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Our review of Rosario + Vampire: Season Two, published January 8th, 2012, is also available.
You don't think you're all alone in this, do you?
Based on the manga of the same name, Rosario + Vampire: Season One was shown in Japan back in 2008 and has finally made its way to our shores thanks to (who else?) Funimation. Was it worth the wait?
Facts of the Case
Tsukune Aono is a regular human who attends a school that is supposed to admit only monsters. Fortunately for him, his delicious human scent makes him very popular with the girls, especially vampire Moka Akashiya, so he has plenty of protection from the violent student body. Eventually, they are joined by succubus Kurumu Kurono, witch Yukari Sendo, and snow girl Mizore Shirayuki, all of whom fight for Tsukune's affections.
Just to clear up the title of the show, "Rosario" is not a character's name; it refers to the rosary that Moka wears to keep her power in check. Removing the crucifix from the rosary allows her true, super-powerful self to emerge. The odd part is she cannot remove it herself; Tsukune appears to be the only one who can, although in truth no one else seems inclined to try.
Despite the fact the show and all of its episodes are titled "[Something] and a Vampire," the show is really about Tsukune.
Rosario + Vampire has a moderately original germ of an idea—a human trying to stay hidden in a school full of monsters—but instead of doing something unique, it follows the well-worn path of just about every anime ever made. The characters are likeable enough and the voice acting chemistry is really good, but we've seen all these characters before. The leads are pure-hearted, even those that act tough. Tsukune gains his stereotypical harem by believing everyone is good and therefore forgiving Kurumu, Yukari, and Mizore even after they attack him; this being fiction, it turns out he is right in every case. Even the fights are ripped from other anime. When they fight a fire demon, the demon goes through a series of Dragon Ball Z-like transformations, and even pulls out a Frieza-ish "not many foes are able to see me in my ultimate form" speech.
The episodes keep to a standard script: Someone is out to get Tsukune or Moka, and they try to figure out why. Then there is a confrontation wherein Tsukune is easily defeated but just happens to fall in the direction of Moka. His hand somehow grasps and removes the crucifix as he falls, releasing super-Moka via a lengthy animation featuring bats and a voiceover explaining what's happening, even though they've already shown the transformation multiple times in previous episodes. Moka then cleans up without breaking a sweat and Tsukune pleads for mercy on behalf of the defeated foe.
Adult fans of anime have long resigned themselves to the fact that the mentalities of the artists behind most of these series never developed past eighth grade. Short skirts, panty shots, unnaturally large breasts, and aggressive women who literally throw themselves at the lead male (who almost always appears to be a weakling) are par for the course. Rosario + Vampire is among the guiltiest in this regard, because it takes things too far. It's bad enough the show sexualizes teenagers; panty shots of an eleven-year-old just cross a line.
At least the show recognizes its own failings, even if it doesn't do anything to fix them. An annoying bat that fills the audience in on often-unneeded background information exclaims, "Expository dialogue is my job!" After every fight, the same bat flaps in to tell the audience how long the battle lasted. When the group joins the newspaper club, their first major news story is about a peeping tom, and the girls go on tirades about perverts, even as they willingly expose themselves throughout the episode for the television audience's lecherous pleasure.
So what we have here is an anime that is exactly the same as every other school-aged anime that's ever existed. The characters are the same. The outfits are the same. The animation is the same. All the episodes are basically the same. It would be very easy to write Rosario + Vampire: Season One off as just another generic anime.
The last couple of episodes in Season One tweak the formula a bit and do something potentially interesting to Tsukune. After preparing to dismiss the series, it somehow got me wanting more. If Season Two picks up where Season One left off and fulfills its potential, Rosario + Vampire might have some actual merit. Too bad it took so long to get to that point.
The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer suffers during dark scenes but is fine the rest of the time. The art and animation are right in the middle of the anime art continuum, with reasonable detail and shading. The Dolby 5.1 audio doesn't add much to the proceedings, with little surround effect and even less use of the subwoofer. The only extras are textless credits.
Rosario + Vampire is an average anime through the first eleven episodes, but there is potential for something better. The question remains: Will that potential be realized in Season Two?
Guilty of excessive use of vanilla.
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