Call of the Night – 09 – Who’s the Real Draggo?

Seri is being overwhelmed by notifications on her phone when she spots Kou. She rushes to pounce on him affectionately, but she’s stopped by Nazuna’s granite knee. Kou tells her Seri wasn’t going to do anything, but Nazuna assures him it’s okay; vampires are tough (as evidenced when Seri slugs Nazuna and the two tussle in the street.

The two vamps are always going to be a bit on edge around each other—especially considering Nazuna’s bond with Kou—but it’s Kou who tracks down Seri and asks her what’s troubling her, as a friend would, because that’s the kind of good kid Kou is. Seri is surprised, but rather than venting to him, they go to karaoke instead.

When Seri warns Kou that she’s super popular and that it’s just gotten to be a big boring drag (she calls all the men she meets “draggos”), and Kou kinda gets it; expressing how he’s annoyed by people believing romance is the “essence of life”. While we don’t get to hear them sing, Kou and Seri have this wonderful natural rapport.

You can tell Seri likes how Kou acts around her, since every other guy acts like the one who starts banging on the door to their room and breathing on the window like a creepy stalker. When Seri makes light of all the draggos she’s had to deal with, Kou tries to get all serious and offer proper advice, when all she wants is for him to brush it off and enjoy hanging out with her—like he does with Nazuna.

When Mr. Draggo enters the room, Seri gets fed up and decides she’s going to kill him “before things get messy”, which is vampire reasoning if I’ve ever heard it. Kou tells her to stop, and Seri asks him to spare her the “killing is wrong spiel”, as human rules and laws don’t apply to vampires. Kou admits that there are times when a vampire might have to kill, but he insists that this isn’t one of them, and protects Mr. Draggo.

The two hide in a dark alley, where Mr. Draggo, AKA Akiyama, seems to snap out of the obsessive trance he was in while near Seri. Akiyama tells Kou how he and Seri met when he fell over while drunk and just hit it off, but he was never arrogant enough to think he ranked that high in her list of people she cared about (nor does he know she’s a vampire).

That soon changes when Seri spots them in the alley, tells Akiyama she’s a vampire, and that she’s going to kill him. Kou stands between Seri and Akiyama and says that’s not happening, but Seri charges anyway, which is when Nazuna, whom Kou summoned via transmitter watch, pancakes Seri into the pavement.

Nazuna is obviously here to keep Kou from harm, but even when Seri promises she won’t hurt Kou, Nazuna asks why she suddenly decided to kill “for once”, suggesting it’s not as common an occurrence as Seri let on. That’s when Akiyama asks Nazuna to lay off Seri, because he was the one who fell in love with her, even though he wasn’t supposed to.

Just as Nazuna has done with Kou so far, Seri never intended to turn Akiyama, but simply hung out with him because they enjoyed each other’s company. The grind of getting people infatuated with her so she could create offspring got boring, and Akiyama broke that monotony. But her unconscious vampiric knack for enrapturing people ended up happening even to him.

Kou stops her right there: if she enjoys having a friend and doesn’t want to ruin that relationship, why kill him? Why not talk through it him first, like the friends they clearly still are? Seri does just that, and when she talks about the fun she had hanging out with Akiyama as a friend, her eyes fill with tears, knowing they’ll never have that again.

Akiyama knows that too, as he’s now in love with her. But that being the case, rather than kill him, he asks her to make him her offspring instead, so they can still hang out and still have that friendly rapport. She does just that, turning him right there in the alley while Nazuna and Kou look on.

Kou can’t help but feel like the situation is a little unfair, seeing as how Seri and Akiyama have what he wants…and naturally, Nazuna senses that’s what he’s feeling, but says it’s fine to take their time for now. After Akiyama is turned (and his eyesight is improved; a nice detail) all four go back for some celebratory karaoke, and Kou notes that he’s having a great time.

This might’ve been my favorite Call of the Night yet. I continue to love how warm empathetic Kou is. Seri is always an absolute delight; I love how she can turn from affable to frightening and capricious to vulnerable on a dime. I fear I’ve fallen for her and become one more draggo, and it’s not for any one quality but because she possesses so many layers.

Akiyama, voiced by the great Yoshino Hiroyuki in a rare toned-down role, is a solid introduction and the show’s first male vampire, and therefore glimpse of what Kou ultimately hopes to become. Loved the stalker fakeout. And as always, both quiet scenes of talking and raucous, concussive action are exquisitely composed and directed. The show is running on all cylinders.

Call of the Night – 08 – Date Night

Kou’s comment about falling in love with Nazuna “no matter how many years it takes” is met with the reaction it is because there’s a rule he hasn’t been told about: once their blood is sucked, a human only has one year to become a vampire. If they can’t by then, they’ll never become one.

Nazuna cheekily pretends she forgot to tell Kou this, then conveniently remembers the debt she owes him for working on Kiyosumi, and kisses him right in front of the other vamps before flying off into the sky. Kou tells Nazuna that he realizes she’s weird even for a vampire, but he’s glad he met her first.

That said, this new time limit is concerning, and it takes Akira spelling it out that after that year is up and he’s not a vampire, he’ll be killed to protect their secrets. Later, at school, Akira comes across Seki Mahiru sleeping at the top of the steps, zonked out from being, you guessed it, out all night.

We learn that Mahiru, who befriended everyone, befriended Akira and Kou when they were all little. That said, neither Kou nor Akira realized that they were actually friends with him, due to his gregarious nature. Speaking of gregarious, Kikyou Seri greets Kou again one night, and while he tries to run, she promises she won’t kill him, and only wants to start off on the right foot.

When Kou demonstrates his middle school innocence regarding romance, she can’t help but serve as his love coach, and suggests he kickstart his relationship with Nazuna by taking her on a date. Naturally, when Kou proposes this, Nazuna isn’t interested, and continues playing her video games. But Kou switches her PSOne off and insists.

The date plan Seri drew up for him would probably work for most couples, but Kou and Nazuna aren’t most couples. Nazuna won’t even pretend to be able to stand the romcom movie they go to, while at the café Kou tries to start a conversation about the movie even though he knows she hated it.

Nazuna suspects someone put an idea in his head, and after reading Seri’s list she snatched from him, decides this is all lame and goes home. Kou lies in bed forlorn, but soon Nazuna taps on his window, not liking how the evening almost ended and suggesting they at least get that bite with a night view.

Naturally, that means one of their patented late night flights, and the “meal” ends up being one-sided, as she sinks her fangs into him in midair for the first time. Nazuna tells Kou that he doesn’t need to over-plan or overthink; they’ve already been going on dates, and she’s enjoyed them. Her attitude makes me encouraged that Kou can indeed become a vampire within the time limit.

Another night becomes a reunion of Kou, Mahiru and Akira when Mahiru spots Kou while hanging out late at night with other peeps. Kou is surprised Mahiru recognized him, but Mahiru says of course he did; they’re friends. The two proceed to get very corny about their feelings when Akira joins them and asks that they please stop. It’s a fun and wholesome all-human interaction.

Mahiru bids the other two farewell as he must meet someone he’s come to like. Nazuna, while looking for Kou, happens to spot him walking hand-in-hand with a lady, and when Kou arrives, she decides that they should hold hands too, with the practical excuse of not losing track of one another.

While Kou idolizes Mahiru as a “perfect” person (his family even owns a flower shop!), it’s Kou who encourages Mahiru to continue his nightly pursuit of love with the story of how he’s been hanging out with his own late night lass. I love how the episode ends with a super wide shot looking straight down at the two couples walking in opposite directions while both experiencing happiness.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Call of the Night – 07 – What’s the Hot Vamp Goss?

While walking along lots of folks earlier in the night, Kou worries someone he knows will see him and wonder what he’s up to. Well, someone does, but it’s Kiyosumi, who fully understands what Kou’s up to and is grateful for his offer to turn her into a vampire. Even she’s surprised how much of a weight that lifted off her shoulders.

She gives him a Coke and the two part ways, and when it starts to pour, he finds shelter under an overhang and witnesses a high school girl getting hit on. She waves to him, and a moment later she’s right there in front of him. She tells him she’s there to get hit on, but it has to be the right person.

I was wondering when one or more of the bevy of unseen characters in the OP were going to show up in the cozy little world that so far has been just Kou, Nazuna, Akira and Kiyosumi, and this blondie is the first of them. The speed with which she sidled up to Kou also had me strongly suspecting her of being another vampire.

It doesn’t take long for that suspicion to be validated, as she lures him to a disserted underpass and starts talking about how things just aren’t exciting and haven’t worked out like she’d liked, and she has no one to talk to about it. Kou, ever the empath, tells him they’re the same.

The moment he says those words, a drop of water falls into a puddle, and the girl is embracing him. Then she says his name and bares her fangs…and gets her arm chopped off by a just-in-time Nazuna.

The light just started to glow purplish pink when the blonde (her name is Kikyou Seri, and she’s voiced by Tomatsu Haruka), and that color remains as Seri pops her arm right back on like it’s nothing and fights Nazuna. Despite her slight frame, Nazuna apparently has a reputation for brute strength.

That’s why Seri didn’t come alone to snatch away the new kid Nazuna’s been hanging around with. Another vampire appears behind Kou, and before he knows it he’s being shot up into the sky, bound who knows where, while Seri keeps Nazuna busy.

The where turns out to be an upscale but otherwise pretty sedate rooftop deck, where not one or two but three other vampires greet the fourth who brought Kou there (Honda Kabura, voiced by Itou Shizuka). They are redhead Hirata Niko (Kitamura Eri),the cutesy Kohakobe Midori (Oozora Naomi), and the neutral Suzushiro Hatsuka (Waki Azumi).

Kou is told the situation: now that he’s aware of the existence of vampires, he has two choices: become one himself tonight, or be killed. He also has the choice of which one of the four of them will turn him, and each one tries their own signature style of seduction while the other three do inner commentary and engage in girl talk.

Kou surprises them not just by not seeming scared in the least about his situation, but in his insistence that Nazuna, the weird, unpopular, unprolific, lilac-haired letdown of the bunch. The conversation is lively, and Kou mostly keeps up; I particularly liked him protesting everyone assuming he was a virgin, only to confirm that yes, of course he is a virgin.

The other vamps main problem with Nazuna is just that she sucks at making offspring, which brings down the whole clan and even threatens their survival. All of them have committed to whatever agreed-upon quota for making more vampires, while she’s kinda just messed around and rejected that whole system. She’s their prodigal daughter.

She hates how they always chat and gossip like a bunch of schoolgirls, while they’re miffed by how easily she blushes and how she hasn’t managed to create a single offspring. But while Kou tells them he’s not sure what liking someone means, he’s quick to dispell their presumption that he isn’t interested in becoming a vampire.

He very much is, and he doesn’t blush even a little when he declares firmly to all of them that his goal is to fall in love with Nazuna so she can make him one. Of course, Nazuna arrives that very moment and overhears, so even though she does an awesome superhero landing that shatters the deck, she can’t keep her face from turning into a tomato, so she just freezes.

It’s all well and good for Kou to want to fall for Nazuna, but the others want to know what she’s going to do to make that happen? She, who goes completely fluorescent at the mere mention of romance. This is where Kou steps up and articulates the mutually beneficial agreement they came to: she gets to drink his tasty-ass blood, and he gets to fall for her and become a vampire.

But Niko and the others still don’t trust Nazuna, given her aromantic history. They want to hear it from her. When she can’t say the words, Kou again says them for her, saying she said if he wanted to fall for her, then whatever; it’s fine.

The vamps agree to let him go, but when Kou says he’ll become a vampire no matter “how many years it takes” that their confusion returns. Something tells me they had a faster timeline in mind. And hey, the sooner the better, seeing as how Kou already has his first offspring lined up on Kiyosumi!

While it largely lacked the nice, laid back, expansive vibes of the earlier, less-populated episodes, this Call of the Night had its own merits, like the wealth of great voice acting and character design, the lived-in chemistry of the vampires, and beautifully composed combat. I also love how their ultra-speed is portrayed with quick cuts and slow-mo.

Last night Kou was in a tight little group of moody broody pals, but tonight he finds himself in a bigger, potentially more threatening, but also enticing world. I’m sure he’ll sleep well!

Call of the Night – 06 – A Private Place

Kou insists he’s not giving Shirakawa Kiyosumi a massage so Nazuna will give her a kiss; no, he’s all about the Murasakis, baby. Last time Kiyosumi came to Nazuna’s she got the best massage of her life. Kou’s is…less so, to the point she’s wearing a distinct “Is that it?” kind of face throughout the course. It leads Kiyosumi to ask how old he is, and when he says fourteen she’s amazed he’s working at such a young age, but sure he must have his reasons.

When she asks, Kou tells her how school was boring and he got tired of it, and how much more fun and exciting the streets are at night. Hearing how he wants to “enjoy the night” reminds her of the first time she went out late on her own, and felt like she was in a special place just for her. From there, the two start to have a lively conversation about their shared love of the night.

When that talk turns bitter when Kiyosumi brings up work and how all the things she has to endure, she starts to tear up, and then her boss calls her, even though it’s the middle of the night she’s expected to answer and go back into the office. But Kou blocks the door, tells her she isn’t going anywhere, and summons Nazuna, who comes through the wall. The massage course isn’t over.

When Kou tells Nazuna to make sure Kiyosumi doesn’t go to work, she tosses her out the window. Kiyosumi has the similar feeling of confusion about what the hell just happened, followed immediately by the terror of falling and the strange feeling of whether this is it.

Kou dives out the window after her and catches her, and the two of them are suspended in the air by Nazuna. As it was with him, it feels like a rite of passage: thinking you’re going to die, and then being plucked from that certain death by a vampire saying “nah, you’re actually not.”

When they land, Kiyosumi asks why Kou did this; he says anything that makes you cry isn’t something you should have to do. This is where their age gap rears its head again, as she tells him he’s still just a kid and doesn’t understand. Adults have to keep enduring, even if something makes them cry.

Then he tells her his dream to become a vampire so he can keep enjoying the night, and it’s so earnest and serious she can’t help but burst into laughter. He Kou walks out into the middle of the road—something you can do at night since it’s not busy—and Kiyosumi joins him, once again feeling that old feeling of doing something wrong but feeling so right.

Kiyosumi tells Kou she hopes he achieves his goal of becoming a vampire, and in turn Kou tells her that when he becomes one, he promises to make her into one too. Nazuna seems taken aback by this, and later reminds Kou that to change Kiyosumi he’d have to make her fall for him, but he’s not worried; “girls tend to like him.”

That lovely character portrait of the overworked businesswoman and her night of enjoyment is followed up by Nazuna greeting Kou in her entryway and telling him to come up with different stuff for them to do. This leads to them going to a nighttime pool, which Kou remarks is “nothing like the pool in P.E.”

For one thing, it’s extremely gaudily and even raunchily lit; for another, the swimsuits are a lot more revealing, though ironically he finds Nazuna’s choice to wear more fabric than she usually does more erotic than her standard swimsuit-like garb.

It’s also here where Kou feels every bit like the fourteen-year-old he is, including rushing to jealousy and possessiveness. When Nazuna decides to tease him by letting two other dudes hit on her, He grabs her and pitches a hissyfit, even though the two guys are totally fine with him.

Nazuna apologizes for teasing by taking Kou on another aerial trip, then dumping the two of them into his school’s pool, which is nice and deserted at this time of night. As we’ve seen from his interactions with Akira and now Kiyosumi, Kou isn’t socially awkward or anything.  But his intense dislike of the other night pool came down to it being crowded and with people too casually trying to make friends with Nazuna.

Nazuna, who after all hasn’t been drinking anyone else’s blood since she and Kou started hanging out, understands his desire for quiet and solitude, where the only two eyes on her are his. Considering how tasty his blood is and how fun he is to spend her nights with, Nazuna seems fine with that. But there’s still something to be said for exploring parts of the night out of one’s comfort zone.

Call of the Night – 05 – Feel Them for Me

This week starts off with a day/night in the life of Nanakusa Nazuna…at least before the sun goes down. It’s not even 17:00 when she sun wakes her (but notably does not burn her). The ensuing events are a glorious festival of boredom as she tries to fill time she’d normally be asleep.

When she’s sick of video games and TV and considering cleaning, she heads out into the night (at just 20:00), plays with a kitty, then hits up a not-busy-at-all bathhouse where she finally releases her lilac locks from her trademark braid loops and laments her inability to see her reflection.

While she asks the desk guy to tell her when her watch beeps, his reflexes are no match for hers (though for a split second when she threw open the bath door he saw her nude, the next split second she’d wrapped herself in a towel). Her coat, sneakers, and long hair make for an entirely new, cute look Kou isn’t ready for.

They head back into the bath (on separate sides, natch) and an inner monologue from Kou ensues. His nights of late have been fun and amazing, but his “heart is always busy” with thoughts good and bad, conflicting and confusing. He’s so busy sifting through those emotions he completely blanks out…until Nazuna gets right in his face.

That’s when he asks her to drink his blood. Because as it turns out, when she does, it clears his head, calms him down, and allows him time to assess the feelings he normally couldn’t untangle. He gets his blood sucked to know his own feelings. But precisely because he’s so riled up, his blood tastes so good Nazuna drinks more than usual.

Not in a discriminating mood due to his fatigue, Kou suggests they rest as the nearest place that says it’s for “rest”…which turns out to be a love hotel. The pink neon lights were a dead giveaway to me, but I didn’t just get my neck drained, now did I? That said, once they’re in the room, the fact Nazuna is jumping on the bed like a kid makes things a little less tense.

Nazuna then reveals to Kou that when she drinks his blood, she can also get an idea of what he’s thinking and feeling from the taste, including the desires he has when he looks at her, a woman. Kou tells her it feels “immoral” to feel that way with a “friend”, but she retorts that enjoying the night the way they are is immoral to most.

Nazuna reminds them they have a deal because his blood tastes so good, and now he knows why: because of the intensity and diversity of emotions hanging out with her creates. She wants to taste all of his fun, pain, joy, sadness, and everything in between.

Another night, Kou’s mind starts churning again, deducing that because she finds his blood so tasty, it means she’s drunk the blood of others in order to compare. Even if he weren’t an open book, Nazuna knows his feelings through his blood, so she teases him for being jealous, but also makes it clear it’s a much more businesslike affair for other men and women since she makes her living…as a professional snuggler.

The whole idea of this is super raunchy, but that’s reductive thinking for someone who has only begun to enjoy the call of the night. She offers a friend’s discount for her services, and he orders the massage course. Not only does he learn something new about Nazuna, which he’s always eager to do, but he learns she’s actually quite good at massage, and using various pressure points to redirect blood and oxygen flow.

Nazuna is about to transition from massage to blood drinking (and the lights in the room suddenly go dark and everything is suffused with that intense, intimate red light) when there’s an unexpected ring of the doorbell: one of her clients. Nazuna has not been working since she met Kou (resulting in her being a little light on funds, but after working on Kou, she’s tired, so she asks him to take care of the client.

…The twenty-four-year-old, raven-haired, stressed office worker client Shirakawa Kiyosumi, that is. Kou is worried about not knowing what to do (among other things), but Nazuna tells him just to emulate what she did to him and he’ll be fine. Also, since she knows a healthy measure of his thoughts and feelings every time she goes to the red well, she offers him the reward of another kiss if he does this for her.

Kiyosumi may ether be throwing her money away tonight, or Kou may be a natural at massage and just not know it. The bottom line is that both the night and Nazuna are opening new doors and new experiences for Kou.

Call of the Night – 04 – Lay Your Troubles Down

Asai Akira can’t sleep. She gets up way too early, and with nothing else to do, simply goes to school early. Her home life seems lonely. There’s nothing for her there but a roof, a bath, and a bed.

For once, Kou doesn’t have to wander all over the city looking for Nazuna; she’s waiting for him in the park. But she doesn’t spot him, so he wanders around anyway. He isn’t ready to see her yet, but when they do meet in the night, he confidently offers her his neck in a way she finds lewd. You see, he believes he’s in love, so drinking his blood now will turn him. He’s ready.

So she drinks his blood as he stands there, half-confident, half-terrified, and…nothing happens. He’s still a human, and his blood still tastes great. Turns out he’s not in love with Nazuna; not yet. Nazuna tells him it’s love’s wild sibling lust. Also, she thinks kissing is just something friends do!

The next night, Akira wakes up before midnight and knows she’ll never get back to sleep, so she heads to school as usual, except she runs into Kou, who invites her to join him in answering the proverbial call of the night. They hang at Nazuna’s for some late-night PSOne games. Nazuna is unbeatable at Street Fighter, while a dating sim leads to talk of bosoms.

Akira was initially worried about what Kou was getting up to of nights, but if this night is any indication, his nights are pretty wholesome. Then Nazuna invites both of them to sleep in her bed, and it’s extremely awkward for Akira, especially when Nazuna drinks Kou’s blood right next to her.

Nazuna tells Akira that Kou’s blood is uncommonly tasty, but Akira wants know know what Kou gets out of their little arrangement. That’s when Kou comes clean about wanting to become a vampire. After all, why keep things from a friend?

When Akira asks if he’s already one since his blood has been drunk, he clarifies that he must fall in love with Nazuna to become a vampire. That causes Nazuna to curl into a ball of embarrassment, unable to handle talk of romance as usual.

Eventually the three settle down for the night, and with rain falling outside and no umbrellas, Akira lies beside them, specifically next to Akira. He tells her he knows she was worried about him so he wanted to show her what his nights are like. She tells him to uncross his arms so he can relax, and when his hand touches hers, she doesn’t mind.

Smiling, Akira tells Kou that he should be what he wants to be, because even if he’s a vampire, they’ll still be friends. She says goodnight and turns over, but her smile remains because she can’t remember the last time she said “goodnight.” It felt good, and with the darkness and Kou beside her and the calming rain outside, Akira finally catches some Zs.

Too many Zs, in fact, as she’ll be late for school. But before she dashes out the door, Nazuna asks if she slept well, because that’s what happens when people are satisfied with their day. Akira must’ve been, for she couldn’t sleep before, but here she did. I wonder if she’ll make it a more frequent thing?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Call of the Night – 02 – Not Just Any Neck Will Do

Kou and Nazuna met quite by chance, so it’s not surprising the next night when Kou looks everywhere and can’t find her. They set neither a time nor a place. Fortunately fortune smiles upon him as Nazuna eventually drops in on him, saying she was busy looking for some rando to drink blood from.

Since Nazuna told Kou before that drinking blood is like eating and “copulating” at the same time, he’s a little miffed that she’d copulate with just anyone, but she tells him that’s just what vampires do. Different necks are like different kinds of food to them.

What matters is they found each other, and Kou wants to make sure it’s easier next time, so asks if they can exchange numbers. Only problem is, Nazuna doesn’t have a phone. Well, she does, but she apparently bought it in the 80s, because it’s almost the size of her boombox.

Nazuna led Kou to her place to find said gigantic phone, and once they’re there, she soon plops into bed after a long night of searching for necks to bite. Kou isn’t sure what to do until she opens the covers so he’ll join her. But the prospect of her sucking other necks sticks with him.

That’s when Nazuna confesses she was looking for him all night too…she was just too embarrassed to say it. Kou accepts her apology, and unlike the last time when he whipped out his neck willy-nilly, here he gets the timing right, and she leans in for a drink.

Both the character design and Amamiya Sora’s voice acting really nail that combination of predation and vulnerability has always made vampires so fascinating. As she dozes next to him, happy as a clam, Kou is relieved and happy not that she finds his blood tasty, but because they both felt the same way: they wanted to see each other again.

The next night they have an equally hard time finding each other, but the inevitably do, and Kou presents her with a solution to her problem that avoids her having to buy a (new) cell phone: a pair of receiver watches. While a desperately dorky thing, I’m not surprised that Nazuna is into it and wants to play with them.

This leads to Kou telling her a story of how he bought a pair when he was younger, even though he didn’t have a friend. Instead of making one, he hid the watch hoping someone would find it, but while it was eventually taken, he never worked up the courage to use it to call that person (or rodent).

Nazuna is right that it’s a bleak story on its face, but Kou is also right that being around people can make some people more lonely than being on their own. The two dorks proceed to have a grand old time communicating and laughing together on their watches, culminating with Kou remarking that they’re like a couple that just started out.

Nazuna puts the perfect capper on the evening by giving Kou another aerial ride over the city lights, this time to a new insert song. At times, the pair look like they’re dancing in the sky, ’cause they kinda are. The puppy love is strong here, and these two are simply the cutest.

Nazuna lands them on the school roof, and even though Kou hates school during the day and has not been going, the night makes it a more enjoyable place to be. Nazuna walks up to him and casually sucks his blood for the first time outside her apartment—and at school, no less! As she puts it, “Talk about indecent behavior!”

But while Nazuna is super casual about drinking his blood, showing a lot of skin, and saying “copulate”, Kou soon picks up that when it comes to love and romance, she gets super-embarrassed, which is how Kou “gets back” at her stolen neck bite by calling her by her first name and adding “-chan”, which turns her beet-red and has her covering her face with her awesome cloak.

On the way home just before daybreak, Kou wonders if the blue receiver watch he left atop the mailboxes is still out there somewhere. Just as he’s dismissing that idea, he gets a signal from his red receiver watch, and a girl in a school uniform and messy dark hair calls him by his name…

Call of the Night – 01 (First Impressions) – Carpe Noctem

Now that’s what I’m freakin’ talkin’ about! Call of the Night is a pitch-perfect vampire rom-com from start to finish with a keen understanding of how to set tone and atmosphere, and the entire episode takes place over a single night—one of my favorite settings, being a night owl myself.

The infrequent scenes from Yamori Kou’s ordinary middle school life are shot relatively normally, but the light (and indeed, normalness) of those scenes feels oppressive, while the sprawling, shimmering night feels like a release. Kou doesn’t get things like “crushes” and “confessions”, but this place? This time? He gets it.

Surfing the web for remedies to his insomnia, many bring up booze as a surefire way to eventually lose consciousness, so he walks up to a very brightly-lit beer vending machine, and just as he’s making his selection, a sinister figure wreathed in shadow sidles up to him, questioning his legal age to purchase alcohol.

But the girl is only playing around; she has no intention of snitching. Indeed, she tags along with Kou as his night continues, passing by three older dudes who took the advice of the internet and got rek’d. Kou is awed by how she can so casually high-five strangers, but that’s what the night is all about: it’s a time of freedom; of casting off inhibitions and living.

When Kou is starting to feel a little tired, the quirky lilac-haired girl invites him up to her place, a sparse studio with a futon on the floor. The girl disrobes—as in, removes her robe, not all her clothes—but reveals, well, a revealing crop top, which catches the romance-averse Kou off-guard and makes him wonder what this girl’s intentions are.

She tells him: there’s nothing in the world wrong with two people simply sleeping in the same bed together. Even though the weird girl remains very much awake and basically stares at him the whole time, Kou can’t help but feel far more relaxed with her beside him than no one at all.

Kou is also good at pretending to be asleep; so good that the girl assumes he is, the light suddenly changes from deep purplish blue to warmer fuchsia, she bares her fangs and sinks them into Kou’s neck. For those not paying attention, yes: this chick is a vampire.

If a series is going to spend so much time at night, it had better know what to do with light, shadow, and color, and boy does Call of the Night ever know. Some scenes even reminded me of Fantasia. When Kou wakes up with blood on his neck, her fib about a giant mosquito doesn’t hold water (or blood).

That said, he keeps his head as the girl causally admits what she is, though he wonders why he hasn’t become a vampire. Here’s where the two find they share something in common, besides a love of the night: while some vampires go around making a whole mess of offspring, she’d…rather not. Just like Kou would rather not participate in all the junior high drama.

Perhaps it’s because she feels as comfortable around him as he does around her, the girl lets slip a truth about vampires: one way to become one is to have your blood sucked by a vampire you’re in love with. One thing I love about this girl is that she can get just as frazzled talking about this stuff as Kou.

She redirects the conversation to ask him how his first night “taking a step outside the norm” felt, out here in the place furthest he can hope to get from the things he thinks are a pain. He asks her formally to let him fall in love with her, but she promises nothing. She’ll just keep sucking his blood; if he wants to fall for her, he can go right ahead.

Now that they’re in agreement, they exchange names—her’s is Nanakusa Nazuna—and she resolves to “infuse more night” into him and his blood, which she maintains tastes best at night, just before going to bed. To that end, Nazuna kicks him off the roof of her high-rise apartment building…only to catch him in the blink of an eye long before he hits the pavement.

Thence, Nazuna princess carries Kou on aerial tour of the late night cityscape, flipping him upside down for an even more unique perspective. As he simply sits there in her arms in quiet but intense awe at what’s happening, Nazuna seems to take a great deal of pleasure from it as well.

And that’s the key to this: for as traditionally horny as vampires are depicted and as revealing as Nazuna’s garb is, this is a surprisingly sweet and innocent love story in the works. It’s about two outsiders in their happy place, staying up late and embracing the freedom of the night. With this banger of a premiere, the summer season has finally kicked off in earnest!

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 09 – Running Start

Diving Into the Muck

All along both Miyuki and Kaguya have maintained that the one to confess their love first is the loser, but now we have a Kaguya openly declaring her love for Miyuki to Ai and planning to confess during the festival, and Miyuki ready to confess if she doesn’t. But truth be told, Miyuki is already the “loser” of this particular war, and he lost before the first season even aired!

Yes, before Kaguya even knew who he was, Miyuki was a surly first-year with a chip on his shoulder. Shuchiin offered the most student aid but was proving most obnoxious due to how much richer everyone was except him. That’s when the previous Student Council President (with that distinctive gold rope on his jacket) reaches out to Miyuki and recruits him.

The Prez says he wants someone with a “level gaze” who has seen outside the cloistered garden of privilege and wealth, but in practice, he has Miyuki help fish trash out of a swamp. That’s when someone falls in, and Miyuki freezes. Not being able to swim, he simply hopes in his mind someone will rescue the girl. That someone turns out to be Kaguya, who comes out of nowhere,

Kaguya doesn’t hesitate to sully herself with swamp muck when diving in to grab hold of the girl, having tied a rope to herself so the others can pull them both out. That right there was the moment of victory for Kaguya, and she didn’t even know it! Not only was Miyuki smitten with her from then, he was also inspired to become a better person, and eventually swap that muck-covered rope for the golden one of the StuCo President.

Good to the Last Drop of Love

Back in the present, Kaguya’s classmates have ensured she’s dressed as an adorable and elegant Taisho-era Japanese woman for the cosplay café—a look they maintain no one can pull off better. She told Miyuki about her shift times and is hoping he’ll show up to see her in her outfit, but as she’s manning the entrance the cafe is soon swamped with customers.

Kaguya has to wait on customers, and gets the short and very annoying end of the stick when her first two customers are J and San, two of the Four Ramen Emperors of Tokyo. They’re just as fussy and dramatic about coffee service, and when Kaguya starts to serve them, they make her stop and ask that Ai (an actual maid) serve them instead.

Not one to back down, Kaguya admits to her shortcomings when it comes to coffee, but insists that she has no peer when it comes to black or green tea. San and J allow her to serve them, but just when she’s ready to put them in their place, Miyuki shows up. No matter; Kaguya swiftly dispatches San’s concerns with a beautiful cup of tea.

San is moved by his cup of tea, declaring that it was made with love. When he later sees Kaguya doting on Miyuki, he understands where that love comes from and who it’s meant for. Unfortunately, there’s another annoying middle-aged customer right after the first two, so the first day of the festival passes with Kaguya unable to confess to Miyuki. Mind you it’s not tallied as a loss per se, merely a lost opportunity.

Look Past the Discrepancies

That’s the end of Kaguya and Miyuki for the episode, as we move on to Yuu and his new best friend Shijou Maki, AKA “Miss Mood Swings.” She is true to that nickname throughout their interactions, swinging wildly between giddy enthusiasm of the sort one of your mates would dish out when armed with the knowledge you’re trying to ask out your crush, and crushing depression over her own lost opportunity with Tsubasa.

Yuu and Maki are soon joined by Nagisa and Tsubasa, the one established couple in the cast who are probably worth listening to about asking out considering the success they found, even if their PDA is hard to watch. Nagisa also decides to be friends with Yuu, since both Tsubasa and Maki vouch for him as a good guy.

All three of them are behind him in his quest to ask Tsubame out, and while he’s being ambitious by crushing on the Madonna of the third years, he can’t approach the situation with a sense of inadequacy or he’ll get nowhere. When Tsubame goes on her break, the nerds sneak around in the shadows, but Yuu is the one who approaches her, brings up his class’ horror house, and in more words than are probably necessary, gets across his desire to go there with her.

Tsubame picks up what Yuu is laboring to put down, her face lighting up like a Christmas angel as she immediately agrees to go with Yuu, and leads the way with an outstretched hand. It’s a solid victory for Yuu, even though at this point Tsubame may not fully grasp Yuu’s intentions. At the end of the episode Yuu has taken a crucial step forward (one Maki couldn’t), but there’s more work to be done if he’s to exit “beloved kohai/pal” mode.

The only question is whether we get to see Yuu and Tsubame next week, or if the focus shifts to Chika and Miko, who did not appear outside of the background. There are three more episodes for Kaguya, Miyuki, and Yuu to accomplish their goals. FIGHT-O!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 07 – Making It Work With Less Than Ideal

“I’m sorry I’m bad at school”, a still-drowsy Anya says to Loid and Yor. “The peace of the world rests on you making amends”, she hears Loid thinking. It’s a lot of pressure for a little girl on her second day of school, but she’s resolved to apologize to Damian. The problem is, both his toadies and her her rich girl friend Becky make that almost impossible.

Reading minds clearly takes a lot out of Anya, so between hearing the inner voices of all her classmates and probably not sleeping much last night, she nods off in first period. But when Loid sees Becky working against the apology plan, he starts disguising himself as school staff to make it clear to Anya that the apology must happen, the sooner the better.

It takes Loid calling Becky away on the PA for Anya to finally get her shot, and Damian’s toadies bully her so much in their minds they make her start bawling as she apologizes. As I’d suspected, Damian has confusing new feelings about Anya, the girl who was the first to “defy” him. When she sobs during her apology, making clear she only wanted to be friends, the resulting shot to his heart is so much he has no choice but to run away.

While Loid witnesses all this unfold and concludes that the Friendship Plan may be doomed, I’d say he’s making far too quick an assessment of the situation. Sure, on the surface Damian hates her, but he actually likes her; his behavior is the result of simply not knowing what to do about it. This is 100% classic little kid (and some times bigger kid) behavior.

That said, Loid is new to this, and Twilight didn’t get where he is by taking risks or operating under less-than-ideal circumstances. But there’s so much not in his control here and the circumstances couldn’t be less ideal, so he’s trying to overcompensate. Today Damian ran away from Anya, so he has to try to get her those eight Stella. That night Loid has an intense study session with Anya, but his anxious thoughts and calculations flood into her head and overwhelm her, and she runs into her room to sulk.

Here is where Yor’s lighter touch (if only where Anya is concerned) comes in. At first Yor feels she’s being presumptuous in offering Loid advice and insisting they not be to hard on themselves. But by doing so she reminds Loid that he’s not alone in this parenting business.

He and Yor are legally husband and wife and parents to Anya. They’re in this together, through thick and thin. They need to be patient, but also confident. All parents go through this; that this one was constructed for a spy mission doesn’t change that in the slightest.

I loved how much simpler and more macabre Yor’s inner thoughts are compared to Loid’s during the study session, but I also love how Anya truly wants to do her best, which is why Loid finds her asleep at her desk. She stopped sulking and started studying all on her own.

She’s a good girl, Yor’s a good mom, and he’s a good dad for caring about all of Anya—not just how she figures into the mission. They’ll get through this…even if Yor’s brother Yuri is only now finding out Yor has a husband and daughter.

Zombieland Saga: Revenge – 02 – Blazing Souls and Beckoning Winds

Franchouchou are training with renewed confidence after Koutarou pulled himself together, with Saki deciding to work on her abs with some sit-ups. Zombieland Saga’s slice-of-life scenes are always full of great little details, from the sound of the zombies’ bodies creaking, to the sound of Saki’s giant ponytail gently whapping Sakura. Koutarou announces their next gig as co-hosts of a TV tourism segment on Saga’s Yutouku Inari Shrine.

He does so in the most obnoxious way possible—thereby proving that he’s back!—by wearing a cardboard TV on his head and aggressively interviewing the idols. The details I loved here included the different ways they reacted to having a mic shoved into a facial feature, the change in the sound of their voice when the mic is close, and Tae’s spinning her head Exorcist-style once she gets the TV box…just ‘cause. It’s also the first time I’ve heard the current Japanese era of Reiwa—which began in 2019—mentioned in an anime.

Koutarou also mentions that they’ll be joined in the segment by The White Ryuu, a pompadour-sporting rock star from Saga who has also hosted a nationally popular radio show called So Saga Can Be Saga since 1992. Of the idols, only Saki shares Koutarou’s enthusiasm, as she’s a huge fan of everything White Ryuu, who is portrayed here by the real-life Hakuryuu, himself a pretty colorful character.

A little after Franchouchou arrive at the shrine and get set up with the TV crew, Ryuu makes one hell of a cool entrance, drifting in lying semi-supine across the hood of a ’59 Cadillac Eldorado. The White Ryuu is showing his age, with deep lines in a face partly obscured by a drooping, graying pompadour. It doesn’t matter; Saki is in awe, as am I! He explains he’s late because “the wind blowing down from Kyougatake gave me pause.” It won’t be his only mention of winds, nor the last philosophical thing he says.

In a refreshing development, the TV segment goes swimmingly, with a camera-shy Sakura bailed out by the consummate professionalism and knack for spontaneity of Mizuno Ai, as well as . The idols’ bubbly happy-go-lucky energy is nicely balanced (and sometimes usurped) by White Ryuu, who is full of bemusing little asides about life, society, and freedom.

In a beautiful little moment I’m glad was captured, Sakura asks Ai while they’re praying at the shrine if “zombie prayers count”, with a smiling Ai saying she’s “sure the gods are surprised we’re even here.” It reminds us something that you sometimes forget during their “human” segments: they’re zombies covered in makeup.

The segment is ready to wrap, but Ryuu insists on a torturous climb to the inner temple, where the zombie idols are fine but he collapses from exertion at the top. Even so, he raises a defiant fist and declares that “grasping hold of something real is never easy”, engendering a primal, avenging “RYUUUUU!” from Saki.

As the TV crew packs up, completely confused by everything Ryuu said, Saki has to hold herself back from picking a fight, just as she asked Sakura if she wanted to die when she said she’d never heard of him. To her, Ryuu’s words are like “fists fulla soul”, running out to say a proper goodbye to her idol and promising to start listening to his show again.

As he climbs back on the hood of his Eldorado (the guy commits), he says won’t be on the show much longer, as the winds are blowing him elsewhere. But he tells her not to sweat it, parting with the refrain “The answers you’re looking for can still be found in Saga.”

Back home, the other idols notice Saki is down in the dumps. The question of whether Saki is in love is brought up, and again we see how the different idols regard romance for idols. Junko is scandalized, even though plenty of her era’s contemporaries had secret love lives, while Lily is all for it, as long as it makes you shine brighter.

Sakura decides to approach Saki to find out for sure what’s troubling her, finding her out on the balcony listening to Ryuu’s show. Meeting him reminded her of how she thought everyone was out to get her, and how whenever she wouldn’t bow and scrape to them, they’d try to get rid of her. Even as a middle schooler she’d get in huge brawls, her victories leaving her lost and alone.

One night while lying on a riverbank she heard So Saga Can Be Saga from a fisherman’s radio, and White Ryuu’s positive affirmations to the troubled souls of Saga and beyond soothed her smoldering heart. Now we know why he said so many offbeat things during the segment: that’s his whole thing. And doggone it, he had some really nice things to say:

“No matter who you are, it’s rough not knowing where you belong. But it’s times like that you gotta keep your eyes and ears open. You’re gonna find somebody you feels the same way you do. Even now, me talking with you like this means you’re not alone.” Ryuu was right: Saki kept her eyes and ears opened and found Kirishima Reiko, jumping into her big brawl and fighting by her side, leading to the complex and deeply heartwarming relationship covered last season.

Saki is upset because she doesn’t want Saga or Japan to lose a voice like White Ryuu’s, finding and saving wretched souls like her. She’s lost enough already, damnit! So she hops on a bike (with Sakura accompanying her) and races to the radio station—utterly destroying the bike in the process—to confront Ryuu and beg him not to quit.

Ryuu welcomes Saki and Sakura (AKA Nos. 2 and 1) into the booth to discuss it. Saki tells him Saga is still full of folks who don’t know what to do with themselves, and even Saga itself doesn’t know what to do. Without him, where will smoldering hearts turn to? But Ryuu says that’s just it: the people need a place to turn to, not him.

He never said the show would be shutting down, only that he’d be departing. But not before finding someone with the passion in their soul to take over for him, and he believes that’s Saki and Franchouchou. He says they have the spark that lights a fire in folks. Brooking no input from the suits, he bequeaths the show to the idol group right there on the air.

Before Ryuu hops on his Cadillac’s hood to be pushed by the winds of Kyougatake, Saki confesses her love for him. He’s flattered, but assures her her passion will be needed elsewhere. Then he says what might just be the saddest string fourteen words ever uttered on Zombieland Saga, knowing what we know: “Look me up when you’re a bit older and have grown into fine women.”

As they watch the sun rise on Saga together, Saki tells Sakura that no longer how much time passes, she’ll never grow up into a fine woman. At first she tries to laugh it off with a brave smirk, but her eyes become flooded with tears and she’s suddenly on her back sobbing. Then Sakura starts sobbing, and I tellya, I had to fight back tears too! Then Sakura starts drying out like a mummy, and I was laughing again.

That’s the beauty and the magic of Zombieland Saga, which is so much more than a show about down-on-their-luck idols. The futures they should’ve had taken from them, and now they must try to build new futures from whole cloth. While initially depicted as “lame” and washed up, White Ryuu was a revelation here, imbuing the episode with wisdom, gravitas and optimism.

I never, ever tired of his entrances and exits atop his ridiculous car, while the episode completely sold Saki falling for him, making his parting words all the more heartbreaking. The only thing this episode was missing was a performance, which is what we get during the end credits, and it’s appropriately a heartwarming cover of a White Ryuu song. The idols’ outfits look great, the lighting looks great, their singing sounds great and the dancing animation is fantastic.

Saki assures the rapt audience that anyone lost out there will be able to see her soul burning, just like Lake Imari’s breakwater lighthouse. Taking over the mic at So Saga Can Be Saga, joined by the rest of Franchouchou, she tells the listeners to find their way back there if they ever feel worried or alone.

Wonder Egg Priority – 04 – Sunny Side Up

WEP made no secret of there being four main girls, so with its fourth episode it introduces the fourth girl: Sawaki Momoe. Still, Miwa, the egg girl she’s helping, calls her “Momotarou” because she’s so tall and manly. Miwa was driven to suicide by her dad’s boss who molested her, then fired her dad when she accused him.

Meanwhile, Ai is running, loath to fight the Wonder Killer alone, but it turns out she doesn’t have to: Yu-Yu’s fans lend her penlights, which turn into new weapons with which she slashes the Killer’s many tentacles. It’s a case where the Egg Girls won’t just stand passively by and wait to be rescued, but actively aiding their heroine.

Miwa looks poised to stand passively, but when Momoe starts having some trouble, she uses herself as bait to give her heroine an opening. She also taks the opportunity to tell the pervert to touch his wife whom he loves—not her. Back with AI, the Yu-Yu fangirls help their own case further when they stop the Wonder Killer in her tracks with a video of their shared idol.

They buy enough time for Ai to hang in there until Rika returns—as has been established, they’re immortal, so her petrification eventually wore off—and de-tentacles the Killer, allowing Ai to deliver the coup-de-grace, completing the rescue of the fangirls, who also declare themselves fans of the two-girl unit that is Ai and Rika before vanishing.

Momoe also says goodbye to Miwa, who insists on being held in the arms of the person she fell in love with in their short time together. Momoe is left alone on the train platform, no doubt wishing at some point one of the egg girls she rescues won’t see her as a man and fall in love with her.

At the hospital, Neiru makes a fast recovery to the shock of her healthcare providers, demonstrating she’s ready to be discharged by performing a brief but perfect floor exercise in the rehab room. As Ai confirms with her firmer abs, their exertions in eggland don’t just bring real injuries into the real world, but also increases their muscle tone, stamina, and general physical toughness.

Ai learns that Neiru doesn’t go to school either, but for a very different reason. After riding in her sumptuous Mercedes Maybach Pullman and heading up to the top floor of a snazzy office building, Ai learns that Neiru’s dad doesn’t work there, she works there…as president.

Momoe is urged by the two sackheads to make friends and look for the sunflower—a clear reference to Ai’s shirt. But as Ai and Neiru amiably chat, they walk right past Momoe without noticing her.

When Momoe tells her next Wonder Killer target that she’s actually a girl, the egg girl who falls in love with her doesn’t care; she loves her anyway, and leans in for a kiss before vanishing just like the others. Momoe visits the statue of Haruka, the girl she’s trying to save, who—you guessed it—also loved her.

Momoe returns to the egg gachapon, where Neiru and Rika are waiting for Ai. Rika immediately misgenders Momoe as a handsome, strapping young lad, but protests to the sackheads that boys shouldn’t be allowed. The sackheads tell Rika not to get hung up on gender, since they made this place for anyone who wants to bring children who succumbed to the “temptation of death”—i.e. suicide—back to life.

As the sackheads presumed, it would take a sunflower for Momoe to make friends among her fellow egg girl heroines. She stares into her reflection, desperate to be seen for what she is rather than have others project what they want her to be, and weeps. Ai approaches and asks if she’s okay, and Momoe asks her “What do I look like right now?” Ai gives precisely the answer Momoe needs: “Like a crying girl…who looks like a model.”

Ai, whose mom once ran a fashion magazine, has seen female models of all shapes and sizes. She’s seen femininity in all its forms, not just the “classical” or “conventional” ones (though I admit those are both super-loaded adjectives). She goes on to compliment the contours of Momoe’s neck, as Momoe recognizes Ai is the sunflower she sought.

With the ice broken, Neiru and Rika join the conversation about necks and Adam’s apples, with Rika half-jokingly asking for an assessment of her neck, which is likened to a “puppy’s”, leading all four to eventually join in the laughter. We’ve seen what Ai and Rika were able to do working together. I imagine that the four of them fighting as one would be more effective still!

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