Vampire Princess Miyu Anime Review
Vampire [Princess] Miyu
US Release By
Gothic Japanese Suspense
4 25-minute OAVs
1988-07-21 - 1989-04-21
A quiet gothic horror story about a vampire girl, Miyu, who's destiny it is to hunt down murderous demons known as Shinma and return them to their land of origin, the Dark. Miyu is pursued by the Spiritualist Himiko, determined to find out who Miyu is and to stop her from sucking the life blood from helpless humans. Each of the four episodes chronicle one of Miyu's encounters with a Shinma and the humans that it is affecting, from the perspective of Himiko's pursuit of Miyu.
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More unsettling than horrific, Vampire Princess Miyu is a refreshing take on the vampire horror genre, with the focus on creepy, surreal stories instead of angst, gore, and screaming. The art is sharp, the stories and characters deep and well developed despite the short length, and the acting impressive.
Though fans of more standard horror may be bored and disappointed, as a slow, unnerving ghost story with a strong traditional Japanese flavor, Vampire Princess Miyu is an unmatched work of art.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Vampire Princess Miyu is often called gothic horror, but it would be more accurate to say it is a delicate and finely-crafted work of unsettling suspense clothed in traditional Japanese artistry. Regardless of the label, it is an unusual and understated series of impeccable quality.
The story may be about vampires and demons, but Vampire Princess Miyu never resorts to gore or shock factor, relying instead on disturbing implications, unsettling situations, and creepy settings to provide more chills than horror. Nor does it wallow in supernatural angst; the emotional focus is on character exploration and the relationships between Miyu, the Shinma, and the humans they manipulate, revealing the series' shoujo manga roots.
Despite the shoujo undertones, Vampire Princess Miyu is not traditionally soap-operatic. Though the tragedy is often heavy, the emotional drama is far more subdued and traditionally Japanese in flavor, with a sense of melancholy and distance evoking classic Noh-flavored storytelling in place of the raw emotion of many shoujo stories.
One of the series' strongest points is the smooth, even-handed writing and directing, managing to use the short time available in each episode to develop ample depth in the stories and characters while maintaining a steady, unhurried pace. Nothing is wasted, nor is anything rushed, making the episodes feel full and seem longer than they actually are.
At the center of it all is Miyu, an impressively mysterious protagonist with a confident and knowing personality beneath her childlike facade. Interestingly, Miyu is kept at a distance through most of the series. Instead of experiencing the story from her point of view, we follow the spiritualist Himiko as she tries in vain to keep up with Miyu and discover her secrets. Himiko provides an interesting contrast to Miyu--she is an adult, but, despite knowing more than most, is still involved with powers well beyond her control.
Narumi Kakinouchi's artwork in the original manga is worth noting for its extremely unorthodox frame layout--the loosely-drawn lines flow between borderless panels on most of the pages, giving it an unusual but attractive look. While this anime adaptation is somewhat more concrete, it does an exceptional job of capturing some of the feel in a very different medium. The art is striking and beautiful, and the character designs translate the sharp, elegant look of the manga version quite well.
Where the series particularly stands out visually, though, is its distance from standard vampire action fare; instead of darkness and gothic architecture, the locations are often stark and mildly unsettling, featuring a mix of traditional Japanese settings and surreal locales. Likewise, the action in the encounters with the Shinma is more Noh performance than fist fight; precise, dance-like motions make up in artistic beauty what they lack in excitement. The animation is also well done, though the stories are slow enough that there isn't much of it and, being an older OAV, it isn't notably smooth.
The subdued Japanese acting is of consistently high quality. Kenji Kawai's musical score is somewhat less so. The closest thing the series has to a weak point, the background music is sufficiently creepy and has a Japanese flavor, but it sounds slightly too modern and synthesized for my taste, and doesn't always do as much as it could have to back up the style.
Overall, Vampire Princess Miyu is a refreshing take on the vampire horror genre, with the focus on creepy, surreal stories instead of angst, gore, and screaming. The art is sharp, the stories well-crafted, and the acting nuanced. If you're a blood-and-scares-style horror fan, you'll be bored and disappointed. It's also very different from Interview With the Vampire-style stories, although fans of those may enjoy it for the character development. As for what it is--a slow, unnerving ghost story with a strong traditional Japanese flavor--Vampire Princess Miyu is an unmatched work of art.
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Not entirely unlike some other supernatural suspense shoujo stories, with the CLAMP series Tokyo Babylon and X coming to mind first. Also sharing elements is the intricately constructed story of Boogiepop Phantom and the more action-oriented but similarly-themed Shamanic Princess. Finally, for a more creative match, there is the traditional Japanese-themed surreal mecha action of Gasaraki.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a manga series of the same name by Narumi Kakinouchi. That series was followed by Vampire Princess Yui. In addition to this classic OAV series, there is a much newer TV adaptation, but it is a more traditional action/horror story.
A note on the title: The characters used in the title can be pronounced "kyuuketsuki," which is the same as the Japanese word meaning "vampire." However, where "kyuuketsuki" is usually written with characters meaning "blood sucking demon", the final character in the title used for this series changes the meaning to "blood sucking princess", hence AnimEigo's choice of translation for the English title. When the title is written in English in the Japanese manga, however, simply "Vampire Miyu" is usually used.
US DVD Review
AnimEigo split the series across two DVDs, which feature both languages, a subtitle track, and little else of note other than the AnimEigo-standard liner notes. At least the discs are relatively inexpensive.
Slow and possibly a little intense at times, but pretty much fine for most ages, probably fitting into the 10-up, or maybe 13-up range.
Violence: 2 - Several people die, but not usually on screen, and it is not graphic.
Nudity: 0 - Absolutely nothing.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - A bit of stylized romance at times.
Language: 1 - Not much objectionable.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
Miyu: Naoko Watanabe
Se Himiko: Mami Koyama
Narrator: Goroh Naya
Ryooko: Kiyoko Kobayashi
Miyahito: Katsumi Toriumi
Aiko's Father: Hidetoshi Nakamura
Aiko's Mother: Yohko Matsuoka
Doctor: Tetsuyoh Genda
Female Student: Rena Kurihara
Ranka: Mayumi Shoo
Kei Yuzuki: Ryoo Horikawa
Shiba: Toshiya Ueda
Kei's Mother: Toshiko Asai
Kei's Brother: Masato Kubota
Kayo: Emi Shinohara
Girl: Yuka Yoshikawa
Female Student: Hiromi Nakamura
Larva: Kaneto Shiozawa
Lemures: Yuuji Mitsuya
Armor Monster: Tetsuyoo Genda
Policeman: Morimasa Murakuni
Miyu's Mother: Masako Ikeda
Miyu's Father: Kiyonobu Suzuki
With: Atsushi Abe, Mayumi Kimura
Screenplay: Noboru Aikawa
Director: Toshihiro Hirano
Art Director: Yohji Nangoh (Nakaza?)
Music: Kenji Kawai