Time for another Friday Review that was written on Saturday. I’ve changed the layout to make my thoughts flow a little better, and in fact, I may go back and do that will all my previous posts. Now you won’t have to read through an entire essay just to check up on a certain something. Here goes.
What happens when you try to revive this fantastic, gothic horror story at the peak of mahou shoujo anime? You get Magical Vampire Pretty Miyu! No, it’s not that bad. It’s actually pretty good, but be warned that this isn’t a true sequel to the OAV. Think of it more as an alternate universe and you’ll feel much better.
Plot Overview: Miyu’s back, and she’s still hunting those pesky Shinma. Unlike the OAV, the TV series’ focus is entirely on Miyu, with most episodes showing events through her point of view. Because of this, some alterations were necessary, but what the writers ended up doing is quite novel, or cliché, depending on your point of view.
Miyu is attending an all-girls school, joins a group of friends, and hides her identity as a vampire and the Guardian from them. When trouble arrives, she morphs into her vampire outfit (her trademark kimono) and fights evil alongside her companion, Larva. She’s also accompanied by a bizarre little Shinma named Shiina, a seemingly cute little bunny thing, until you see it’s grotesquely large eyeball, that is. Also making her debut is her rival, Reiha. She looks like a living Japanese doll, and she carries one that talks to her.
Okay, I just made it sound really bad. I’m here now to rectify this. Unlike other magical girl anime, Miyu is still not much of a heroine. She has friends, therefore she has a little more value for human life (if you’re one of her friends, that is), but she has a bad habit of rarely ever actually saving anyone. She always arrives a little too late. And, no, she doesn’t fight in public with her kimono on. Fortunately, the people in this universe are a little too smart to fall for the whole heroine-just-changed-into-skimpy-clothes-and-now-we-don’t-recognize-her trick, so she fights mostly in private. Just give it a chance, okay?
Artwork: Have you seen Magic Knight Rayearth? Same guy. While this take on Miyu’s story isn’t as stylized as the OAV, the artwork certainly doesn’t fall short of anyone’s expectations. In fact, the settings in particular are quite good. The Dark is still quite scary when we see it, but since most of the show takes place in the human world, much more work was put into making it fit Miyu’s point of view.
Something that stands out to me is the use of the night. The scenes that take place after dark make good of use of keeping Miyu’s golden eyes contrasted with the scenery.
Animation: It’s not bad, and the fight scenes are pretty good, but it’s certainly not on par with the OAV. Even with all our computer stuff to smooth things out, the show doesn’t stand out as much because so many actions are reused throughout the course of the series. Sometimes it looks a bit weird, but it’s usually rather good.
Action: By far, there’s more action in this series than in the OAV. It tends to fall into a monster-of-the-week, episodic feel, and the sealing ritual is actually a deadly fight rather than a choreographed ritual. However, the fight scenes don’t last very long, and, for the most part, Miyu’s work is finished quite quickly and without much trouble. A typical fight sequence goes like this: Miyu confronts Shinma and they start to duel. Shinma starts to get an advantage within the first few seconds of fighting (or Miyu just gets bored of dodging all of its attacks), and she summons Larva. Larva appears and quickly subdues the Shinma long enough for Miyu to conjure her flame and burn it back to the Dark, or whatever she does. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule, but that’s basically the gist of it. The show wasn’t meant to revolve around fights, so these sequences tend to feel tacked on.
Music: Like the OAV, it’s nothing to brag about, but the opening and ending sequences are superb! A mix of traditional Japanese music, but with a dark gothic edge, gives the series a very dark feel, but unfortunately there are a number of tracks that just don’t stand out.
Character Development: Miyu, Larva, Chisato, and Reiha get quite a bit of development as the series progresses, but the rest of the characters are kind of tossed aside. And Miyu’s history is completely rewritten, so for those of you who have seen the OAV, this series still holds surprises for you.
I’m going to go out of my way to say that one thing I prefer in this TV series is the characterization of Larva. First of all, he speaks in this one, for his bond with Miyu hasn’t sealed either his voice or his face, so he can also remove his mask whenever he wills. Now, I prefer him this way because he can actually give some input when the characters are dealing with either their surroundings or Shinma. It makes it easier for us to understand Larva, and also to understand why Miyu feels such attachment to him in particular. Does it steal some of the mysetery? I suppose so, but what if offers in exchange is pretty good.
Tone: Believe it or not, this show actually sets out to feel darker than the OAV. You know what’s scary? It succeeds! Well, it succeeds in a different way. The artwork may not sends chills down your back or make the hair on your neck stand up, but the nature of which the Shinma prey upon their victims and the consequences of that are much, much darker.
Miyu and Shiina also have quite a dark sense of humor. There are a couple cracks about suicide and death, and even Chisato’s annoyingly perky personality can’t compensate for the dark mood. In fact, it will eventually help give either the greatest scare of all, or the crappiest turnout available.
Episode Flow: I mentioned before that the stories are very episodic, and that’s not an overstatement. Heck, it might even be an understatement. There are only a few instances of a story arc, so you can practically watch the episodes in any order you want! In fact, that’s what I did the first time through, and I still understood everything perfectly!
Dubbing: I didn’t watch a whole lot of the dub, but it doesn’t seem to be anything to brag about. Miyu’s English voice is very monotone, trying to go for that whole I’m-a-vampire-and-I-don’t-have-emotions kind of thing, which is sad. Miyu’s voice is rather monotone in the Japanese version, but there are still hints that she’s got a lot going on inside of her that doesn’t reach the surface. The other characters all pretty much sound like clichéd anime side characters.
Language and Content: It’s pretty much the same as the OAV, but the way the Shinma track and destroy their prey can be downright disturbing. One episode was actually pulled in Japan for a time because the Shinma mimicked an actual killer, and the episodes hardly end on a happy note.
It’s also a lot more violent. There’s quite a bit of blood in a few scenes, but nothing to make one shrink back at. It’s just a heads up that the gore factor is up a bit, but it’s still not cringe-worthy, unless you’re really sensitive to that kind of stuff, that is.
I should also note that our protagonist hardly bats an eye at death, so those of you who prefer a very honest, compassionate, and likeable main character should be warned!
Villains: There’s really not much to them, really. There’s a few surprises as the end, but I’d better not go into that. Anyway, the Shinma are all evil, the only gray areas being Reiha and her creepy little companion, Larva, and Miyu. Wait, I can think of one other exception, but she was a one-shot character. The rest kill humans indiscriminately and/or intentionally seek to kill Miyu. No real development there, since they usually only last for one episode.
Recommended? If you’re a fan of magical girl anime, yes. If you really like vampire stories, yes. If you’re a die-hard Miyu fan who can’t get enough of our favorite Guardian, yes again. However, if you’re a casual anime fan who feels that monster-of-the-week shows are contrived and pointless, then perhaps no. It’s not a bad anime, but it does feel lacking. Casual anime fans who don’t really care will certainly appreciate it, fans of Miyu will probably like it (although some fans of the OAV will probably not like it so well), and people who love a good vampire story will also enjoy it. However, that’s about it. It doesn’t require the patience of the OAV, but it also feels very episodic in exchange. You’re call. I like it, if that helps.