Review for Rosario + Vampire Complete Collection
It’s another one of those releases that might have you scratching your head. MVM released Rosario and Vampire, and its sequel, Capu 2 on DVD back in 2012, although the shows actually date from 2008. They’re from that period when animators in Japan were working to 480 lines of resolution and NTSC formats. Add to that a show which is a comedy, with simple art, and plenty of bright and primary colours, and you might be asking the point of releasing Blu-rays that will be little better than an upscale. Then again, Rosario and Vampire is a supernatural harem romantic comedy, with more than its fair share of saucy fan service. It’s already sold out on pre-order, hasn’t it?
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.
The two seasons of Rosario and Vampire are presented across 4 Blu-rays from MVM as follows.
Season 1 Disc 1
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
Season 2 Disc 3
01. Reunion and a Vampire
02. Little Sister and a Vampire
03. Mother and Child and a Vampire
04. Body Measurements and a Vampire
05. Curry and a Vampire
06. School Trip and a Vampire
07. Bathroom and a Vampire
08. Youth and a Vampire
09. Skiing and a Vampire
10. Pretty Boy and a Vampire
11. Lilith’s Mirror and a Vampire
12. Holy Seal and a Vampire
13. Cross and Family and a Vampire
Actually, putting the upscale to one side, the image might be one reason to double dip. The first season on DVD had one of those old, ghosty NTSC-PAL standards conversions, and while the second might have had a native PAL transfer, the quality of the image was still NTSC soft.
Best of all, the 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs, looks to be created from the original source, rather than scaling up a DVD or broadcast media. Certainly when it comes to the show’s colour palette, there is a far greater nuance and richness than you’d get if they were just scaling up DVD masters. Given that the credits have been reworked to HD quality, and in Japanese as well for the opening credits, it’s clear that Funimation took advantage of a Japanese Blu-ray release, rather than creating their own up-scale. But given a couple of jerky pans, I do wonder if the Japanese Blu-rays were 1080i. There is the odd moment of stairstepping, and some light banding, but this is still one of the better Blu-ray upscales I have experienced.
But 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 even 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.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese, with player locked translated subtitles and a signs only track. I went with the Japanese audio, and found it to be a rather quaint 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 have yet to acquire. But the 5.1 mix does give the show a bit more space than the original stereo audio. The UK Season 2 DVD had issues with its subtitle formatting, but this Blu-ray has no such problems, with a nice font that is accurately timed and free of typos, and it looks as if Funimation have tweaked the translation since the DVDs.
The discs present their content with static menus. There are translated English credits following episode 1 on Season 1.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Servamp.
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Dance with Devils, and hosts the textless ending for the first season.
Disc 3 autoplays with a trailer for Blood Blockade Battlefront.
Disc 4 autoplays with a trailer for Blood-C
You also get the textless credits and trailers for Testament of Sister New Devil, D. Gray Man S3P1, and Future Diary – Mirai Nikki.
One extra not brought over from the DVDs is the Panty Montage from Season 1. You might want to hold onto the DVDs if you want those ad bumpers in big wodge, And if you’re the kind of person who likes Rosario and Vampire, you’ll probably miss the Panty Montage.
It’s easy to criticise harem rom-coms. The format itself is hardly politically correct, with a milquetoast male, incongruously gathering the attention of several girls at the same time, who for no discernible reason all fall in love with him, and manage to stay somewhat antagonistic friends with each other as well. The boy will conveniently lack a personality, all the better for the target male audience to identify with him, while the girls will all display some personality trait or cliché that once again, appeals to the male target demographic. But the harem rom-com is a staple of the genre, and anyone partaking of anime will encounter at least one in their hobby. And once in a while you’ll get a good one, a show with a decent story or premise, a male lead who has a semblance of a personality, and girls with character development beyond the bare minimum. Rosario and Vampire really is one of the good ones.
What helps it is the premise, with a human boy unexpectedly attending a school for monsters, while keeping his identity a secret (monsters typically don’t like humans). Given that a cute vampire falls for him on day one (or rather takes a shine to the taste of his blood), he has one very important reason to stay, against all the logical reasons to run for his life. Years before Monster Musume did it, Rosario and Vampire gifts Tsukune Aoba with a harem of monster girls, and it isn’t long before his harem grows to add a teenage succubus, a young witch, and a snow girl. Moka is a vampire with a difference though, a decidedly cute girl who has had most of her vampire powers sealed by an amulet, ostensibly to protect those around her from her super strength. But in a pinch, it turns out that Tsukune is the only one who can remove the amulet, unleashing the totally badass silver-haired Moka to kick butt. It turns out that they need to unleash the badass Moka practically on an episodic basis.
One good thing about this show is that Tsukune has something of a backbone compared to the regular harem protagonists, and a pretty well formed personality too; certainly enough to carry the show’s various punchlines and gags. He keeps hoping for a kiss from Moka, but is always disappointed when she goes for the jugular instead, and they have a tendency to go off into their own world during a conversation which becomes a recurring joke. Kurumu, the succubus wants Tsukune to be her first, to awaken her succubus powers, and is pretty obvious when it comes to her lust. Mizore the Ice Maiden is more of a stalker personality, who’s popping up when Tsukune least expects her. Yukari is a teenage witch, younger than the others, providing the flat-chested clichés to counterbalance the boobiness of her older peers. She’s bratty at first, with a crush on Moka, but eventually this develops into a desire for a threesome with Moka and Tsukune.
They wind up joining the school’s newspaper club pretty early on, so the girls have a reason to cooperate and be friendly with each other, when they aren’t rivals for Tsukune’s affections, and letting their rivalry come close to blows. Tsukune also avoids being battered by any of the girls, whenever he trips and falls into their boobs, as per harem clichés. The show isn’t shy about its nudity either, eschewing the sunbeams and steamy baths to be more obvious, although the character designs are only a little less chaste than Barbie dolls even when unclothed.
The first season has its formula that runs through the episodes for the most part. It’s all about Tsukune keeping his human nature secret, and facing some monster danger at the end of each episode, necessitating Moka to turn on her vampire powers, save the day, and celebrate by biting into Tsukune’s neck. Early on the foes are those monster girls that would eventually join the harem, Later on other monsters make their presence felt, culminating at the end of the season, when the school’s “security committee”, who already have a problem with the school newspaper, take on the members, and go overboard when they learn that Tsukune is a human.
The second season changes things up, eschewing the serious bent of the season 1 conclusion and instead going full-on for the laughs and the fan service, heightening the characters’ “charm points”. This isn’t the kind of show that is hurt by single-note characters though, relying on catchphrases. This season also introduces Moka’s kid sister, Kokoa, who wants her silver-haired, violent big sister back, and who comes to despise the wimpy, pink-haired Moka, her tepid boyfriend, and the annoying friends. The comedy mascot bat, which in the first season commentated on the end of episode action sequences, turns out to be her much abused hench-bat, and together they scheme to permanently restore ‘dark’ Moka.
Rosario and Vampire isn’t the best anime you’ll ever see. But it is one of the better rom-com harem shows out there, and one that has aged really quite well over the years. Unlike many mediocre harem shows there’s no real nasty element, no overt misogyny; it’s just pleasant fun all the way through, and a series that is very easy to watch, great fun to waste twenty-odd minutes on here and there. Normally, I’m not too keen on HD upscales of SD shows, but this is rather a good one when it comes to the greater fidelity of the colour palette. There’s no egregious sharpening or post-processing to make the show look faux HD either. But really, the original DVD releases weren’t all that special, so you can really see the improvement with the Blu-rays.