I’ve talked about the vampiric Princess, Miyu, once before. About seven years ago. Like the OVA, this is from AIC. The same studio that brought us Blue Gender, Night Walker, & Bubblegum Crash to name a few. This series came out almost a decade after the OVA since that was late 80s and this was late 90s. But the important question is, does it maintain the same level of quality?
The narrative follows the same basic premise as the OVA. There are supernatural beasts called Shinma that feed off of humans. Fighting against these monsters is the Guardian, Miyu who uses her flames to send stray Shinma back to the darkness. Each episode presents a different encounter with the Shinma.
Honestly, that’s the big weakness of the series. It was fine for the OVA to be somewhat “monster of the week” since it based its dramatic tension on the mysteries behind the scenarios and they were building up to something. This tries to do the same thing, but it doesn’t work nearly as well when everything is stretched out over twenty six episodes and the bulk of them have little or nothing to do with the big finale. It also doesn’t help that the only episodes strongly hinting at the turn for the finale come at the very end, shortly before the event itself.
The mysteries also aren’t as well handled. Yes, they can be interesting and the scenarios can be quite engaging. However, a big part of what made the OVA’s mysteries work was having the outsider’s perspective. This doesn’t provide that. There is no equivalent for Himiko. The closest we get is a single episode that focuses on a young woman trying to hunt down a Shinma that killed her family. Which generally means the episodes that want to push the mystery aspect more will focus on an ordinary human who finds themselves targeted by some kind of Shinma and Miyu will appear largely in the background until the end where she confronts the Shinma.
I will credit the series with being engaging. Even though the episodes are fairly formulaic, there’s enough variation to keep the scenarios interesting. It’s not one of those monster of the week series where nothing interesting happens. Or one of those ones that’s full of pretentious nonsense juxtaposed against stupid shit like mecha pilots using DDR to sync their movements. It does help that there is a strong mystery element to some of the episodes. It also helps that the people being targeted are neither faceless parts of a crowd nor are they guaranteed safety.
This is actually a bit improved over the OVA. The OVA gave us largely nothing characters with a few main characters who were worth mentioning. In this one, the side characters being targeted do tend to come across as complex and very human. Which makes the changes they undergo more disturbing and adds some investment to their fate. The major characters are still the most compelling. We even get some strong back stories for Miyu, Larva & the ice-powered Reiha in this one. It is also interesting to see Miyu & Reiha clash ideologically. There are some very strong interactions in this series in general. Which is a big factor in how it remains compelling in spite of following a monster of the week formula.
The weak point is that some of the Shinma are just kind of dull. Some are well developed and have a strong sense of personality, but others are just kind of generic villains.
One odd thing is that Miyu comes across as much more sullen and duty-driven in this one. In the OVA, she came across as more of a trickster figure. I kind of preferred the OVA version, but I can see why AIC considered this more suitable for a main character.
The art style does, generally, look pretty good. The Shinma have interesting designs. The backgrounds are nicely detailed. The action sequences are where the series falters a bit. One issue is that Miyu doesn’t come across as all that capable. In a lot of her battles, she’ll summon Larva to block attacks and weaken the enemy so she can deal the final blow with her flames. Which kind of creates the impression that she can’t handle things on her own. The battles themselves aren’t all that interesting to watch. There’s strong build up to them, a well done reveal of the Shinma’s true form and then the fights themselves are kind of short and one-sided.
The acting is well done. They didn’t get the same cast, but this did come nearly a decade later and the people they get do do a good job in their roles. Nagasawa Miki, Miki Shinichiro, Ogata Megumi & Shirakura Asa are all fine actors and their performances are definitely a strong point for the series. The music is very good. Kawai Kenji did a great job.
There’s a bit in this one. There’s an episode that deals with a doll maker that explicitly involves two women getting into each other. Larva also meets a man from his past who seems interested in him in more than a friendly way. Some of Miyu’s interactions with women also come across as a little gay.
Areas of Improvement:
- A stronger over-arcing plot. Yes, episodic anime are fine. But monster of the week series generally only work when they’re made for children. Which, this isn’t. I think it would really benefit from a more complete narrative.
- Start hinting at the twist early on. Not obvious things that you’ll easily pick up on, but subtle hints that take on a new meaning in retrospect would work a treat.
- More effort in the action sequences. More physical clashing and varied use of powers would go a long way.
I can’t say I enjoyed this as much as I did the OVA. While the episodes are interesting and the characters are well constructed, the weak over-arcing narrative does hurt the series. It’s still decent. If you liked the OVA and can look past the formulaic nature of the series you’ll enjoy it. I’m giving it a 6/10.