Monday, December 28, 2009

Koishite Akuma – review


Directors: various

First aired: 2009

Contains spoilers

Koishite Akuma was a ten episode J-Drama – in other words a drama from Japan – that ran over the summer of 2009. Whilst it is known as the Loving Demon it has a tagline of Vampire Boy.

The vampire lore within it develops over the ten episodes as the vampire boy, Kuromiya Ruka (Nakayama Yuma), learns more about himself. However he is not the first vampire we meet.

Kaito with victimThat honour falls to Kaito (Kondo Masahiko) whom we see on a rooftop, before a large moon, holding a woman in his arms. He calls her foolish and states that the entire human race is simply prey to vampire kind and there are not enough human’s to feed the vampires’ collective hunger. Bizarrely that is the last we hear about any apparent food shortage. We later discover that Kaito is 400 years old.

Sakuraba Nanami as Tagaki KaoriTagaki Kaori (Sakuraba Nanami) is the school representative for her class. On her way in she sees a strange boy but by the time she tells her teacher, Natsukawa Makoto (Kato Rosa), he has vanished – we do notice, however, that Ruka finds bright light problematic. Later Makoto is told by the assistant chairman, Fujii Masayuki (Takahashi Hitomi), that she is to get an exchange student from Romania.

We note that vampires have telekinetic powers when Ruka makes a bike crash and later, when sitting on a bridge in the rain, he is seen by Makoto who thinks him suicidal. She runs up to him but is shocked at his resemblance to her first love, Ayumu, who died ten years before (when they were fifteen). So, who is Ruka and where has he come from?

is she the one?Not from Romania, though that is his cover story. Kaito has placed him with a Japanese family who run a Chinese restaurant – convincing them, through his mind controlling powers, that he is related to them distantly. Ruka has not yet developed his fangs and is on an initiation outing. He must find his destined woman, at which point his fangs will emerge and he must take her lifeblood to become a full vampire. He is at the school to find a victim – at one point he thinks it might be Kaori.

Makoto makes his fangs come outIt is both to his shock and disgust that his fangs emerge with Makoto and he does not want to feed from her; he finds humans repulsive but her more so. He then learns that he must overcome this prejudice and bite her as, if he does not by the first full moon following his fangs appearance, he will turn to dust and it will be as though he never was. Of course things are not as easy as they might seem. The longer he is amongst humans the more feelings he develops, he also starts to regain his memories. He is not a pure born vampire (there is no such thing) he was Ayumu and he still loves Makoto.

blood at mouthIt is here, within the drama aspects, that this struggled. We have the fact that he makes friends with Handa Horoto (Nakajima Kento), who loves Kaori but she falls for Ruka. We have the deep seated attraction between Ruka and Makoto and all the forbidden love aspects to that as she is his teacher and they now have a ten year age gap between them. We have the fact that Fujii Masayuki is in love with Makoto and wants to marry her. The programme drips with romantic melodrama.

fangsAdd to that the fact that it stretches those romances out and out and out, over ten episodes. The baseline romances could have been explored quicker and there wasn’t enough supernatural peril to keep me as interested as I should be. Until… suddenly there was an episode when another vampire. Kobayakawa Miho (Shimizu Mao) came into the series, took over the school and made Makoto the object of his hunger (unusually, given he took the school over because mid-teen girls were his normal favourite snack). This episode (8) suddenly forgot all about the melodrama and aimed for the jugular – but by the end we went back to the romance storyline and everyone had forgotten what occurred.

bite marks in neckAs for vampire lore – this was rather good in places and patchy in others. Beyond the unusual, feed within a month of fangs emerging or vanish, we find that vampires can be reflected but not photographed... yet somehow vampires can be filmed and that footage sneaked to people. Sunlight causes discomfort and too much exposure might be fatal. Crosses will ward off vampires and a distinction is made between Western style vampires (like these) and Chinese vampires.

lifting a cabinetGiven their ability to get into apartments one suspects they either fly or jump very high – but this is not shown. They do, however, have super strength – be it lifting cabinets or hitting thugs so that they fly across building sites. There is some indication that garlic is a deterrent (yet, to make his adoptive family happy, Ruka eats a garlic filled snack with no obvious damage done) but they have no sense of taste when it comes to human food. Moonlight reflected on a crucifix, into a vampires eye, causes said eye to bleed. As I say patchy in places as it was inconsistent but some aspects – like the moonlight reflected from the cross was very interesting.

Kaito feedsAs for the acting, the principles seemed very natural. Ruka was somewhat pouty at times (as the role required) but then we got counterbalancing lines, from Kaito, such as “a wolf dying of starvation in front of a sheep is just pathetic.” Perhaps some other vampire brands need to remember that line! However, as pouty as Ruka was, Nakayama Yuma was very natural in the role and we bought his relationship with Makoto. As for Kato Rosa I was taken not only by her performance but by her rather infectious smile.

vamp ourAll in all this was okay. It could have done with cutting about half its length out though – for my taste at least. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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