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[R1 DVD art]
AKA: 月詠 -MOON PHASE- (Tsukuyomi -Moon Phase-)
Genre: Vampire horror/drama with comedy elements.
Length: Television series, 26 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from FUNimation.
Content Rating: 15+ (Some violence, blood and neck-biting)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Master Of Mosquiton
Notes: Based on manga by Arima Keitaro, serialized in Comic Gum. Manga licensed by Tokyopop.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

Moon Phase

Synopsis

Morioka Kouhei is a photographer. To be more precise, he's a photographer for an occult magazine, mostly due to his innate ability to catch ghosts on pictures, even though he doesn't have the ability to see ghosts himself.

NEKOMIMI MODE!

One day, as he is taking pictures of a castle called "Schwartz Quelle", he sees a young girl. Upon returning to the castle with his associates, he meets her again. She introduces herself as Hazuki, a vampire girl, and asks for his help in escaping the confinements of the castle. Then, she bites him.


Review

At this point, you might be wondering what the deal with the "nekomimi mode" is. That was pretty much my assessment as well when I watched the first episode of this show. And you have to understand that there's no explaining Moon Phase without mentioning its rather bizarre opening theme, both in regard to video and music.

The intro theme, created by semi-obscure Turkish/French house DJ Dimitri from Paris, sounds like something taken from the Dope on plastic collections and run through the kawaii-ilizer. To be honest, I LIKE the music to the intro theme, but there's no getting around the fact that the lyrics are quite cringeworthy. (KISU KISU KISU. NEKOMIMI MODE!) And believe me when I say that the opening ANIMATION is no less weird than the music written for it.

Bizarreness of the opening theme aside, Moon Phase does lend itself to some strange comedy stints from time to time. Since the show is mostly character driven, this means human interaction (or, to be more precise, human/vampire interaction). Hazuki, the show's main female lead, is a vampire. To free herself from the castle, she drank the blood of Kouhei in an effort to turn him into her servant so that he could break the barrier around the castle, an effort which only half succeeded. Hazuki DID manage to get him to free her from her confinement, but finds herself frustrated over the fact that Kouhei doesn't seem to want to follow her orders despite the vampiric pact made. This, naturally, leads to lots of arguments, often resulting in face/mouth stretching, which makes up the main bulk of the comedy in this show.

Hazuki, on her part, is very well portrayed as the sheltered princess she has pretty much been for the majority of her life. She's spoiled to a fault, temperamental and egotistical, and doesn't seem to know a thing about interaction with human beings. That's not to say she doesn't have a heart, though. In fact, in the duration of this show as far as I've seen it, she grows a lot as a person. Partially due to the memories of her lost mother, but mainly through the help from her new aquaintances, Kouhei chiefly amongst them.

Kouhei, for his part, actually represents a bit of a rarity in anime titles like this. He's generally good-natured, but he doesn't balk at telling Hazuki off when she steps over the line or becomes too demanding. He's a little blander than Hazuki, partially because we don't really get to know much about his past like we do with Hazuki. He's later introduced as the "vampire's lover", which, as far as this series lets us know up to this point, is a human who is immune to the slave binding of a vampire's bite, amongst other things. Together, they set out with the task of finding Hazuki's mother, one of the several subplots of this series.

The one thing about this series would be that even after 10 episodes, I'm not entirely sure where they want to go with it. In the course of the show, several subplots have been opened, like the aforementioned search for Hazuki's mother. However, through some new character introductions, like another vampire woman, Elfride, we get to know about more elements. For instance, the enigmatic count Kinkell and his plans, which apparently involves Hazuki's alternate personality going by the name of Luna. The introduction of Elfride also brought the issue of Kouhei's status as the "vampire's lover", which certainly will have a large influence on the plot as it progresses.

The slight lolita complex about this show -- which is most notable in the intro sequence -- had me a bit worried. I certainly didn't want any romantic sequences to start up between Hazuki and Kouhei, seeing as Hazuki is a bit too, well... young... for that yet. Thankfully, there is nothing of the sort to be had, even after ten episodes. Hazuki and Kouhei seems to share more of a brother/sister relationship, which comes as a big relief to me. I can't predict what will happen in the later episodes, but I can only hope they postpone any potential romances until Hazuki grows some curves or something. In the mean time, you can rest assured that this show is actually quite free of fanservice, electing to focus on the horror aspects, lightly peppered with mystic vampire lore. (How accurate it is, I can't really tell.)

This, ultimately, brings me to the art and animation of the show. The character designs are actually pretty good, as are the background designs, especially in some of the more exotic locations. I especially like the way shadows and odd scene angles are taken into use, especially in the later episodes when things REALLY starts to get interesting. In a rather bizarre way, it reminded me a little about the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula. Well, if said movie was made by a Japanese cartoonist, that is.

So, basically, the good things about this show is the art, the scenes and the way the series carefully places hints and plot points to keep your interest peaked and making you want to see the following episodes. The bad things would be the unsettling prescense of a budding romance between the main characters, as well as the rather jarring cutesy stuff thrown in at rare, but still unsuitable times in an otherwise well-paced show. It's quite clear that the ending of this show is what will make or break it. So, since the show hasn't really done anything particularly WRONG up until now, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

(An interesting show with some oddly placed cutesy stuff in it, plus the most bizarre opening theme I've ever heard)Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: Well, Hazuki has two bathing scenes, one in a bathtub and one in a hotspring (in the middle of nowhere.) Both of those are more cutesy by nature than sexualized, so there's nothing really obscene happening in this series.

There are, however, some fights that draws blood (though not in large amounts) and a scene where someone gets stabbed in the stomach with a hand, though this scene, as well, is filmed and edited to make it seem less ... well, gory.

And lastly, there are a few neck-biting and blood drinking scenes. Hey, this is a vampire show. What did you expect?



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Partial (10/26)
Moon Phase © 2004 SHAFT/Tv Tokyo/Victor Entertainment
 
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