Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 08 – Wait and See

Irina returns to headquarters not to more scorn and racism, but an actual standing ovation—albeit a somewhat forced and stilted one. As forced by the chief as the applause might be, it’s still applause directed at Irina, something she likely never imagined she’d ever experience when she volunteered to do this.

The downside to both Irina’s success and Lev’s role in that success is that it becomes the impetus that separates them just when they were feeling closer to one another than ever. Lev is promoted to full candidate and joins the others for the final tests to select the first human cosmonaut. One would think his knee injury would put him out of the running, literally, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue.

As for Irina, her long expected post-launch “disposal” is postponed indefinitely. While the narrator suggests that someone might try to cause an “accident”, that’s made harder by the fact Anya makes it her mission to be Irina’s friend in Lev’s place. She takes her out for a festive night on the town, wearing traditional dress and performing the ritual of tossing pine cones into the water to grant your wishes.

It would seem Irina got her wish, which wasn’t at all “Love Live the Motherland”, but nothing more than another opportunity to be with Lev. When they meet for the first time in the new year, he’s prepared a spread and presents her with a bouquet. Irina questions the “point” of all this, all the while smiling with glee. So far it looks like these two crazy kids are going to be just fine, but as Lev says, it’s very much still a “wait and see” situation.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 07 – Borscht or Bust

The day of launch has arrived, and Irina dons her proper Zirnitran uniform, but meets one-on-one with the Chief, who has survived countless small heart attacks to get to this point. Due to the risk of the UK monitoring her transmissions once in orbit, Irina is told to read the script of a cooking show to communicate her condition. If everything’s A-OK, she’ll read about borscht. If not, a cheeseburger.

In hindsight, Lev’s arrest was a naked attempt to build up tension and drama before the launch, as his detainment doesn’t even last through the launch. He is freed by Natalia, who discovered that Franz sabotaged the centrifuge in order to kill Irina, thus ending the Chief’s career. Lev is not only freed but gets to be one of the last people Irina sees before her flight to the heavens.

Since this is the first time they’ve attempted this with a person, there’s no guarantee this will be a two-way trip…except for the fact this is just the seventh episode and the titular character is exceedingly unlikely to perish here and now. That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel a combined feeling of awe and dread—the same thing I’ve felt before watching any real-world spaceflight.

Everything goes according to plan at first, but other than a brief shot of Irina on video that soon fizzles out, the entire flight is from the perspective of Lev and the team in the control room. Lev’s crippling sense of helplessness is palpable when they lose contact, and for a few moments, he feels like perhaps Irina really is gone…and really feels that loss.

Thankfully, once communication is restored, Irina recites the recipe for borscht, delighting Lev the flight team down on earth and adding some welcome whimsy to what had been a strictly by-the-book launch procedure, as she rattles off the cooking instructions as her capsule dances above Earth’s night side. She even manages to get her feelings through to Lev by reciting her own recipe: for the odd Zirnitran drink he loves.

While the political officers in the control room really want to blow her up, both when she goes off script and when there’s a chance the capsule could land outside Zirnitran borders. But they don’t blow it up. That said, it’s a mad dash to the remote wintry landscape where the capsule landed, and Lev leads the way on his motorcycle.

While he’s thrown from that cycle when he hits an ice sheet, he only suffers a skinned knee, and gets right back in the saddle in search of Irina and her parachute. He finds it, which…is pretty lucky! But that’s fine; just as this show knows we don’t want Irina to die, it also knows we want to see the pair cuddle under the parachute in mutual relief and affection for each other.

The world may never know who Irina was or the feat she achieved, but it doesn’t matter: she knows, and the human lad knows too. That’s more than enough for both of them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 06 – Moon Shot in the Arm

Traumatized by what she saw at the crash site, Irina has a nightmare about suffering the same fate as all those poor test dogs. But as usual, she keeps her troubles within and tries to power through them, training as if nothing is wrong. But her mental anguish results in physical ailments: fatigue, loss of apetite, and anemia. With only days before the launch, this is no time for her numbers to be dropping.

Remembering what Irina told him about drinking the goat’s blood, Lev arranges some blood to drink. Not knowing where it came from, Irina refuses it, saying she’d rather die than defile her body. Unwilling to let her dream die, Lev offers an alternative: she can drink his blood…from his arm.

Irina agrees, and not long after digging into that arm, the light is back in her eyes, and the color back in her flesh. It’s also the equivalent of this particular couple’s first kiss…a vampire’s kiss. As such, both of them act bashfully and nervously before it happens. Once it’s over though, Irina looks and feels so much better, Lev is glad he had blood to offer. Still, Irina seems to feel a bit guilty for taking it.

With Irina back on her feet, the two enter the final stages of her training, including the harrowing parachute spin. Her first such trip to the ground is in tandem with Lev, who keeps her calm when the g-forces start to rattle her. Once they land, Lev tells her that her next jump will be solo. Who knew then that meant he wouldn’t be around for it!

Due to what looks like some shenanigans from Franz, the centrifuge goes haywire. Lev basically breaks the machine in order to stop it, enraging the old asshole researcher, who then decides to start beating on Irina. Lev doesn’t lose his temper, but it doesn’t matter.

When the old coot trips and falls backwards, it’s all the pretext he needs to have Lev hauled away for assault. Irina is now left without a protector…and her capsule will indeed be fitted with explosives in case it lands near the borders. In other words, just as Lev and Irina had their closest and most tender encounter, things couldn’t be worse. The only bright side is that Irina does indeed seem bound for space in just a couple of days.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 05 – Free Falling

A military bigwig arrives to inspect the training facility, and to also tell the two dozen or so candidates that only six of them will make the cosmonaut cut. When one of those candidates screws up their parachuting drill, Lev is suddenly back on the active roster. He might end up in space after all.

Meanwhile, Irina is in the anechoic chamber, which she basically treats like her coffin, only larger and most likely quieter. While in there, she’s left alone with her awful memories of when her village was massacred and her parents torched. At one point she softly calls Lev’s name, and can’t help but grab his sleeve when he finally comes in to release her from her solitude.

Irina probably figures she can’t hide the fact that she doesn’t hate Lev’s guts, so she comes right out and says she considers him the only human who isn’t bad. I’m not sure what that pink-haired researcher did to her! All joking aside, we get another great skydiving scene with Irina ending up in the unenviable situation of having to stare at Lev to keep her head up, even if it means being unable to hide her blushing.

When the two are up in the air they can forget about all the awfulness that surrounds them, but they come back down to earth literally and figuratively when they witness an aborted space capsule flight and the corpse of one of the experiment dogs. Those horrible flashbacks come roaring back, putting Irina in a state of shock.

Lev’s superior picks them up, and tells him that no one was supposed to see that. Back in the command room, the mission commander battles both his ailing heart and the political reality of having to self-destruct Irina’s capsule should she land in another country. You can tell he’s way more in this for the science and discovery, not the patriotism.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 04 – Fly Me to the Moon

With Lev being told Irina will launch in three weeks and her finally trying on a real spacesuit, shit is starting to get very real. If the higher-ups are to be believed, she may not live a long life even if the launch is successful, but Irina doesn’t seem to mind at all, and continues going through the training with nary a complaint (though she does remark that the suit is really heavy).

While Irina is changing out of her sweaty clothes into a fresh jumpsuit, Lev encounters Rosa in the hallway. Rosa is, so far, a completely one-dimensional racist bitch who is a waste of time. But when she lays into Irina to Lev, Irina overhears, and bids that Rosa say what she wants to say to her face. Rosa slinks off, warning Lev not to get his blood sucked. Even though, if we’re honest, it’s Rosa who sucks here!

When Lev and Irina get some free time before she has to enter an anechoic chamber (where you can indeed go mad quite quickly listening to nothing but your body make noises), Irina kinda prods Lev into taking her to a jazz bar. She gets some soda water, natch, but one sip of Lev’s dark red concoction has her slightly tipsy. No matter; she’s never heard jazz before, and she quite likes it.

Later that night Lev and Irina head out to a frozen lake to skate. While last week’s animation really shined with the airplane ride and skydiving, here Irina performs an elegant performance while an insert song plays. It’s really quite something to behold, and the latest demonstration of why Lev should really try to prevent her from being “disposed of” if he can.

Irina and Lev have never been closer. He tells her how he’s wanted to go to the moon since he was five; she told him how her parents were burned alive while she watched…pretty standard date stuff!

As for the whole post-launch disposal thing, Irina volunteered to be a test subject because it meant she would be going to space, and possibly the moon, before the humans defiled it. Even if the Zirnitrans off her afterweards, they can never take away the fact that she danced among the starts before they did.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 03 – Freedom, Not Fear

After a scene involving the pudgy, scheming old men who run Zirnitra from the capital, Sangrad (some who want to kill Irina as soon as the mission is over, some who want to wait and see), we see Lev get his first R&R since taking on the job of Irina’s handler. His former candidate comrades are a mix of curious, pitying, and superior.

It’s clear that due to his time with Irina, he’s no longer one of them…and that might not be the worst thing. As for “things”, it’s clear Anya doesn’t consider Irina one, but a fellow person. As a scientist, she knows the best way to overcome fear of something is to understand it better. She understands vampires to an extent she doesn’t fear them in the least. On the contrary; she adores “Irinyan”.

Lev ends up applying this axiom to Irina’s acrophobia, by exposing her to the most extreme heights so she can eventually realize how goddamn awesome it is when you’re flying and thus overcome her fear. Their moonlight flight is a series highlight in terms of visual panache; it really draws you in, like the great Miyazaki adventure in the sky.

Lev’s experiment on his “test subject” works like a charm, as Irina’s fears are replaced by wonder and a thirst for freedom unquenchable by even the fizziest lemon seltzer available. But the flight doesn’t just change Irina. It continues a gradual but inevitable change in Lev, from a soldier carrying out his duty of handling a test subject, to a young lad developing feelings for Irina Luminesk as if she were an ordinary human woman.

Lev isn’t training Irina in order to achieve the mission anymore; he’s training her so the government won’t dispose of her for not measuring up. Fortunately Irina excels at pretty much everything they throw at her, and once she’s over her acrophobia, flight and parachuting (another bravura sequence) is no exception. One of Lev’s colleagues warns him not to develop feelings for Irina, but it’s clearly already way too late for that!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 02 – Lemon Seltzer

This week is entirely devoted to the beginning of Irina’s training to become the first human(esque) Cosmonaut in space. Lev is right beside her all the way, enduring the same trials, so it’s no surprise he fails to see her only as an object and a test subject and not…a person like him.

After Lev narrowly outruns Irina on the track drills, she tries to regain her pride by outlasting him in in a 90-degree (Celsius!) steam bath. The senior researcher is a real racist piece of shit who insists on binding and muzzling her when it’s Lev’s turn to bake, then strapping her into the centrifuge so tight the chafing makes her bleed then subjecting her to too many Gs too fast.

If Dr. Asshole’s goal was to dehumanize Irina, it had the opposite effect, not just with Lev but with Anya as well. Seeing a vampire bleed the exact same blood, like running beside one or enduring intense heat, intense gravity, or intense…space food is only making Lev think of her more as just a human with pointy teeth and no sense of taste.

It’s with this in mind and a spirit of playfulness that Lev takes Irina to the parachute training site in the middle of the night. When she shows signs of acrophobia but won’t admit she’s scared, she gives her a little push, and she ends up on an awkward, harrowing ride to the bottom. But I’m sure the same exact thing happened to Lev his very first time, just as I’m sure it would’ve happened with me!

The kicker is when Lev treats Irina to a new sensation: carbonated water. Because she despises everything Lev represents, she won’t explicitly admit she really loves the stuff, especially with lemon, but whether she likes it or not shes warming to him just as he’s learning that vampires are just humans with a few differences that are, at the end of the day, not enough to engender the prejudice and oppression Irina and her kind suffer.

We learn from the boss that Lev was chosen specifically because he was liable to treat Irina like a person. It remains to be seen if Lev, like Lena in 86, will try to rebel against Irina’s oppressors for her sake.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 01 (First Impressions) – What We Do in the Cosmos

An alternate-world space race between USSR and USA analogues, in which the Soviet equivalent power decides to recruit a vampire to be the first person in space, could’ve easily been played as pure farce. Heck, The Death of Stalin was a laugh riot. But Irina, The Vampire Cosmonaut has … ahem … loftier goals.

IVC is, in fact, straight as an arrow when it comes to presentation. Avoiding the names of real nations or people works to its benefit, as this is a world that still has a space race like ours and was still initially won by Rus-er, Zirnitra by launching an artificial satellite and then a dog I’m sure would have rather stayed on earth.

Reserve cosmonaut Lev Leps, who will probably never see orbit since an incident, is chosen to monitor and train N44, AKA Irina Luminesk. While she’s a vampire, this world’s version is far more human, not drinking blood or changing form. But because she’s not a “real” human, the government is putting her up in space first, and it’s Lev’s job to make sure she’s ready.

While I’m sure this wasn’t the higher-ups intent, Lev, who resembles an all-growd-up Claus Valca, has a kind heart. Despite strict orders to treat “N44” like an object (after what happened with this world’s version of Laika), his attempts to maintain emotional distance are awkward and ultimately unsustainable.

As for Irina (voiced by the legendary Hayashibara Megumi), she later has to remind herself that despite how nice they seem, Lev and the lab assistant and vampire expert Anya would kill her without hesitation if ordered to do so. Only…I don’t think that’s the case? Lev seemingly adds to her doubt about that sentiment when he apologizes for how she was treated and leaves a blanket and hot water in her cell.

IVC’s first episode sets everything about its world and major players very efficiently and succinctly, with some nice little details and humorous moments on the edges. It’s a little dull and plodding at times, but I’m nonetheless eager to watch Lev and Irina form a bond over their mutual love of the stars.

Mars Red – 02 – Sin From Thy Lips

In the ruins of the bunker where Misaki was being held, Moriyama informs his newly-promoted boss Col. Maeda that there have been more vamp sightings in Kayabacho. Nitto News reporter Shirase Aoi is after the truth of the recent spate of “human combustion” incidents and keen for details on Misaki’s “elopement”, while yearning for her childhood friend, who never returned from battle in Siberia. She’s also miffed that Salomé has been replaced by Romeo & Juliet at the theatre.

We meet the vampiric members of Maeda’s vampire unit Code Zero—the “unranked” Yamagami, “A Class” Kurusu Shuutarou, and “mad scientist”-type Takeuchi—as well as Suwa, who seems to be human. Their first trip for intel on the vamps in Kayabacho is Tenmanya, a shop full of knicknacks, antiques, and curios. Its proprietor plays both sides of the human-vampire conflict.

Tenmanya is willing to offer some info in exchange for ruining his competition. Those rival “blood sellers” are selling a bootleg of his “product”—the vamp equivalent of the hard shit—and a vampire couple are enjoying it and themselves, though the woman seems to think her mate is drinking a bit too much.

While playing a bouquet of asters at the stigmata where Misaki burned up, Maeda encounters Aoi, and learns that one of his vampire agents, Kurusu Shuutarou, is her childhood friend reported dead. He doesn’t tell her of Shuutarou’s fate, nor why he’s leaving flowers, other than he “couldn’t keep his word.”

At midnight, all bridges and streets leading out of Kayabacho are sealed and Code Zero moves in on the vampire couple, who sense danger and aren’t prepared to go quietly. I love how simple yet frightening vampires are depicted in Mars Red, and once again the lighting and camerawork really sell their speed and ferocity that far exceeds human limits.

Unfortunately for our couple, they are cornered on a bridge, and Maeda has brought plenty of his own vampires to take them down. The male vamp chugs one more vial of the black blood and goes out in a blaze of glory, but it’s Suwa and not the Class A Kurusu who delivers the killing blow. Despite being an extremely powerful vampire, Kurusu is disgusted and even a bit scared of blood.

The “parent root” female vamp tries to flee, but she’s headed off by Maeda, who rather violently stuffs his fist through her mouth then slashes her with his sword. How he, a mere human, can do this is not clear. Is he not a mere human? Unfortunately Maeda’s aide Moriyama has to be put out of his misery. Maeda handles it, then has a solemn smoke on the bridge.

Like Tenmanya, Mars Red has the eclectic style and pleasantly musty scent of a shop with odd hours filled with neat things. I also like the connection between Aoi and Kurusu, though I wish after two episodes I could summon more than a shrug about Colonel Maeda, who’s almost too stiff and stoic for his own good.

Mars Red – 01 (First Impressions) – On a Silver Platter

Tokyo, Japan, 1923: Major Maeda Yoshinobu is escorted to a maximum-security underground prison at Tsukishima Island housing a single inmate: Misaki, an actress who was performing Salome at the Imperial Theatre when she was turned into a vampire. When Maeda meets her through thick glass, she’s still reciting the lines of the play, as if she were still on stage.

Later on, a suspiciously vampiric-looking young man at the theatre tells Maeda that when the lights go out and the curtains rise, the audience is transported to the underworld. I can’t help but watch Maeda and his chatterbox underling’s journey deeper and deeper into the Tsukishima  facility and think they too are on a journey to the underworld.

While Japan and its military are rapidly modernizing and westernizing, it’s ironic that the covert vampire hunting unit Lt. General Nakajima has created deals with ancient monsters. The general reminds Maeda not to allow sympathy or pity to dull his blade, and Maeda assures him if Misaki cannot be brought to their side, he’ll promptly dispose of her.

Maeda visits the theatre, where the stage is still a mess of blood and ruined scenery, and he meets the inscrutable actor Deffrot, who played Jokanaan, AKA John the Baptist, whose head is served to Salome on a silver platter as payment for her Dance of the Seven Veils. In a very neat piece of “camera”work, the shadow of Maeda’s head is cast on the play’s poster, held in Salome’s hands.

Outside the theatre Maeda is approached by a young lady he mistakes for Misaki, but she introduces herself as Shirase Aoi, a reporter for the Nitto News. Maeda ignores her requests for comment and access to the theatre, and then Moriyama arrives by car to report that Misaki has escaped. For a second there, I wondered if Aoi was Misaki after all.

As Moriyama speeds Maeda back to Tsukishima, Misaki effortlessly smashes through all of the steel doors and barriers in her way, takes a bullet with barely a flinch, bleeds black blood, bites a neck, casually nudges a bullet away and dodges the others with her vampiric speed. Through it all she moves with a dancer’s grace, embodying the role of Salome—whom I learned was transformed by French writers from her biblical role to the “incarnation of female lust”.

A different dance ensues, with both Maeda and Misaki gradually making their way to the same spot: across the Nihonbashi bridge to Marunouchi Plaza at Tokyo Station. It’s the capper to an episode that serves as a Where’s Where of Taisho-era Tokyo.

Misaki gets closer and closer to Maeda, but when he grips his sword and prepares to draw, she places her hand over his, embraces him a little while longer, then steps aside and lets herself be consumed by the morning light, without further bloodshed. The same stigmata design on her tongue appears on the spot where she incinerated.

Back at HQ, General Nakajima promotes Maeda to Colonel and puts him in command of Code Zero, with the mission of apprehending or disposing of vampires in Japan. If I had to describe Mars Red in one word, it would be classy. Given another word, I’d use deliberate. As Maeda navigates a Tokyo in flux and deals with Misaki, every scene is given room to breathe.  Maeda is a bit of a stiff, but still…I’m intrigued.

Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit – 01 (First Impressions)

9 years ago, Seiji Nanatsuki was a middle schooler who got caught up in a terrorist attack of some kind. There was lots of fire and, apparently, people shooting around. Maybe the were elves or vampires but, for the purposes of this anime, this drives Seiji-kun to dedicate his life to becoming a police detective because a detective who sounds like ReZero’s Subaru tells him to run away.

9 years later, the day he’s passed his Detective’s Exam, Seiji-kun walks into a bank while it is being held up by men in animal masks. For the purposes of this episode, Shady Officer Shiori Ichinose is also there and also doesn’t have his gun. They ramble a bit before Seiji-kun earns the name ‘Officer Stupid’ and gets knocked out and dragged off with 3 other hostages.

An armored car chase and character introductions later, Seiji-kun gets transfered to Shiori-kun’s special police unit and will, no doubt, detective his way against an every growing threat of vampires and other supernatural creatures.

Year back, a mud slide dragged me to the bottom of a gorge. My leg was gashed and bleeding badly but camp was too far off to wait for help. So I cleaned the wound and did my own stitches. Couldn’t have been more than ten to get it closed, and I felt no pain due to the shock, but the experience dragged on for a seeming eternity. That’s roughly the feeling I’m left with while watching Special 7.

The art style is crisp and the rare use of color pops over the bland gray backgrounds. However, the backgrounds use awkwardly processed photography, most of the action is CG, and the actual pacing is dreadfully slow.

Visuals aside, the ‘new kid joins a semi-secret crime fighting force that uses vampires and other special creatures to stand up against epic threats‘ story feels really stale to me? Black Bullet and Blood Blockade Battlefront both give the same vibe and both packed a lot more energy. At the very least, both of those shows sport more likable, more compelling protagonists, if for no greater reason than those protagonists have strong motivations to push forward. Officer stupid… is basically only here on a whim.

Phantom in the Twilight – 01 (First Impressions) – Supernatural Study Abroad

Just minutes after arriving in London for their study abroad, Bayrou Ton and her BFF (and secretary?) Shinyao are robbed of their luggage, passports, credit cards, and Ton’s heirloom ring. Ton is a girl of action, and so runs through London chasing the semi-transparent beast-like thief.

Despite arriving during late afternoon at the latest, this chase goes on until after midnight, when she finally realizes she’s lost and separated from Shinyao. She throws a paper airplane with a spell written on it, which flies right into a night cafe that just happens to have been founded by her great-grandmother, Sha Rijan.

At Cafe Forbidden, Ton meets three strapping young lads who knew Rijan, suggesting they’re actually very long-lived lads. here’s the aloof, prickly one (Vlad), the tall, dark, and quiet one (Tauryu) and the kiddy, friendly one (Luke). They believe the thief is a goblin, and race to Hyde Park to deal with it.

Ton follows them in a taxi (I guess she had some pocket money), and watches a very bizarre spectacle unfold. The three lads, decked out in their fancy black coats, do battle with a whole band of goblins, while Vlad confronts a Spriggan. Ton reveals herself to warn him, but he’s distracted and is briefly stunned.

Ton uses the heirloom ring a monocled stranger returned to her and told her to wear to pull some kind of magical chains out of the ground she uses to protect herself. Vlad pounces on the Spriggan from behind and kills it with a coup-de-grace. Rather than explain to Ton all of the straight-up weird shit that just went down, Vlad glamours her instead; replacing her memories with false ones involving a police chase. Luke later wonders if it was the right thing to do.

Ton wakes up in the park like nothing weird at all happened, gets in touch with Shinyao, and after credits that underscore just how much these two friends care about each other, Ton meets her at their new apartment…only for Shinyao to be immediately kidnapped. Well played, show.

So, not the bestest first couple of days for Bayrou Ton! She has a cool name, though, and she’s voiced by Hanazawa Kana, making it two characters in short red jackets she’s voicing this Summer! Other than that, and despite some competent animation and a decent soundtrack, I came away a bit less enthusiastic for this than the quieter, more thoughtful Holmes of Kyoto. Twilight has a likable heroine but is a bit all over the place so far.

Devils Line – 01 – Back to the Well…of BLOOD (First Impressions)

“AND I’m a vampire…what a week!”

From Blood and Shiki to Dance in the Vampire Bund, Rosario + Vampire, Seraph of the End, and Help! My Little Sister is a Vampire!, there is no shortage of vampire anime out there, old and new, good and bad.

There’s so much, you might not have realized that I simply made up that last one, though for all I know it might actually exist (and Tasukete! Watashi no Imouto wa Kyuuketsuki! can be readily pared down to Tawamokyu!). 

The point is, we know all about vampires in anime. So any time a new one comes around, I ask two pretty standard questions:

#1: Does this add anything notably new to the table?
#2: If not, what makes it worth watching?

In the case of Devils Line, the answer to Question #1 is a firm “no.” Sure, the vamps’ chompers are a bit over-sized (not a great look!) and there’s an emphasis on vamps as crazed blood-and-sex addicts, but we’ve got a standard “pure maiden gets drawn into the dark side” story, which hearkens back to Lucy Westenra.

As to Question #2, I actually found a lot to like in the first 19/20ths of the episode (more on the final 20th later). First, the setting is realistic and grounded rather than surreal or baroque, and there’s a familiar Tokyo Nighttime atmosphere that pervades the episode and draws you in. I took note of the way characters were back-lit from various light sources.

In keeping with the much-like-real-life setting, the vamps, while ostensibly the “bad guys”, are also given a good degree of nuance and humanization. It’s not an accident that the blood-soaked cold open depicts a vamp tearing people apart…but not being all that happy about it! (no doubt because his fangs are so comically huge).

Finally, while it’s ultimately a red herring, the chase scene does good and efficient double duty, introducing us to the special division and their procedures for dealing with vamps in this world (a bad-ass cop lady fights on a higher footing than the vamp, probably because she too is a vamp) while also giving us a nifty Vamp-Speed chase and moonlit brawl.

So what didn’t work so well? Pretty much what the ED portends will be the entire premise of the show going forward: a Vampire Romance. College(?) student Taira Tsukasa goes with the flow, while sometimes looking off to the side like she needs new friends (or possibly very very old ones, amirite?!) but one thing I like about her is that she’s comfortable not having a boyfriend.

It doesn’t help when one of her two close friends confessed to her at school, she had to reject him, and he’s been basically tolerating the fact they’re “just friends” ever since…for now. Turns out Mr. Unrequited Love was the vampire she needed to watch her back for, and it’s to the kid’s credit that my disgust turned to pity once the Shadowy Subway Guy came between him and Tsukasa.

Subway Guy is a special division officer named Anzai, who suspected Tsukasa’s friend would soon crack from the pressure of having to hold in his vampiric nature, but concedes the kid’s desire not to hurt her was genuine…it’s just that Vamps can’t be trusted. When they see someone’s blood, they’re off to the sexy races.

And to the list of Vamps that can’t be trusted, go ahead and add Anzai in there, because once he notices Tsukasa’s scratched face, he starts French-kissing her. This burst explosion of passion might not have come out of nowhere, but it still felt sudden and oddly staged.  It looked less like the pure Tsukasa suddenly yearning and embracing a man’s touch, and more like he just jumped her.

So yes, this show has some good things going for it, but some big questions moving forward about whether and how the whole vampire romance thing will work. That she’s ostensibly dealing with a vamp who has his shit mostly under control (and is working for the “good guys” i.e. public safety) works to Anzai’s advantage, but I want to see more agency from Tsukasa, not for her to keep going with the (blood)flow.