ADV Films // 2007 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mina Rhodes (Retired) // January 23rd, 2008
We all have our demons. Lucia has our backs.
What else aside from an anime could have a title like Venus Versus Virus? A surprisingly recent series (it finished its initial run in Japan on March 29, 2007), ADV Films has dubbed it, subbed it, and sent it out into the North American market in a speedy fashion. Given the quick turnaround from Japan to America, one would expect Venus Versus Virus to perhaps be something interesting, with a high possibility of developing a fanbase.
Or maybe the rights were just cheap.
Sumire Takahana is a high school girl who sounds and acts like a pre-schooler. Lucia Nahashi is an eyepatch wearing, demon slaying, emotionally reserved young woman in a tacky Gothic Lolita outfit. This odd couple does battle with "Viruses," and no, that doesn't mean they are joining Annie Lennox's SING campaign. Viruses are demons, or "evil spirits," or poorly designed, generic anime monsters. Take your pick. They prey on human souls, but only the souls of people who can see them for some reason. I don't know about you, but if I were a soul-sucking demon thingy, I'd consider all souls fair game -- but that's just me. These "Viruses" are apparently non-corporeal, as they can change shape and possess the living, but somehow they can be harmed by solid bullets. Solid bullets filled with "antibodies." Viruses...antibodies...how clever. The homebase for these Virus fighting teens is the Venus Vanguard, an antique shop that is actually a front for a high-tech anti-demon organization that is comprised, apparently, of only two other people besides Sumire and Lucia: there's Laura, who is a little girl, also sporting a tacky Gothic Lolita outfit, who supposedly helps with weapons, but really just stands around gobbling pocky and generally being insufferable -- and then there is the bearded Mr. Nahashi (he has a beard to let us know he's "wise"), who is not actually Lucia's father, and would therefore be better named Mr. Plot Exposition (because that is apparently his sole purpose).
Will the Venus Vanguard successfully defeat the Virus menace in each episode?! Will Laura and Mr. Nahashi serve any kind of purpose?! If Sumire sounds and acts like a pre-schooler, and her boyfriend gets to second base, is that a form of pedophilia?! Of course, doubtful, and not in an anime.
Venus Versus Virus is exactly like every other 'demons n' stuff' anime out there. Helium voiced schoolgirls? Check. Demonic forces in a modern setting? Check. Clunky, "badass" catchphrase ("I'll exterminate you gently!")? Check. Forced, silly melodrama (oh no, my demon possessed sister, don't die and turn to sand!!!)? Double check. But for those who still remain curious, here is a breakdown of the four episodes featured in this initial volume:
Episode One: "Innocent Invitation"
A girl drops by the Venus Vanguard to request their help. Apparently, some malevolent shadow has been following her around, and her friends have begun to disappear. Lucia and Sumire go to the park where she first saw the demon fiend, and Sumire is terrorized by caterpillars. Oh, the horror. Random fainting occurs. Lucia begins to suspect that their new client is hiding something spooky, and decides to use Sumire as bait to lure it out. As Lucia and Sumire battle evil, Mr. Nahashi hops on his laptop and indulges in a voice-over, explaining that Sumire is a living anti-Virus who tends to go into "berserker mode." Childish behavior? Berserker mode?! All that's left is "who wants cake?" (kudos to anyone who got that reference).
Episode Two: "Divergent World"
The Venus Vangaurd gang tries to help Sumire somehow control her bersker power through a series of tests, all of which are failures. Whenever Sumire goes berserk, she always says "Something smells good!" Must be cake she's smelling. In a fit of angst, Sumire runs away and tries to resume her old life of school, giggle fits, and "slumber parties." But those darned Viruses won't leave her be!
Episode Three: "Request Indication"
A little girl stops by the Venus Vanguard to request their help. Apparently, her brother has been cold to her, locking himself in his room and refusing to see her. Now that's demonic behavior if I ever heard it. Lucia and Sumire go to investigate. But the little girl is not all she seems...Luckily, Mr. Nahashi, Lucia, and the girl's little brother will all deliver tedious voice-overs, explaining everything to us come episode's end.
Episode Four: "Dizzying Meeting"
Back to the beginning! Essentially, the "how it all went down" episode. Sumire is just an innocent, ignorant little schoolgirl, oblivious to the deadly demonic silliness around her; until she touches a spooky broach, that is. It pricks her finger, she licks the blood, a crazy transformation happens, and suddenly she can see malevolent blobs of jello everywhere! Luckily for Sumire (but not the audience), Lucia shows up and rescues her.
Venus Versus Virus is not a bad series, per se. It's simply cliche, middling, mediocre, and uninvolving. The characters are flat (and mostly annoying), the overall story mythology is boringly familiar, and the plots are clumsy and inelegant. It seems roughly 30% of each episode is comprised of flashbacks, which are always accompanied by a goofy border that looks like the borders used for the credits sequences on ancient VHS copies of The Dark Crystal. The end of episode three is actually rather sad, but any real poignancy is completely dashed by a ridiculously long series of flashbacks, which turn what could have been a haunting scene into something cheesy and melodramatic.
ADV's presentation of the first four episodes is serviceable. All are presented in their original 1.78:1 broadcast aspect ratio, and are anamorphic, but for such a recent series, the visual representation here is rather lacking. The picture is soft, and compression artifacts are occasionally visible. The picture quality steadily improves as the series goes on, however. The audio is presented in two rather basic Dolby Digital stereo tracks of the original Japanese (with excellent English subtitles) and an English dub. The dub is fine, as most of them from ADV are, but the Japanese does tend to be more expressive. The only extras supplied are clean (textless) opening and ending animations, as well as some trailers for other ADV releases.
Perhaps I am being too hard on Venus Versus Virus. It's watchable enough, and moderately entertaining. The four episodes in this set are weak, but the series has some small potential to at least evolve into something more complex and interesting. An entire subplot about some sort of grand villain is only hinted at in this set, promising more complicated plotlines to come (I hope). Still, as Venus Versus Virus stands now, there are countless other titles available that are far worthier of a viewing.
Venus Versus Virus, Vol. 1: Outbreak will most likely appeal to young teenagers, or anime fans whose exposure to the genre comes mainly from Adult Swim. Anime fans with more sophisticated tastes should look elsewhere.
Guilty of being low-rent and uninspired.
Review content copyright © 2008 Mina Rhodes; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening & Closing Animation
* Official Site