Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vampire Princess Miyu (OAV) – review

Director: Hirano Toshihiro

Release date: 1988

Contains spoilers

OAV stands for original animation video and, unlike the western ‘direct-to-video’, OAV was not a pejorative but a necessity to fill the demand for animation (especially pre cable and satellite). Vampire Princess Miyu has therefore had two animated incarnations. A TV series from 1997 (which I have on DVD and so will review at some point) and this OAV 4 episode series – which is over 2 DVDs nowadays.

Probably the first thing I noticed in Miyu – and this is also the case in the series produced a decade later – was that the animation had aged. It was clearly of a time. That is not to say it was bad just old looking. Perhaps, however, in this case that added something to the atmosphere generated.

Each episode of the animation was based in a season, starting with summer and moving round in order, and concerned Miyu (Watanabe Naoko) the vampire princess of the title who hides amongst humanity as a schoolgirl (though her presence at the school only really comes into one episode). However, unlike the later series, Miyu was not necessarily the key protagonist.

Miyu and Himiko
That honour fell to Se Himiko (Koyama Mami), a spiritualist who is called to Kyoto, in the first episode, as a consultant for a girl who has fallen into an endless sleep. She, at first, suspects that the girl is possessed by a fox spirit. However it is a shinma that has possessed her. The shinma were both Gods and demons (the name coming from combining the kanji for God with that for demon). Shinma had retreated into the dark some time ago and it is Miyu’s job to send them back to the dark should they stray into the human world.

blood at mouth
The vampires were the one bloodline of shinma who did not retreat into the darkness, remaining as guardians. As a gift for remaining their restrictions were lifted – in other words they can walk in daylight and religious artefacts do not harm them. They are not, however, immortal – or at least pure vampires such as Miyu are not. They can turn humans (and do need blood to survive). Miyu’s mother was shinma her father was human turned. Human vampires can live for eternity but by losing death they also lose drive and motivation, as it were.

In the first episode there does appear to be a vampire on the loose – draining girls of blood unto death. Miyu, however believes it to be a pale imitation (indeed it is a manifestation of another type of shinma). Miyu is helped by her servant Larva (Shiozawa Emi), a shinma from a bloodline that did not retreat into the dark but escaped over the ocean. His features are hidden by a mask sealed to his face.

small bite marks
There is a greyness to Miyu’s morality. She protects humans and yet feeds from them (she is drawn to the most beautiful of men and women). Not all those she feeds on would become vampires. A young man she bites is described later as “living in happiness” he may still walk around but his mind has retreated to another place – possibly the dreamlike world Miyu can transport people to. Some who are bitten grow and live normally until their blood awakens and they become vampires.

just damned creepy
There is almost a languid pace to Miyu but it is more than made up for in the atmosphere. The first couple of episodes establish the relationship between Miyu and Himiko and the other two offer more background to Miyu herself. I couldn’t help but feel, however, a little short changed – as though there was more story that needed to be told. Of course, further story was recorded 9 years later.

Still, a reasonably satisfying little anime 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Unknown said...

"Languid" Lol. I think the animators of this might have been Carmilla fans.

JaredMithrandir said...

Have you still not done the series yet?

One thing I noticed about that series is that early on Miyu was coming off as a very cold character, indifferent to the victims of the monster's she's slaying. Particularity in the episode were the women are turns into living mannequins and how it ends.

But then that just vanished and she started seeming like a more normal Magical Girl heroine.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Jared - n0. There are a few anime sets I need to dig out, rewatch and review - Miyu, Nightwalker Midnight Detective and Hellsing (series and ultimate) spring to mind

JaredMithrandir said...

Hellsing ultimate has the same issue I had with the first two season of Sailor Moon Crystal, in trying too hard to look the Manga, they missed the point of why Animation is different.

The original Hellsing Anime I enjoyed. I wish it had had a second season since there was clearly supposed to be more story, they hinted at the same Nazi aspect.

Back to Miyu, the OVAs and Series give her very different personalities. Or at least base don the Dubs, did you watch them Dubbed or Subbed?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Jared. From memory I watched both subbed (I always try to watch Japanese anime subbed).

I, of course, have the Hellsing series but watched it pre-blog and haven't re-watched for review. Hellsing Ultimate I have the first four volumes but would prefer to review with the full run