This Week: ef: A Tale of Melodies, Vampire Hunter D, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.
ef: A Tale of Melodies
As a romantic drama, this will be unavoidably have some spoilers.
As was suggested, I did enjoy this more than the first series. It felt slower and more methodical in its dramatic buildups, and the dramatic parts are often also not as “loud” I felt the original was being. Scenes like Akira burning his entire studio and himself to the ground in a fit of emotional ecstasy aren’t played with lots of yelling and pleading taking up all the attention. It just gets to mostly play out with some background music. For me, it has a better modulation of its highs and lows, where I felt the original was almost in a race to see how quickly it could outdo its own dramatic highs.
The show still tries telling two stories at once, but the episodes felt less “busy” than the original and willing to stick to one tale for a longer period of time. I felt more satisfied, because I was seeing more scenes from one story at a stretch. The show seemed to have better control over itself, in a sense, which is mechanically interesting given the elevation of the side characters from the original to primary lead status here.
Shaft was also far more aggressive in their art design here. While I often felt I was watching an animated “best of” visual novel scene list in the original (right up to and including the first person post-sex afterglow shots) with occasional flashes of (strong) abstraction, here it feels much more like its own work that wants to use the strengths of the studio to tell its story. As a result, the production seemed more confident with itself and comfortable in its own shoes, which is a very important feeling for me to get a sense of when trying to get into a romance series.
Vampire Hunter D
While it’s an 80’s classic, I think a lot of if one will enjoy viewing it today comes down to how well they just allow the film to do its thing. This is a world of cybernetic horses and laser weapons over rural plains, of vampire nobility ruling over feudal farming societies of the year 12,090 A.D. It’s “epic” in the classical sense of the word, of where one can have a long shot of the hero silently walking down a castle hallway while fantasy music plays on, or extended camera focus on blowing bits of wheat in the field long after a character has left the scene.
The story is likewise a simple, classic vampire tale (powerful vampire threatens the land and a lady, the lone hero enters the foreboding castle, etc), but it’s internally consistent and I don’t mind the traditional trappings of the story. It allows the mix of all the various genre parts the world is made up of to hold together better since they aren’t fighting for attention with a deep narrative, and this is a production that really wants to sell itself on atmosphere and universe style more than its storyline.
It’s well executed for what it’s trying to do that holds up admirably, and there is some swell traditional film animation of the era here.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
A quirky bit of trivia about this film is it was dubbed in English first, so I find the scripting differences rather interesting as a result. It’s an interesting little beast to bring out when asking folks if they would want to watch the original language track of this movie.
The storyline is ever so slightly busier than the first movie, but remains straightforward, in this case taking the form of a stagecoach chase. As such, the film has a consistent sense of momentum to its proceedings, eschewing the slower atmospheric stance of the original. But, this is appropriate and fitting, given the differences between the scenarios.
The animation and background paints are, as befits the series, standout achievements that make Yoshitaka Amano‘s illustrations vibrantly come to life. With the mix of genre parts this franchise brings to the table, they all flow together impressively and look like they all belong to be in the same universe. Likewise, due to the classical simplicity of the story allowing the world to simply be a character unto itself, there’s never a point where one goes “No, this part is ridiculous, they’ve gone off the deep end and I can’t buy into this.” And this is a film that has everything from giant manta rays bursting into the skies from American west style deserts and part of an elaborately ornate Baroque style castle doubling as a spaceship. It’s all played straight, and due to the strength of the design team look like strongly rooted parts of this fantasy world that rightfully belong there.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.