Friday, August 20, 2010

Review Fridays

Vampire Princess Miyu Vol. 1 OVA:
Unearthly Kyoto and Banquet of Marionettes

Blurb from the AnimEigo DVD:

As the demonic forces of the Shinma strive to obtain a foothold upon the mortal plane, spiritualist Himiko seeks the truth. Join us now for two elegantly chilling journeys into the Occult - Japanese style!

In "Unearthly Kyoto" Himiko travels to the ancient capital of Japan to exorcise a slumbering child, only to confronted with a wave of vampire attacks. Here she meets the mysterious, childlike Miyu and her silent, enigmatic companion. Is Miyu behind the attacks? Or does she, too, seek the real culprit? And if so, why?

In "A Banquet of Marionettes," Himiko is hired to investigate several mysterious disappearances at a school. At the site of each , a strange doll has been found. Here she again meets Miyu, now apparently a student. Miyu has designs on the body, and perhaps the soul, of the school hero, Kei. But so, it seems, does another...

Vampire Princess Miyu holds a special place in my heart. Along with Ranma 1/2, it was one of the first anime I saw. And I like creator Narumi Kakinouchi's approach to the vampire legend. Miyu is not your stereotypical vampire. She has no qualms about drinking human blood, explaining to Himiko that it's part of her nature. Crosses, holy water, and other vampiric deterrents have no effect on Miyu, which makes sense when you understand her mission is to hunt Shinma (translated as god-demons). Shinma are beings who prey on strong human emotions: jealousy, fear, anger, etc.

Although Himiko is not part of the manga or the TV series, she links the four-episode OVA series (which continues in Vol. 2). The story is told from her point of view. At first, she is repulsed by Miyu's apparent disregard for human life, even challenging her when Miyu insists she is giving her victims eternal happiness. This "happiness," however, comes with a chilling price. Miyu does not turn her prey into vampires, although she could. Instead, they basically lose their minds and live forever in the fantasy world of their choosing. As Himiko points out, she'd rather live in the real world, with all its problems, than fall victim to a dream world of which there is no escape.

The animation has aged well two decades after its release. It's traditional cel animation with beautiful, stylized artwork. The music by Kenji Kawai evokes the mysterious, supernatural feel of the series. If you're looking for a unique vampire story with a non-stereotypical heroine, Vampire Princess Miyu might be worth a look.

Vampire Princess Miyu is available from AnimEigo.

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