Review for Rosario and Vampire: Season 1 Complete Collection
I’ve never understood the complaint that some fans have, that the anime is never as good as the manga. As far as I’m concerned, they are two different things, two different media, and really shouldn’t be compared. Admittedly I do prefer anime to manga. After all, there are colours, there are actors behind the characters, and the pictures move. There’s music the animators can get creative with special effects and the like, and best of all, I don’t have to turn the pages. The thing is that the story is usually the same, right? Ever since my local library realised that adults like to read comic books, they’ve invested in a manga section, and of late, when I hear that a new anime title is due on our shores, I borrow a couple of volumes of the manga to dip my toe in, confident that I’d get a taste of what is to come with the anime. Last month, I took out a few volumes of Rosario and Vampire, and found it to be an entertaining, and quite funny read. And then the check discs for Season 1 turned up...
Tsukune Aono is a failure, not to put too fine a point on it. He’s at an age where he should be graduating middle school and preparing for high school, except that he’s failed all his entrance exams. While his friends get to partake of all that high school life has to offer, he’ll have to repeat a year. That’s until his parents come up with the answer. They’ve found a school that’s willing to accept even a low flier like him, and soon he’s on the bus to the Yokai Academy boarding school. The warning from the bus driver wasn’t enough, passing through a tunnel from the bright shiny outside world into what looks like a Hammer movie ought to have been a hint, but Tsukune actually made it into class before the truth sank in. He’s in a high school for monsters, where as well as the normal lessons, the monsters learn how to fit into human society without giving themselves away. And while co-existence is a laudable goal, there still aren’t any humans allowed in school on pain of death.
By this point it’s already too late for Tsukune, as he’s already bumped into a cute girl. Moka likes the way Tsukune smells, and is keen to give him a hickey or two. Okay, so she draws a little blood... more than a little... she’s a vampire. But she likes Tsukune because he accepted her without judgement, and also he’s the first friend she’s had. She’s also the cutest thing in school, which causes no little jealousy among the male student body, and soon a whole herd of monsters want Tsukune’s blood, and not in the sexy Moka way. If that isn’t all, the cute monster girls in school also get the charm of Tsukune, wimpy though he is, and want in on the action, and soon he’s got to fend off the advances of a busty succubus, an abominable snow babe, as well as a loli witch. Fortunately Moka is there to defend him, as when he pulls the Rosario off the chain around her neck, her full vampire powers and personality are unleashed. Now all he has to do is keep his humanity secret in a school full of monsters that hate humans... simple.
Thirteen episodes of Rosario and Vampire are presented across two discs by MVM.
1. New Life and a Vampire
2. Succubus and a Vampire
3. Witchling and a Vampire
4. Farewell and a Vampire
5. School Swimsuits and a Vampire
6. Newspaper Club and a Vampire
7. Snow Girl and a Vampire
8. Math and a Vampire
9. Summer Break and a Vampire
10. Sunflowers and a Vampire
11. New Term and a Vampire
12. Security Committee and a Vampire
13. Tsukune and a Vampire
Rosario and Vampire gets a rather middling 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer courtesy of Australia’s Madman Entertainment. It’s a bit of an odd beast, which like most of the anime coming via Australia these days gets a native PAL treatment. But with Rosario and Vampire, it seems like it didn’t take for all of the show, and there are odd sequences in the series (most notably in the episode preview images during the opening credits) where it looks like it suddenly switches to NTSC-PAL, and all of a sudden you get a few seconds of blended frames and ghosting. This happens occasionally during the episodes as well, although for less time. Regardless of this, the overall treatment of the show is mediocre, with the image exhibiting a softness and lack of resolution that harks back to older anime transfers no matter that it is a PAL transfer.
Actually, old-fashioned is the key word when it comes to evaluating Rosario and Vampire, as it looks like a show ten years older than it actually is. The character designs and world designs are decidedly limited, with simple colours, outlines and low on detail. The animation itself is fluid enough, but never really approaching what I’ve come to expect from studio Gonzo. For instance, close to mid range scenes show the detail in the character animation, but should they be in the background of a scene, the detail vanishes far more quickly than you would expect it to given the modern HD age.
On my check disc 1, I suffered a variable skip and glitch around the 1:31.20 mark, but only on my DVD player, not my Blu-ray player. It’s the sort of glitch that comes from an error in manufacturing the particular disc, not an error in the master, and sure enough MVM tested some discs and couldn’t reproduce the fault. But it might be something to keep an eye on if you have a Sony DVP NS-705V and it turns out to be a player incompatibility instead.
You have the choice between DD 5.1 English and DD 2.0 Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. I went with the Japanese audio, and found it to be a rather quaint audio experience, once again very reminiscent of older anime. The dialogue is clear enough, with plenty of catchphrases, and the whole gamut of cutesy girl voices, and it’s the first anime in quite a while that I’ve seen that makes obvious use of insert songs during the show, very early 2000’s in style. The English dub is the usual Funimation comedy dub effort, which for me is a taste that I am yet to acquire. But the 5.1 mix does give the show a bit more space than the original stereo audio.
Both discs get static menus, and jacket pictures to look at when the discs aren’t spinning (in compatible players).
The extras are all on disc 2, and no doubt you’re intrigued by the Panty Montage that tops the list...
The Panty montage is a 5 minute slideshow, which unfortunately isn’t a screenshot gallery of all the various panty flash moments in the episodes. In that case it would be an hour long slide show. Instead it gathers the artwork that heralds the next episode previews for each episode, all of which consist of a billowing school mini-skirt, and a different panty of the week to admire. Here you get to see all of them without text obscuring the imagery.
The rest of the extras boil down to textless credit sequences. We get two broadcast openings, one broadcast closing, and two on-air closings.
Finally there are trailers for Fruits Basket, Broken Blade, and Slayers Revolution.
It’s not as good as the manga... You must have seen that coming. But if you come to Rosario and Vampire after reading the manga expecting a faithful adaptation of the source material, you’ll definitely be disappointed. It’s not just that the low budget aspirations of the anime have absolutely no chance in doing the fantastic artwork of the manga justice, it’s that in bringing the story to screen, the tone has been changed completely, the edge and darkness of the manga has been excised, as has the depth in some of the characters, and what’s left has been shifted to a whole other genre, the harem comedy. The Rosario and Vampire manga has harem comedy elements to be sure, but there’s a balance with its supernatural tale. The anime is an out and out harem comedy, heavy on the fan service, and with a little bit of spookiness thrown in to remind us that these cute girls are monsters.
So let’s put the manga to one side and approach the Rosario and Vampire anime on its own merits. It’s not the greatest harem anime around, it sticks very closely to the classic trope of non-descript hapless teen male protagonist, surrounded by all shades of sexy female, all lusting after him in one way or another. Tsukune Aono is the hapless teen male that winds up in a monster high school by mistake, and it’s only the attentions of said sexy females that keep him from running for the hills. His defining character trait is an inability to say no when Moka Akashiya wants to chow down on his neck. She’s the vampire of the title, a girl who grew up isolated and fearing humans, but as Tsukune is the first person to accept her for herself, she’s soon devoted to him, and sucking his blood as he smells the most divine of all. And since she’s the cutest girl in the school, draped around the hapless teen from day one, and when there are countless other guys attracted to her, there’s no little jealousy for Tsukune to deal with. Also, all the other cute girls are wondering just what there is to this wimp that has said cutest girl draped around his neck, hence the added female interest and rapid accumulation of a harem.
Moka at least has more dimension to her in the form of a multiple personality disorder. Normally she’s the cute, likeable, pink-haired bundle of squee, that everyone is attracted to, but once the Rosario around her neck is removed, something only Tsukune can do, the inner Moka is revealed, bad-ass monster defeating, silver-haired super vampire, revealed with a magical girl (monster?) transformation, complete with flashes of nipple-less boobs. Although she only has one monster defeating move, a panty revealing high kick. Soon there’s also big-boobed succubus Kurumu lusting on Tsukune as well, joined by young bratty and cute witch Yukari, and quiet moody emo ice queen Mizore (who Tsukune manages to thaw).
It’s all pretty much standard harem comedy fare, with various girls competing for this personality vacuum’s attention, leading to lots of goofing around in a high school situation, where panties will invariably be flashed, and usually ending with Moka with her lips clamped to Tsukune’s jugular. What provides the drama, and the meat to the episodes’ narrative, is the monster setting, as there will invariably be a monster menace threatening this happy harem, potential members letting their jealousy get out of hand before being invited in, other monster guys lusting after the girls, other monster girls lusting after Tsukune, or someone threatening to uncover the secret that Tsukune conceals, that he’s actually a human. Most of these episodes will thus have a climax where they get in trouble, Tsukune pulls the Rosario off Moka’s neck, she kicks arse, and they all live happily ever after, at least until the next episode’s crisis.
But these crises are never too intense, although you’ll probably recognise them as heavily altered storylines adapted from the manga, with the intensity sucked out, and added comedy to replace it. It’s only the final two episodes where the happy harem is genuinely threatened. Other than that, it’s comedy all the way, with winks to the camera, an ever fragile fourth wall, a wisecracking bat delivering exposition, and an emphasis on panties. If there is one thing that I find particularly disappointing about the anime, it’s the way that the cliff-hanger in episode 9 is dealt with. We leave the story with the cast in peril, with lives hanging in the balance, and the drama intensifying, but the start of episode 10 begins with all of that resolved. It happens off screen, and we get straight back to the harem comedy and lighter outlook. That’s the one point that I felt that Rosario and Vampire was cheating me.
Rosario and Vampire is not a great anime, but it can be great fun. It all depends on how much anime you have seen, and of what sort. When I started watching anime on DVD, one of the first shows I watched was Love Hina (another anime that I found out much later was inferior to its source manga), and it too is a harem comedy. It’s not all that great, but it is funny, and it did make me hungry for more anime. Rosario and Vampire fills that same niche. It’s a great way to get into anime, as it’s a solid and entertaining harem comedy. That’s as much of a staple of the medium as you can get, and Rosario and Vampire is very good at delivering on the basics. If you haven’t seen a lot of anime before, or you don’t have a lot of harem comedy in your collection, then this a great purchase for which I’d rate it a 7. Knock that down a notch or two depending on how much anime you have seen, as the experienced will get a ‘seen it all before’ feeling from the show.