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Preview Image for Moon Phase: Phase 1 (UK)
Moon Phase: Phase 1 (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000096612
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 23/8/2007 21:37
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    Review of Moon Phase: Phase 1

    7 / 10


    You would think that if there is one thing that anime doesn`t need more of, it`s vampires. They`re everywhere. In fact the first dual language anime title I reviewed for this site was Vampire Princess Miyu, and since then they have appeared in the titles that I watch on a regular basis. Eastern mythology is certainly rich and diverse, and the vampires that appear in anime don`t always follow the rules of no sunlight, garlic or crucifixes. Indeed, they may not even have a supernatural background, as many genetically engineered bloodsuckers have appeared in cyberpunk titles. There should be no surprise at their proliferation in the medium. The idea of dying by exsanguination implies a degree of intimacy between killer and victim; hence vampires are depicted as charming, mysterious and attractive. This works exceedingly well with anime`s art style, so they appear on a regular basis, even in series you would least expect. I`ve recently encountered a ninja bloodsucker in Basilisk, and Negi Springfield has a vampire in his class in Negima. Vampire specific titles aren`t rare either, and alongside Miyu, I`ve had the chance to review titles like Lunar Legend Tsukihime and Trinity Blood, which recently made its UK debut. So you would be justified in asking, with such a wide range of anime yet to be seen in the West, is there room for yet another vampire anime? Well, we haven`t done cute vampires yet…

    Kouhei Morioka is a psychic photographer, who works for a paranormal magazine. He comes from a family of exorcists, but is unique in that he has an immunity to psychic phenomenon. It`s sheer luck then that he gets the pictures he does. His life changes when he goes on assignment to a mysterious castle in Germany, and winds up releasing from her imprisonment, a teenage vampire named Hazuki with a penchant for wearing kitten ears.

    The first five episodes of Moon Phase are presented on this disc from Revelation.

    1. Big Brother, Be My Slave
    Kouhei is on assignment in Germany with his editor Hiromi, and his exorcist cousin Seiji Mido. Their object of interest is castle Schwarz Quelle, mystically sealed off from the outside world. But since Kouhei is blind to the spirit world, he can enter the castle and be unaffected by ghost and spirits. Inside the castle he meets a young girl named Hazuki, who is pleased that Kouhei has travelled all this way to photograph her. Hazuki is actually a teenaged vampire, one who is prevented from leaving the castle by her servant Vigo as well as the mystical barrier that surrounds the building. Kouhei is her chance to escape, but first she must give him a little love bite.

    2. Call Me Mistress
    It didn`t work. It was her first taste of human blood, and Kouhei should have been in her thrall, but Hazuki didn`t count on that immunity of his. Kouhei`s just taken aback at the volatility of this girl, who is all of a sudden throwing a tantrum when he refuses to obey her wishes. Hazuki has to try conversation where hypnosis failed. She has to convince Kouhei to shatter a crystal to drop the barrier, and defeat Vigo to free the vampire. But Kouhei wasn`t reckoning on all the mystical energies of the castle vanishing, and with it the story. But after going back to Japan empty-handed, there is a surprise waiting for him at home.

    3. Big Brother, Let`s Live Together
    Hazuki is relieved to find that her powers do indeed work, when she mesmerises her way to Japan, but she still can`t affect Kouhei who is immune, or his family who are protected by a spell of warding. The shoe finally drops for Kouhei when his grandfather explains that Hazuki is a vampire. Hazuki wants Kouhei`s help in finding her mother, but this reawakens his own feelings of abandonment. He reacts harshly and Hazuki runs off. Now Kouhei must find her before the sun rises. Back in Germany, someone wants Hazuki returned to the castle, and an emissary is sent to Japan.

    4. Big Brother, I Feel Like Kissing
    Kouhei has new houseguests to get used to. Hazuki is set to work helping around the house and in the antique shop, whilst wearing cute kitten ears at the request of his grandfather. There is also a spiritual messenger in the form of a cat named Haiji who is keeping watch over Hazuki. It`s nice and domestic, but when the full moon comes, the need for blood overwhelms Hazuki and she heads for Kouhei`s bedroom. Kouhei is still refusing to be her slave, so she has to go on the prowl for other victims. When she encounters a gang of thugs in the park, it awakens Kouhei`s protective instincts. Meanwhile someone is spying on them both.

    5. It`s A Full, Full Moon
    The spy is revealed as beautiful vampire Elfriede, who has arrived in Japan to take Hazuki back to Germany. When Hazuki isn`t agreeable, Elfriede tries pitting her strength against her, but when she sees Hazuki`s power, she realises that there is more to her relationship with Kouhei than meets the eye. Kouhei just sees in Elfriede the ideal model for his photography, which infuriates Hazuki no end. Elfriede tries again at the antique shop, but when she sees that Kouhei remains immune to Hazuki despite her drinking his blood, her priorities change.


    Moon Phase gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer consistent with most modern anime series, and given that it is barely three years old, there is little to complain about with the original source material. The transfer itself is adequate, there are little of the NTSC-PAL symptoms immediately apparent, and the image is clear and sharp most of the time. There are odd moments of indistinctness when the scene gets particularly dark and misty, but nothing too noteworthy. That is except the credit sequences. Some shows have alternate angles which show both the original and English language credits, but Moon Phase only has the English credits, and these are significantly degraded compared to the rest of the animation, suffering from severe aliasing. Fortunately there are textless credits in the extras so you can see them unsullied.

    Moon Phase has a toned down palette suitable for its more gothic subject matter, although the cute character designs are at odds with this. We start off with a couple of very gothic looking episodes set in Germany, as Kouhei and friends explore a mysterious castle. These episodes are very stylised at times, almost monochrome in look and very effective given the vampire story. Back in Japan, we revert to a more familiar look, but the toned down palette still permeates the imagery. The animation varies from average to impressive, with some dynamic animation early on offering a different perspective on the characters, and also following through to the action sequences. Later on there are a few more of the more static scenes typical of anime, but the show does have a stronger visual energy than usual.


    You get a choice of DD 5.1 and 2.0 English, DD 2.0 Japanese, all supplemented by a translated English subtitle track, or a signs only track. You know you are entering cute territory as soon as you hear the infuriatingly catchy theme tune, "Neko Mimi Mode". In my opinion, as practically always, the original Japanese track is the way to go, and the stereo track offered here has no problems. The dialogue is clear, and the action gets a decent amount of separation. The 5.1 track does offer more in terms of ambience and directionality, but it is still predominately a front-focussed affair.

    But then there is that dub. I think a small problem that I have with dubs is the small actor base. Of course it is useful for a company like Funimation to have a core set of talent who know how to work in ADR, but when you hear the same voices crop up from series to series, it can get a little tedious. And then there are teenaged girls. I`ve heard several dubs, and despite the overall quality, teenage girls rarely sound like teenage girls. They sound like older actresses putting on an excessively high-pitched voice to emulate the original Japanese performance, instead of a genuine teenaged girl. I find the English language version of Hazuki to be exceedingly annoying (more than the character warranted), but tolerances may differ.


    There are just your basic anime extras on this disc. You get the jaggie free textless credit sequences I mentioned earlier, as well as trailers for Full Metal Alchemist and the Tenchi Muyo Ryo-Ohki boxset.

    Slightly more useful are a set of character profiles, eight in all, although the text is quite small, and you may wish for a larger screen to read them on.


    A cute horror story is the last genre you can envisage, but astonishingly Moon Phase pulls it off. Of course the horror isn`t nearly as ghastly as you would expect, this isn`t blood or guts anime, nor is it the eerie unearthliness of the modern Eastern Horror that Hollywood so desperately tries to emulate. The PG rating is perfectly satisfactory given the subject matter. What we get here is a very spooky and gothic feel, especially in the first two episodes.

    Kouhei, a psychic photographer with no psychic ability has to enter and investigate a spooky German castle. The first episode begins with a very effective red and black palette, using the limited colour scheme to convey an uneasy feeling. The sound design comes into play as well, and I certainly got the feeling that the show would be quite dark and mysterious. That was until Kouhei made it inside the castle and discovered Hazuki. Hazuki is a teenage vampire who has never drunk blood before. She was trapped in the castle, and her means of escape would be to enthral a slave to do her bidding. Charming and mysterious, she put the moves on Kouhei, seduced him with the promise of posing for a few photographs, and then sank her fangs in. But when she realised that he wasn`t under her spell, we see another side of the teenager, a stroppy tantrum when she can`t get her own way. Cute and annoying, a devastating combination that eventually bemuses Kouhei into reluctant acquiescence.

    From then on Moon Phase follows a rather familiar pattern, that of mysterious girl with odd powers living with hapless teen who will refuse her advances. The comedy that follows is nothing new, and as the series progresses, I`m sure a harem of female characters will show up to plague Kouhei. The show starts with his editor Hiromi who keeps pressing him for spooky photographs, belittling his ability, and then refusing his offerings when he has them developed. Haiji is a cat that isn`t all it seems, and shows up early in the series, and by the end, the vampire Elfriede who was sent to retrieve Hazuki has developed instead a fascination with Kouhei. Kouhei is attracted to Elfriede where Hazuki`s charms failed, which leads to much grumbling on her part, but when it comes to Hazuki, Kouhei is resolutely chaste, as teenaged anime males must be in situations like this. Of course there must be a lecherous grandfather to make up for this, and in Ryuuhei Mido there is. He owns the house where Kouhei and now Hazuki live, and as soon as Hazuki moves in, he makes sure that she is wearing kitten ears at all times. Miaow!

    What makes Moon Phase stand out is that the humour doesn`t overwhelm, not even the sequence where random pots and pans are falling from the rafters. There is a strong balance between cute, funny, and the overall story. We get quite a bit set up in these five episodes. Kouhei may be dense and immune to psychic phenomenon, but his family is steeped in the supernatural. His grandfather may run an antiques store, but he can recognise a vampire when he sees one, or a cat without a rectum. Kouhei`s cousin Seiji is a powerful exorcist, and Kouhei has abandonment issues with a mother who he was told died when he was a child. This mirrors Hazuki, whose mother left her in Germany two years previously. Hazuki has some part to play in the vampire community; she apparently has an alter ego named Miss Luna whose appearances are tied to the full moon, and whose destiny is of interest to Count Hinkel of Schwarz Quelle castle. So much so that he has sent Elfriede to retrieve her. Hazuki is in Japan to find her mother, but finds a mystery instead, to which the cat Haiji is an integral part. Then, when Elfriede sees Kouhei, she realises that because of his spiritual immunity, he has an import that may change her destiny as a vampire. It all looks very promising for the subsequent episodes.

    Moon Phase has an interesting start in these five episodes. There`s no standout moment that really hooked me to the series, but all the ingredients are there for something interesting to develop. I wouldn`t have though that adorable and spooky would fit together this well. It`s a show where the sugary sweetness and familiar comedy doesn`t overwhelm the story. How much you like this show will depend on how much cute and annoying you can tolerate. If it is more than Kouhei can, then Moon Phase is well worth a try.

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