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[R2 DVD box art]
AKA: ロザリオとバンパイア (Rosario to Vampire)
Genre: Slightly perverted highschool comedy romance.
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by FUNimation.
Content Rating: 16+ (Violence, fanservice.)
Related Series: Rosario + Vampire Capu2 (sequel)
Also Recommended: Karin, Magic Users Club.
Notes: Based on manga by Ikeda Akihisa, published by Shueisha. The manga has been picked up by Viz for US distribution.
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars
 

Rosario + Vampire

Synopsis

Due to various circumstances, including his failure at getting into a normal highschool coupled with his father's less than savory means of getting him into a lesser normal one, Tsukune Aono finds himself en route to Youkai Academy. As the name suggests, the school is an educational facility for monsters and other mythical beings, and, naturally, if the students were to find out that Aono is a mere human, he would find himself in a rather dire predicament, to put it mildly.

Thankfully for him, he catches the interest of Akashiya Moka, who, surprisingly enough, finds out that he's a human almost from the get-go. But, since she took a liking to his blood, she agreed to help him keep his secret.


Review

In other words, what we have here is basically some sort of odd mixup between Tokimeki Memorial and Groovie Goolies, sans the constant barrage of puns. In the right hands, this show could probably have turned into something quite worthwhile, even as an off-the-wall comedy. The live action movie I watched this summer, namely Yokai War, proved to me that Japan certainly has no shortage of various monsters and mythological beings to base this show on. To its credit, Rosario + Vampire does feature a large variety of beings very much non-human, both Japanese in origin and not.

But before we get more into the cast, let's play "What's wrong with this picture?"

Now, before you go "What are you? Gay?", I'd like to add one little tidbit of information. The girl in the picture above is Akashiya Moka. Unlike Aono, she's a student at Youkai Academy in the truest sense. In fact, she's a vampire.

Yep, she's a vampire who walks around in broad daylight. At the beach, even, soaking in the sun. She also wears a rosario all the time (hence the show's name), which is basically a necklace with a cross on it. And.... and none of you are seeing anything wrong with this? I mean... Christ, does she order her takeout with extra garlic and a gallon of holywater to go with it as well? Oh... so she's vulnerable to water. That is to say, fresh water. Riiiight. I can see how that could be inconvenient, even at Youkai Highschool, but.... WHAT DOES SHE DRINK, THEN?!

I... can't believe I even asked that.

Let's move on to someone else before this show starts to really make my head hurt. Let's move on to... our main male lead and Moka's romantic interest; Tsukune Aono. Through some odd coincidence, he actually looks and sounds a whole lot like Aoba Riku from tokimeki Memorial ~Only Love~, right down to the nasally whiny voice. I mean... just look at this!

Go on! Take a guess who's who. Is that Riku on the left and Aono on the right, or is that Aono on the left and Riku on the right? MOUHAHAHAHA! But he doesn't just look and sound like Riku, he also seems to have the unconscious knack at attracting most of the main female cast of the show. He catches Moka's interest straight from the get-go, but his harem definitely grows as the show progresses, and at the end of the show, he's got four ladies vying for his attention. In all fairness, he's not a total wimp, but considering the school he attends, that only means he has the courage to set himself up as someone's punching bag.

The one who elevates the love situation to a triangle drama is Kurono Kurumu. She's a succubus, and when she first arrive, she intend to put her considerable curves to use by making every single male on campus her personal slave, which isn't a completely dumb idea, come to think of it. Naturally, she didn't take too kindly to Moka's popularity, which just as naturally made Aono her next target. Not to worry, though; with the intervention of Moka's totally awesome alternate personality (more on that later) and some in-the-nick-of-time kindness from Aono, she was more than ready to turn over a new leaf and rub her boobs on Aono's back for love instead. (Much to Moka's dismay, of course.) But what is a harem show without some rival shenanigan komedy?

Later on, the triangle romance quickly escalates to full blown haremism with the inclusion of loli witch Sendo Yukari. Since witches are known for being half-human, she faces a lot of prejudice at school. But if you thought that would teach her to appreciate those who don't treat her like crap, I'm afraid you're in for a bit of a disappointment. In fact, the sole target for her affection is Moka at first, and it's only at the end of the episode that Aono gets the chance to once again show off his nice guy magic, and hey presto... another romantic rival.

And with Shirayuki Mizore, that makes four. If her name wasn't enough of a hint already, she's the resident snow woman. At first, she comes across as rather aloof and withdrawn, but she soon warms up to Aono. (Yeah, I went there. Sue me!) She's still somewhat psychotically possessive through most of her introduction episode, which isn't helped by some rather unflattering rumours about her manner of entry and a rather emo "noone understands me" point of view, so let's take a guess. Is Mizore... A) Insane, violent and possessive? Or... B) Just misunderstood.

And with that, we round off the harem. Now, far be it for me to leave anyone out, but this show has such a large cast of characters, which is naturally, given the location of the story, but most of them are limited to small parts anyway, save for a few. I guess Morioka Ginei -- mostly referred to as "Gin-sempai" -- should be mentioned. He's the good-looking, hunk-a-dory counter to Aono's wimpitude, and he would probably have been Aono's romantic rival if not for the fact that he's a colossal pervert. And since he's the president of the newspaper club, that means he's a colossal pervert with a camera, and you all know what that mean, right? There's also Nekonome sensei, and I really shouldn't have to tell you what kind of "monster" she is. But then, she's a teacher, and teachers aren't really all that important in high-school harem shows. Lastly, there's this really obnoxious bat, which shows up on occasion to provide random (and often useless) tidbits of information. (Again, more on this later.)

Oh, did I forget to mention that this show has a huge amount of pantyshots? Oh yes, Rosario + Vampire borders on being as hilarious about it as Agent Aika, and when it comes to flashing those buttocks around; if Moka's alternate personality isn't doing high or roundhouse kicks, then you can be sure that camera angles are generally being kept low for those unsuspecting sweeping winds that tend to come out of nowhere to lift up the skirts of schoolgirls everywhere. I'm guessing they're doing this to counter the lack of nudity and boobs shots or to keep the age rating a little lower than nudity would allow it to be, while still reeling in those wandering eyes.

But... eh, it's mostly harmless, and it's not really why I'm disappointed with this show anyway. For all it's worth, Rosario + Vampire doesn't trip over itself trying to be something it's not. Much like Plastic Little or Grenadier, it has some fun with its own questionability, and it never really goes completely overboard unlike a lot of other shows I could mention.

Unfortunately, it also gets so caught up in its own pandering that it completely forgets to actually serve the audience anything else. Even Plastic Little had a fairly decent action story to its name, and Grenadier took its own pacifist storyline and dressed it up in utterly unrealistic gunfights. Rosario + Vampire does nothing -- well, almost nothing -- that elevates it at least a little bit above similar shows. The girls might put up a token fight over Aono, but they get along rather well for being romantic rivals. The show also literally goes with the "monster of the week" theme, where we're introduced to yet another student (or three) of Youkai Highschool. And, naturally, there's always a scuffle near the end where Aono accidentally removes Moka's rosario, which has the effect of awakening her alternate personality for the token fight, which is always, always, ALWAYS introduced by a random and really obnoxious bat.

Speaking of which, what the hell is it with that bat? It shows up on various occasions, usually spouting off random tidbits of useless trivia, like what kind of monster(s) our monster-of-the-week is AFTER it's transformed and we can clearly see what it is anyway. Or even repeating what happens to Moka every single time she transforms, as if we'd just forget it after each and every episode. It also tells us how long the fights last, as if I'd actually care. It always brings the story -- as much of it that can be found, that is -- to a grinding halt every time it appears. Hell, that damn bat even admits to itself how pointless it is some time near the end of the show, where it cuts off its info drop with a "...eh, who cares?"

But what galls me the most about this show is that Moka's alternate personality is a great addition to the show, if a severely underutilized one. She's not a wishy-washy dolt like the rest of them. In fact, she's pretty damn badass, yet not completely without compassion. The show has forced me to reassess my opinion of her several times, and it really gets my blood boiling that it never really goes anywhere with her. We never learn who she is, and why she's sealed away inside a rosario resting on the cleavage of a pink-haired dolt like Moka. Or is the badass personality the real Moka? They look almost the same, except that Badass Moka's hair is white, while Ditzy Moka's hair is pink. Just who IS the girl resting inside the rosario? Gah!

I swear, this show is like Shuffle, only with more fanservice. For the better part, you are put through your average "all the girls dotes on the guy" stupidity. Occasionally, though, Rosario + Vampire shows some glimmer of hope -- hope that there is something more worthwhile behind this nonsense, and that if you hold out some more... just a little bit more, then your answers will be... well, answered. As it turns out, there will be a sequel to this show later this year, and, like the idiot that I am, I will be putting whatever hopes I have left that Rosario + Vampire: Capu2 will provide me with what I seek. Because this show most certainly didn't.

There's some potential here, but they pretty much squandered most of it by forgetting to tell the story. What's left is strictly for the discerning fanboys, who can add some stars at their leisure.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: While there's more pantyshots here than you can shake a wooden stake at, the show never really goes any further with that. Also, the fights are no more than your average shounen fighting material. It's perfectly safe for older teenagers; they're the ones the show was intended for in the first place.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Rosario + Vampire © 2008 Gonzo.
 
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