Background: With Halloween coming up next week, there is an extra incentive for folks to check out Vampire Tales in order to get in the spirit of things. Well, a recent anime that some of you find appealing is out now, with the opening volume called Moon Phase 1: Ltd Edition. Unlike most anime where the vampire is the villain (such as Trinity Blood), this time there are good and bad vampires, especially lead female protagonist Hazuki; the young gal on the front cover of the DVD. Here's a quick look at her initial exploits, giving you an idea if you might enjoy this light hearted show.
Hazuki: the cutest vampire in the world.
Series: The episodes were 1) Big Brother, Be My Slave, 2) Call Me Mistress, 3) Big Brother, Let's Live Together, 4) Big Brother, I Feel Like Kissing, and 5) It's A Full, Full Moon. Okay, the story starts off with the lead male of the show, Kouhei Morioka on assignment in Germany. He works freelance shooting pictures for an occult magazine since he has a knack for catching ghosts and other paranormal entities in his photographs, even though he doesn't see them when he's initially taking the pictures. The rest of his family is extremely gifted in terms of supernatural powers but he's considered "spiritually retarded" by them since he completely lacks any abilities in this area. Thankfully, that actually comes in handy as he approaches the castle; allowing him to walk right through some serious spiritual shields placed there by powerful creatures that want the castle unmolested. His reasoning for going to the castle is to see if he can find the beautiful little girl he saw from a distance there, a gal he comes to know as Hazuki.
Kouhei: The spiritually inept male lead of the show.
Hazuki, is the gal that kisses him and bites his neck, trying to bend him to her will with her vampire powers but it's her first kiss and doesn't seem to have any effect on him. At this point, the guardian of the castle, a monster with great powers known as Vigo, tries to capture him and ultimately fights Kouhei's traveling partner, his cousin Seiji Mido. Seiji is older and has a reputation for being the strongest psychic in Japan, also gifted with incredible spiritual powers. Seiji fights Vigo to a standstill but the monster keeps coming back for more, wearing out the man as Kouhei attempts to free himself. Also along for the ride is Hiromi, a gal known as Kouhei's best pal and his editor but she really doesn't play a large role in the series just yet, running away when Seiji tells her to.
Hiromi had a small part this time.
Kouhei breaks free with the help of Seiji but Hazuki tells him that the only way he can escape is if he helps her break free of the mystical shackles that bind her to the castle, he eventually does so but in the midst of so much going on, they are separated and he leaves with his friends to go back to Japan. Hazuki follows them there and sets up residence in the house of Kouhei's grandfather, Ryuuhei Mido. He's wizened beyond even his years and sees Hazuki as something of an interesting mystery to solve so he invites her in while warning the pair that they need to be careful. The rest of the story has a cute black cat (Haiji) joining Hazuki and a pretty vampire named Elfride sent to bring Hazuki back to Germany by her master. Initially seeming like a straightforward retrieval for her, she soon learns that Kouhei is more than meets the eye; trying to use physical force as well as old fashioned reasoning with the family. Kouhei starts to fall for her Ryuuhei finds her to be delightful, although bratty Hazuki is the only one that remembers how the lady vampire almost killed Kouhei to gain control of the young girl.
Seiji was the eye candy for the gal's and powerful defender of the cast.
The show seems to bounce back and forth between the comedic romance drama and the more serious vampire tale but the opening volume had five full episodes in which to establish the basic character traits and did so rather well. Depending on how well the stories in the future are written and where they go with the material, it could well be a really good show since the cast all seem to sport secrets that have only been touched upon initially. Hazuki changes during a full moon into a powerful being called Luna, Kouhei seems to be protected by his spiritual ineptitude but also a source of power beyond the enchantments his grandfather placed on him, Elfride seems to notice his potential and wants it for herself, and the others seem quite willing to accept everything going on at face value. The collector edition was definitely the way to go this time with the photo album included in the large box used to hold the rest of the series, the wonderful paper booklet that included lots of pictures, interviews, and hints about future stories, and the large trading cards of Hazuki too so I'm going to rate this one as Recommended with the advice that fans of vampire anime might even like it more.
Ryuuhei seemed to know a lot more than he let on.
For those who care, the folks at FUNimation presented the material this way on their website: "In a world where the Supernatural and humans share space in family portraits, clumsy photographer Kouhei finds himself the guardian, slave, and object of affection of a mischievous vampire girl. Unfortunately, the little bloodsucker suffers from a split personality. As Hazuki, she is a spoiled brat, prone to tantrums and abuse of her formidable Jagan… As Mistress Luna, her powers and demeanor take on a more mature and noble air. Her mysterious past gets the young vamp and thick-headed Kouhei tangled into a chaotic web of emotion and magic with ancient vampires that seek to return Luna to her roots, and dispense with the freedoms that she enjoys as Hazuki. From old Europe to modern Japan, love and magic mix under the full moon."
Elfride was on a mission, at least until falling for Kouhei.
Picture: Moon Phase 1: Ltd Edition was presented in an anamorphic widescreen color with an aspect ratio of about 1.77:1 as shot by director Akiyuki Shinbou for airing on Japanese television not long ago. The show was an interesting mix of the kind of colorful show that kids seem to like during the comedic moments as well as the darker, almost film like look of the times when the supernatural elements appear (typically for battle but not always). Most of the stories take place at night since Hazuki is a vampire cursed with the whole "light kills" problem but from my point of view, the show looked very nice all around (with the use of special visual effects handled to enhance the atmosphere of the plot elements). If you prefer the bright pastel colors of anime made for younger audiences, you may not like this one as much but I did notice that there were times when the show took on an almost surreal look to it; something a friend pointed out when I originally fussed about the slight haze that appeared in some of the scenes (she indicated that it was supposed to look like that, kind of bridging the natural and supernatural worlds).
Vigo reminded me of some bosses I've worked for in the past.
Sound: Moon Phase 1: Ltd Edition was presented with several choices for the audio tracks. The original 2.0 Japanese Dolby Digital track was present, as was a corresponding English track and a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track for those who appreciate the fine work that FUNimation does. I'm not a subtitle snob so I listened to all three tracks and found the vocals tended to flow slightly better on the Japanese track but the added musical and sound effect coverage of the 5.1 track was plainly superior. The bass added in enhanced the mood and the high end frequencies seemed brighter. There was some separation between the tracks but most of it was similar in terms of vocal placement with the surround track enhancing the other elements nicely.
Haiji was a cute kitty and seemed to possess a gift for finding the bad guys.
Extras: This was where the Moon Phase 1: Ltd Edition shined for most people. It had some trailers, short character profiles of the cast, textless songs (the opening and closing themes; Neko Mimi Mode and Pressentiment Triste), optional subtitles in English, a very appealing twelve page booklet with interviews, pictures, and some series leads for the future, a plastic photo album with Hazuki and Kouhei on it, 4 large trading cards of Hazuki, and a cardboard box to hold the volumes as they come in.
Final Thoughts: Moon Phase 1: Ltd Edition was a shot in the dark for me since I try not to read everything that comes up on the net about upcoming shows. If I did so, I'd potential ruin my fun and come up with false ideas of what shows are about (something I've found a serious problem at other anime review sites in the past) so I'm glad I was picked to check this one out. I'm a huge fan of the quality shows that FUNimation releases and the fact of the matter is that Moon Phase 1: Ltd Edition is a nice blend of comedy and drama that uses vampire clichés in such a way as to own them, treading new ground in the process. If the show continues to evolve in the direction I think it will, this one may be a contender for some awards in the near future but either way it was a lot of fun and I think most of you will enjoy it.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.