When a hapless young man ends up in a high school whose sole population is monsters, he’s caught in a tug-of-war between the vampire, the succubus, the witch and the snow spirit who all want a piece of his action … and who don’t know he’s human.
As long as your expectations remain low, Rosario + Vampire is a suitably brainless time-waster. But if you want anything more than innuendo and leering humor (much of which revolves around bust sizes), look elsewhere.
- Amusing enough for an undemanding audience
- Most of the jokes, as per other harem comedies, revolve around various innuendos
- Little in the way of an actual story
- Director: Takayuki Inagaki
- Animation Studio: Gonzo
- Released By: Gonzo
- Released Domestically By: FUNimation Entertainment
- Audio: English / Japanese w/English subtitles
- Age Rating: TV-MA (sexual situations, thematic material)
- List Price: $59.98 (DVD)
The new kid in class isn't a monster - and that's exactly the problem
Tsukune Aono never wanted things to get this complicated. His parents were determined to get him into a good school no matter what the cost, even if his grades didn’t allow it. After a rather outlandish bit of lucking-out, they manage to place him in a private school named “Yokai Academy.” Unsuspecting, Tsukune is bussed in … and on his first day there, discovers the school in question exists in a pocket dimension of its own and caters exclusively to all manner of monsters. Worst of all, humans are expressly forbidden. There’s a cute in-joke with the name: yokai is the Japanese word for monster, but the school’s advertising uses a different spelling of the word (陽海 instead of 妖怪), so Tsukune never realizes what’s up until it’s too late.
The only reason Tsukune’s not pitched out on his ear in ten seconds is because the school’s a training ground where monsters are sent to learn how to blend in with the human world—and are under orders to remain in human form at all times. That buys the poor guy a little time, but he almost immediately has a new problem: Moka Akashiya. Moka’s a cute young thing who also happens to be a vampire, and quickly develops an affinity not only for Tsukune but his blood. Most every episode ends with her guzzling gleefully from his neck, much to their mutual embarrassment.
There’s a further complication in that when the cross (the “rosario” of the title) affixed to her neck is removed, her true nature—a darker, more violent, more diabolical (not to mention sexier) version of her—emerges. It helps that Tsukune seems to be the only one who can release this side of her, since he has all the fighting ability of a damp sponge and routinely ends up in danger of being clobbered / devoured / seduced by one of his new classmates.
More girls, more problems
I put “seduced” on that list because a good half of Tsukune’s problems are in the form of other women—well, female monsters in human form, anyway. Kurumu, the succubus with the G-cup chest, attempts to steal Tsukune away from Moka—but hey, it’s only because her kind is dying out, and she actually likes the guy. (In what has by now become a thoroughly dependable harem anime formula, anyone who hangs out with the hapless hero long enough becomes unable to become anything but his friend because he’s just so dang affable. This show’s no exception.) In the same manner come Yukari the witch—who might well have a crush on both Tsukune and Moka; and Mizore, the yuki-onna or snow spirit, whose detached exterior hides her own smoldering passion for poor Tsukune.
Most harem shows suffer from the same problem as any other show that is based on any broadly-recognized formula. They assume it’s enough just to evoke the formula, dress it up in some cosmetic changes, and get the usual clutch of laughs. Rosario + Vampire doesn’t waste much time getting its hero in trouble, surrounding him with women, and having the camera leer at the latter while they get into one embarrassing situation after another with the former—in this case, by having the hero mistakenly grope everything female in sight. I also laughed at the bat character that flies on screen and brings the action to a dead halt while explaining key plot elements (and ends each of his cameos with a bizarre “Whee!”).
What I did not do, though, was care about any of what was going on except as fodder for a joke. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but it makes R+V bulk tiny against other shows that start with the harem formula and expand on it by giving us lively, sympathetic characters that make us want to see what they do next. Ouran High School Host Club starts with what looks like an obvious harem-story setup, but grows past it and gives its apparently-hapless heroine a depth and gravity no one—not the audience, not the men competing for her affection or attention—can anticipate.
Fitfully funny, but never more than that
R+V only begins to accrue real weight in its final few episodes, a hastily shoehorned-in bit of suspense wherein Tsukune’s secret is exposed to the school at large and his very life is in danger. The way his friends get him out of this pinch is clever enough, but the run-up to this part (or anything vaguely resembling a real story in this show) is a repetitive slog through multiple iterations of the same basic idea. Enter new female character, or male competition for same; cue Tsukune getting into trouble because of them, with at least one joke involving someone’s chest size; have Moka’s dark side bail everyone out; lather, rinse, repeat.
If I sound like I’m being harsh on this show, it’s only because FUNimation have brought out other, far better shows that flirt with the harem concept (again, Ouran) or tackle romance in an entirely new, refreshing way (Princess Jellyfish), or add in supernatural elements more creatively (Ah! My Goddess). Next to them, Rosario Vampire is empty calories: fun to watch, but when it’s over you’ve got a stomachache.