is solid. However, the music in Awakening feels generic, as if it not made for this anime but bought from a stock library. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the budget is responsible.

Story – Medium

An ancient vampire awakens to a modern world he doesn’t recognise and must learn of society and technology. The prequel shows his final moments before sleep over 800 years ago. Noblesse sets up a promising story that demands completion.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Hmm…I don’t like recommending incomplete work. If you fall in love and have to suffer the agonising wait for more, was it worth starting at all? Either wait or watch Noblesse and begin the manhwa.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: N/A

Negative:

Incomplete

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Castlevania – Anime Review

Related: Castlevania Season 2 (TBA)

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Berserk

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action Horror

Length: 4 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Faithful to the games.
  • Looks and sounds great.
  • Deeper than expected.
  • Unflinchingly brutal.

Negatives:

  • Too early to gauge full quality.

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In the same way that game-to-film (or vice versa) adaptations bring the worst out of art, game-to-anime conversions are mind-numbing experiences that contain none of the game’s magic. When Netflix announced a Castlevania series, I didn’t even bother adding it to my ‘might, perhaps, one day if there is no more anime, eventually’ list. The series releases and the strangest comment reaches my ears… It’s good. What unspeakable pact did the creators enter into?

While not an anime, Castlevania adopts plenty from the likes of Hellsing and Vampire Hunter D in its adaptation of the game franchise of the same name. More specifically, this uses Castlevania III as a launching point with some Symphony of the Night elements.

The first episode introduces us to the human Lisa as she enters Dracula’s castle and meets the vampire lord of Wallachia himself. Rather than throw her out – or worse, drain her – he is endeared by her desire to learn science and spread such enlightenment across mankind. She doesn’t run away like the others. He teaches her chemistry to help the villagers and marriage is not far behind. However, the Church grows suspicious of her newfound curative abilities and finds heathenistic devices in her house, such as instruments of glass too thin to be of human creation. They burn her at the stake.

Oh what a grave mistake.

Dracula’s wrath unleashes a demon horde across Wallachia. The land is now a place of death. At a small inn still untouched by the horde, Trevor Belmont is drunk and getting drunker. His family of demon slayers fell from grace since their excommunication by the Church, so there’s little to do but drink these days. Even a horde of game doesn’t interest him. A human plea will soon change this.

So, the story starts like a Castlevania game, and it does well by setting the stakes as high as Dracula’s castle and giving a flawed yet likeable protagonist. Then there’s Dracula, exuding majesty and awe-inspiring power. They didn’t tone him down. I was prepared for something like the Devil May Cry anime, where the characters, especially protagonist Dante, have none of the personality that makes them enjoyable. Instead, Castlevania added more than what was to be found in the games.

These four episodes serve as the setup to a grander series. They establish Dracula, Trevor and his allies, and the subplot of the Church, which added the story depth to turn this from good to great. I hope to see the Church subplot throughout the series.

The action is no wet skeleton either. It’s gory and brutal, as it should be for the franchise, and the choreography has thought behind it. Duels are especially satisfying.

With all this praise, what’s the downside? Well, it’s hard to say at this point, as I am reviewing the start of a series. I have no complaints right now, but elements could become problems. For example, Trevor’s bravado will turn annoying if overused and he trash talks instead of fighting, like a bad villain monologue. The inside of Dracula’s castle may also have little story, with all interesting plot occurring outside under the Church’s influence. Who knows? It’s too early to say. Still, it looks right, sounds right, and feels right.

I can’t wait to see what comes next for Castlevania.

Art – High

The art feels like the games turned animated, dripping with gothic atmosphere. Some animation is jittery, but good overall.

Sound – High

The accents work well in English. The Japanese is good enough if you prefer that. Music complements the dark atmosphere.

Story – High

A son in the long line of once-noble Belmonts prepares to fight the Lord of Darkness, Dracula. Castlevania is a great start to adapting such a venerable franchise.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Watch it. Unless you can’t stand gore, Castlevania’s four episodes give a good taste of whether you should look forward to more.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Strong Lead Characters

Negative: None

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Anime Review

Japanese Title: JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (2012)

 

Related: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (sequel)

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood (old version)

Similar: Fist of the North Star

Gurren Lagann

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Supernatural Vampire Action Adventure

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Humorous melodrama from over the top characters, particularly the villain, Dio.
  • Such MANLINESS.
  • Stylish retro throwback art.
  • Great opening theme for part one.

Negatives:

  • The comedic melodrama lessens the impact of serious moments.
  • The second half is weaker mainly due to a duller villain than the first half.
  • The rules of the supernatural power ‘Hamon’ are poorly established.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure may just be the manliest tale— No, it’s MANLIEST; if your beard doesn’t grow an inch when you say it, then you’re doing it wrong. So, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure may just be the MANLIEST tale ever told in anime. It follows Jonathan Joestar, JoJo for short, and his aristocratic lineage’s fight against a cursed mask that turns humans into vampires, MANLY vampires. 19th century England invaded by manga logic of blocking blades with bare hands, powering up, and sculpted arse cheeks, best sums up JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

The adventure starts with the arrival of Dio, the son of a thief, who helped JoJo’s father years ago. Dio is a douche, a MANLY douche intent on taking over JoJo’s life of luxury. In public, he acts a gentleMAN, but is aggressive and cruel behind the scenes – he burns JoJo’s dog alive – and will do anything for power. Once Dio dons the cursed mask, turning vampire, JoJo makes it his mission to defeat Dio. You really aren’t prepared for the levels of MAN involved in the conflict between JoJo and Dio. Even draining blood is MANLY; rather than the sexy bite to the neck, vampires sink their fingers into one’s flesh like hoses to extract blood. This anime is Gears of War if it embraced its homoeroticism.

They get into fights and have over the top rivalries with smack talk. It works well here because the anime makes its style clear and that you should not take it too seriously. The, let’s be honest, cheerleader of the group, Speedwagon, delivers lines of melodrama even Shakespeare couldn’t dream of. (He and the narrator could do with less telling of the action that we can already see.) Even the tragic moments are overly melodramatic on purpose. This does lessen the impact of serious and emotional scenes, however, which may bother some viewers.

To counter vampirism, heroes can harness the power of ‘Hamon,’ which seems to invent its rules as it goes along. Hamon starts as a Qi-like power that sends out energy waves, but later has magnetic properties and the power of foresight. Huh? This gives the impression that the writer didn’t plan the parameters of the power early in the series. Adding new effects at later stages is fine, but it needs to make sense. If you establish that a character’s superpower is ice control, you can’t add telekinesis out of nowhere. That said, this wasn’t a serious issue, just jarring each time.

My other complaint is the weaker second half when the story jumps two generations to JoJo’s grandson, Joseph Joestar – so, still JoJo – where the new villain isn’t as interesting as Dio. Without the personal connection between hero and villain, I found my engagement slipping, particularly when the narrative beats are so similar between parts one and two. It was still enjoyable, though I would advise against a marathon of both parts in succession. Have a break in between.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is such a campy series that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. Before I started, I didn’t know much about this anime beyond the supernatural premise in England. I expected a Brothers Grimm sort of adventure; instead, I got the MANLIEST anime in existence.

Art – High

JoJo uses a vibrant colour pallet that changes with the mood and tone of the scene. With turquoise, violet, scarlet, and many more, this anime has more colours than a Mardi Gras parade, suiting its campy style perfectly. The action is heavily stylised through texture, colour blocks, background streaks that don’t look awful (if you can believe it) and audio text, 60s Batman style. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is how you do a retro throwback without looking dated. My only real complaint is the inconsistency of animation; in calm scenes, the animation can be jerky, while it’s much smoother during action.

Sound – High

The audio quality is high in all departments. Of note are the first opening theme and the melodramatic voice acting.

Story – High

A multi-generational story of MANLY MEN fighting the undead with power of MANLINESS. The heroes and first villain are hilarious to watch, flexing at each other in the middle of a fight with more homoeroticism than a Mr Universe contest. I found the first half more engaging than the second.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Watch it unless you dislike exaggerated characters and campiness. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a fun, retro anime that doesn’t take itself too seriously as it flexes its biceps the size of Britain in your face.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: 

Great OP or ED SequenceStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

 

Vampire Knight – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Vampire Knight & Vampire Knight Guilty

 

Related: Vampire Knight Guilty (sequel – included in review)

Similar: Blood+

Karin

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Vampire Romance Action

Length: 26 episodes (13 per season)

 

Positives:

  • Nice French architecture.

Negatives:

  • Poorly constructed and creepy relationships filled with empty romance.
  • Dialogue so bad, you have to wonder if the writers have ever heard a real conversation.
  • Makes no use of the human-vampire school premise.
  • A Mary Sue here, a Mary Sue there, Mary Sue everywhere…
  • Worst exposition writing techniques available.
  • Tries to be sexy, but comes off as immature and disturbing.
  • Double deus ex machina in the finale.
  • Mediocre animation quality with an inconsistent frame rate and stiff motion.

Readers of Twilight and young adult supernatural romance are familiar with the casseroles of slop that flow through the pages of literature these days. Every medium has its El Supremo bilge genre, and literature’s bled into anime with Vampire Knight.

Like all vampire romances, this takes place in high school. Cross Academy is a boarding school with two separate schedules: Day Class for humans and Night Class for vampires to foster peaceful relations between the two races. The humans think the night class students are just rich hotties, as both classes are kept isolated, only crossing paths at sunset. Bella Yuuki and her adopted brother Jacob Zero work as guardians to keep the fangirls away from the vampires, who want a drink. Yuuki is incompetent at her job, can’t fight, and goes weak in the knees when a vampire so much as brushes her. She’s all that stands between humanity and becoming vampire fodder? We’re boned. In truth, pure blood vampire Edward Kaname keeps them in line. He’s the soft-spoken, brooding type, who spends his nights posing like a model on his chaise lounge – he seriously does nothing (like Edward).

This love triangle is the same as Twilight’s. Rich, handsome vampire admired by all with an ordinary human girl, but has something ‘special’ about her, plus another guy who has a hidden supernatural power and hates vampires. Even the narrative beats of the love triangle are the same. Vampire Knight does its best to outdo Twilight with creepy relationships. Instead of pedo-wolf, there is pedocest and pseudocest; frankly, by the time you reach the standard incest, it seems normal.

Vampire Knight’s greatest crime is the writing. If you want to have creepy relationships, at least write them properly. No one bats an eye here. Furthermore, even ignoring the creepiness, these relationships wouldn’t work. Taking a page, or several hundred, out of Twilight, Yuuki and Kaname have nothing in common beyond sexual attraction. To establish a believable romance, one that we’re told is deep and meaningful, the couple has to be friends first, lovers second. Ask yourself if any given couple would still be friends if they weren’t attracted to each other. If the answer is ‘no,’ then the relationship has no longevity, as is the case here.

The supporting cast is hollow too, with the humans passing as no more than fangirls and the vampires as mannequins in the window. You wouldn’t believe how many slow pans they have across the vampires posing for a photo-shoot. Sure, they each possess a special power…that they use maybe once, just like in, you guessed it, Twilight. At least they have fangs and don’t sparkle.

Much of the dialogue goes into exposition, which could explain why there were no words left for development. Characters will actually sit down and tell each other information they both already know. For example, the headmaster tells Kaname that he is a pure blood and goes into detail on what a pure blood is to the pure blood. “Hey reader, you are a reader, and right now you are reading this review. I bet you didn’t know that, did you?” Such amateur writing. Then they tell each other how vampires turn and die, which they both already know, given one is a vampire and the other is an expert on vampires. There’s a scene like this every episode.

Even when not expositing, the writing is rubbish. An opening line is “What’s snow? It’s something that’s not red.” I can imagine the translator in agony, unable to edit the worst writing in anime.

So the question is if this is as bad as Twilight. That’s difficult to answer. Vampire Knight is decent enough to play some of it for laughs. The fawning girls are so over the top, it’s amusing. Not all vampires are super cereal, joining in the comedy, particularly Aidou (often called Idol since he’s charming and popular with the girls), who collects all the junk broken by Kaname’s power in anger. However, once the second season, Vampire Knight Guilty, saunters in, it drops all humour for incest. The writers weren’t skilled enough for serious narrative and could have been successful with a comedy. A reverse harem would have been better, not good, but better.

Interestingly, Vampire Knight and Twilight started around the same time, though Twilight concluded five years ahead, which is why Vampire Knight tries to one-up Twilight’s convenient resolution via demon baby. You thought Vampire Knight forgot about that? Oh, n-n-n-n-no, not at all. You aren’t ready for Vampire Knight’s equivalent to that monstrosity in the manga.

Art – Medium

I like the French architecture used for the school. The character art is decent to make appealing vampires. A drop in animation during chibi comedy is acceptable, but in the action, it’s inexcusable. Even the opening sequences, where they usually go all out in visual quality, have noticeable stiffness. Where are the transition frames?

Sound – Medium

Right choice of instrumental music – organ, piano, etc. – though it does sound close to stock music. Despite the atrocious story, they didn’t skimp on the voice talent. We have the likes of Mamoru Miyamo (Rintarou in Steins;Gate) and Fumiko Orikasa (Riza in Full Metal Alchemist) in Japanese, and Troy Baker and Vic Mignogna in English. Shame the terrible dialogue cut them in the throat.

Story – Very Low

Vampire Knight hits every cliché, every creepy moment you can expect from tween vampire romances. With pedocest, incest, Mary Sues, and Deus ex machina, Vampire Knight has it all.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: So bad that this is a must watch. Vampire Knight has done it. It has managed to bring Twilight to anime, and it is awful.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: 

Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueDeus Ex MachinaHorrendous ActionInduces StupidityMary SueRubbish Major CharactersShallowUseless Side Cast

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

 

Related: Vampire Hunter D (alternative prequel)

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Ninja Scroll the Movie

Cowboy Bebop

Castlevania

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Gothic Vampire Action Fantasy Horror

Length: 1 hr. 37 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • That Gothic visual style.
  • The varied and interesting vampires.
  • Fantastic animation, particularly for the plethora of supernatural abilities.
  • The tragic touch.
  • Haunting soundtrack fits perfectly.

Negatives:

  • I want more.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, one of my favourite anime. As an avid reader and painter of Warhammer Fantasy, Bloodlust is a look at what Warhammer would be like it were brought to the anime medium. This is a film dripping with style, from Gothic architecture to German classical music to fantasy lore, and I love every bit of it.

The adventure takes place in a techno-Gothic future where vampires rule the night, but their numbers are dwindling with the rise of bounty hunters after the prices on their heads. The best hunter of all is D, a rider in black with a wide-brimmed hat and a cybernetic horse, and is a dunpeal – half-vampire, half-human – for which ordinary humans fear him. He also has a demon face living in his hand that provides comedic relief to an otherwise dark tale; his snark and cowardice are entertaining. A wealthy aristocrat hires D to recover his daughter, Lady Charlotte, who was kidnapped by the vampire Meier Link, alive or dead if turned already. Also on the trail is a group of bounty hunters who drive around in a tank, hunting the undead.

The chase takes D and the hunters through graveyards, mountain passes, a monster town, and more, ultimately culminating in an epic finale reminiscent of Warhammer meets Castlevania. Bloodlust is a film that ramps up with each stage of the narrative, getting grander and more intense with each step. Where the original Vampire Hunter D had no surprises in its simple narrative, Bloodlust surprised me several times along the way, not just twists in the story, but also elements brought into play. I didn’t expect the touches of tragedy and emotion from D and Meier in a dark tale such as this. It adds an extra layer of depth that the creators could have easily ignored.

This time around, we get a few glimpses into D’s character, which not only characterises him better, but also makes him more mysterious and intriguing. In the original, he came across as some quiet guy who fights vampires and that was it; here however, the moments into his past and the prejudice he faces as a half-vampire give you something to care about, enough to make you want to learn more. Similarly, the vampire villain, Meier, is a complete character, fitting into one of my favourite character archetypes, the tragic villain. I feel it would constitute spoilers to elaborate further, suffice it to say, Meier is a cool villain with believable motivations and actions.

Another great aspect of Bloodlust is the monsters and their supernatural powers. We see giant sand rays, a werewolf with a mouth where his stomach should be, and a woman who can meld into any surface and become that substance. That’s just the start. One of the bounty hunters, a bed-ridden man, can astral project his soul to become a laser beam firing entity of doom at the cost of his health. Oh yes, the master of shadows is especially cool. Best of all however, again, is Meier with his Batman-like cape that can turn to steel, among his many gifts. Everything about him screams Gothic vampire – it’s so rare to see vampires that aren’t worthless morons like in Buffy or melodramatic saps as seen in Twilight.

Now, to avoid overhyping, I want to make it clear the Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust isn’t the greatest anime ever made. No individual part of it is bad; however, you could take each element, narrative-wise, and add more to it – even more characterisation and backstory, even more lore, even more psychology, and so on. With tempered expectations in mind, this is an easy anime for me to recommend. You don’t need to see the original, as this draws no influence from the previous. I love this anime.

Art – Very High

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust has one of best art styles in all animation. The Gothic architecture shrouded in a dark atmosphere is wondrous and the character design, especially the vampires, perfection. The animation is great as well; the opening scene where the vampire drains all life as he passes through town to kidnap Charlotte is an excellent showcase for the artists’ skill. This art makes me hungry for more anime in this style. A Warhammer Fantasy series using this Gothic goodness would comatose me from amazement.

Sound – High

The Foley sounds are great – what a difference it makes compared to the original. Also improved is the voice work in both languages. You can’t go wrong with either track. However, the strongest audio element is the music. As with the German influenced Gothic architecture, the music borrows from famous German and Austrian classical composers to weave a haunting soundtrack that enhances the tension and horror.

Story – High

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust brings several surprises to its narrative of a half-vampire hunting a vampire to recover a human lady. The small touches of tragedy and emotion elevate this beyond a straightforward action anime. Love the vampires and their lore.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must-watch for gothic fantasy fans. What more can I say about Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust? I love this film’s sense of style, its action, its tragedy, its atmosphere, and its lore.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Fluid AnimationGreat MusicHoly S***Phenomenal VillainRiveting ActionStunning Art Quality

Negative: None