Miyu MatsukiHiroshi KamiyaKenji NomuraMarina Inoue
Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2004
Director: Akiyuki Simbo
Original creator: Keitaro Arima
Studio: SHAFT
Actor: Chiwa Saito, Hiroshi Kamiya, Fumihiko Tachiki, Mai Kadowaki, Michiko Neya, Miyu Matsuki, Mugihito, Sawa Ishige, Takahiro Sakurai, Vanilla Yamazaki, Yumi Kakazu, Fumi Morisawa, Hajime Iijima, Haruka Kimura, Hiroaki Yoshida, Juurouta Kosugi, Ken Narita, Kenji Nomura, Kouichi Kuriyama, Marina Inoue, Miho Nagahori, Naoki Yanagi, Nozomi Masu, Tadahisa Saizen, Takashi Matsuyama, Takayuki Usami, Yuri Amano
Keywords: anime, vampires
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 26 episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=4311
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 7 November 2014
This one's been on my radar for years, because it sounded romantic and I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. Admittedly it also had vampires, but it didn't sound like the usual tortured self-pitying one gets with romances involving Western vampires.
At last I've got around to watching it. It is indeed romantic, in its peculiar way, but it's putting a lot of obstacles in the way of both its characters and the audience.
The main characters are Kouhei and Hazuki. Kouhei's a fairly normal guy and a professional photographer, but so insensitive that the spirit world doesn't exist for him. Magical force fields? He strolls through as if they're not there. Vampire hypnotic powers? Useless. This despite him coming from a family of psychics and for some reason having a knack for making ghosts manifests in his photographs.
Meanwhile Hazuki is a vampire girl, sealed in a German castle by a spiritual barrier. No one could ever rescue her, right? Well, yes, until Kouhei shows up. He wanders along, noticing nothing unusual, and duly gets bitten. Theoretically he should now be a mesmerised slave, but he's not (due to his insensitivity superpowers) and this greatly annoys Hazuki. Kouhei doesn't know what she's talking about, of course, and simply takes her home to live with his family. They know exactly what she is, but they're cool with it and so now there's an obnoxious, bratty vampire in Kouhei's house.
That's just the premise, though. A number of eccentric decisions were taken, including:
(a) Hazuki's insufferable and Kouhei's not much better. Fortunately this doesn't last forever, but for a good ten episodes, Hazuki is screeching, rude and incapable of saying two civil words to Kouhei except when giving orders to her "slave". If she wants something, she'll use her vampire hypnosis powers instead of asking. She'd sooner eat her own head than say "thank you" and she's such hard work that it took me some willpower to keep watching the show.
Admittedly she softens later on. The character development in this series is so strong that even the characters themselves discuss it (usually with reference to how much Hazuki's changed). She'll agonise about having got her friends in trouble when the other vampires are coming after her. She's still a brat, though.
(b) The otaku fetish bait. This isn't a fanservice show, but it's not exactly hostile to those perverts in the audience who get off on children, cat ears, "oniisama" and all that. Kouhei's about twenty and Hazuki looks twelve, but at least she has the excuse that she's a vampire and so probably a lot older. Hikaru and Kaoru are twin sisters, probably aged about ten or so, and the fiancees of Kouhei and his older cousin Seiji. (These people are all in the same family. They're blood relatives.) Kouhei thus has both a fiancee and a vampire girlfriend (ish), a situation he never even tries to resolve. He'll regularly protest that the fiancee thing was decided by their parents when Kouhei was a child, but at one point Hazuki accurately retorts that he's never tried to change the situation.
Of this show's female characters, not only do children outnumber adults, but the small girls are also more likely to be in a pseudo-romantic relationship. (The age gap theme even continues with the adults, with the gorgeous blonde Elfriede getting downright intimate with Kouhei's disreputable old grandad. Mind you, she's a 500-year-old vampire, so the May-to-December thing is working both ways at once.)
Then we have the peculiar vampire lore. Vampires in this show can eat human food, see themselves in mirrors, cross running water, enter homes uninvited and basically do almost everything a human can. They can even father children in a normal human fashion. There's still sunlight, but even that rule gets broken sometimes with the daywalkers. That's not vampirism. That's a lifestyle choice. "But surely they still drink blood?" I hear you ask. Well, yes... and no. They only need the red stuff when there's a full moon and even then the amount they take is usually inocuous. (Not always, admittedly, but usually.) They don't even call it a bite. It's a "kiss". When Hazuki wants to drink Kouhei's blood, what the audience sees is a girl asking an older man if it's okay for her to kiss him. Followed by an embrace, with neck-nuzzling.
I spy a menstrual metaphor. Vampire girls in this show have a monthly cycle involving blood, none of which appears to apply to vampire men (universally evil and monstrous).
Then we have the cat ears. In Japan, cat ears and cat girls are considered sexy. Don't ask. They are. This show tests that to destruction. Hazuki wears cat ears, so Kaoru starts wearing them to compete with her. So far, so cringeworthy, but the show then starts taking the piss. Other things we see wearing cat ears include a mountain, a shrine and a cloud.
Related to this is...
(c) The title sequence. Dear heavens, that music. It could be used to kill soldiers in the trenches. Imagine rap, but delivered by a cutesy Japanese girl and consisting of phrases like "KITTY EAR MODE", "BIG BROTHER" and "I WANT TO KISS YOU". (In Japanese.) The accompanying animation makes it even more surreal, being full of untranslatable visual puns on "moon". In contrast the end title sequence is more conventional, but still sung in the voice of someone who's whispering because their throat's just been cut.
(d) The show's sense of humour. Internal reality is at the mercy of the rules of comedy, so for instance characters keep having washtubs fall on their heads whenever they do anything stupid. Admittedly that's an anime trope, but here it's taken to unprecedented extremes. A washtub can fall on your head if you're outside in the woods, if you're in the middle of the ocean or even if you're a house rather than a human being.
This show is deliberately inconsistent. Its episodes will veer between goofy screeching slapstick and proper character-based drama with surprisingly interesting ideas. (These vampires are weird. Each one has its own unique magical power, which might include "grow eyes in palms" or "sprout a second pair of arms". Hazuki also has a second personality, Luna, who's polite, well-spoken and capable of putting Kouhei in hospital.)
Similarly, I really like some of the Kouhei-Hazuki material. There's a cool plot development when Kouhei gains the ability to see Hazuki for what she really is, although I did roll my eyes a bit when SPOILER turned out to have had SPOILER superpowers all along. (I mostly forgave this on realising that it explained the spirit photography, but I still think the show should have been pointing this out.)
Then there's the conclusion. Episode 25 is a "back to normal" episode, after which 26 is going to town on being a dispensible off-the-wall OVA episode.
Is this a good show? Even more than usual, it depends who you talk to. Some think it's funny. Others hate it and were irritated by the characters. It also, in fairness, has plenty of badass enemy vampires and a storyline where heroes getting killed is a possibility. Personally, I found the show's first third to be a slog, but that later character and plot developments turned that around and made the show enjoyable. It's often wacky (if you're feeling generous) or stupid (if you're not). Episode 16's crow boxing is daft to the point of annoyance. Episode 19 has a tree with a vagina. Kouhei has a bad habit of forgetting about photography commissions and not turning up to work. Oi oi oi. Come off it.
Thematically, though, it's rich. Admittedly that's mostly in a weird otaku-friendly fetish way, but it's still there. I'm still puzzling over the "vampire = relationship" metaphor, which gets slightly disturbing if you're looking at it too closely. The man is meant to be the woman's slave, or so she thinks, and if not then she might abandon him to go looking for another food-replacement until he comes after her for the sake of a mutual confession of love. This equals blood-drinking. (Note also that when our female vampires are looking for blood, the only alternatives we see are men or lesbians.)
Oh, and the climactic "kiss" (i.e. vampire bite) in episode 24 bathes Kouhei and Hazuki in glowing celestial light while they're wearing what look like Japanese wedding outfits.
Is this show funny? Is it a comedy? Ask two people and you'll get three answers. You might laugh, you might hate it or you might even do both. Are its themes something to endure or to enjoy? Again, this will depend on taste, although there are indisputably strong bits, e.g. Pink Sister's inability to see the winning strategy against Hazuki because she'd been assuming that everyone thought the way she did. There's also lots of character development.
Sometimes the show's worth your time, but it's also a bit exasperating. It's not always taking itself seriously. I'd say about half of it is pretty good stuff, but I needed reserves of forgiveness and a fair bit of patience during the early episodes. I might, if pushed, give it a cautious recommendation.
"This cat has no rectum!"