Anime Review #1- Rosario + Vampire

I’ve actually been meaning to write about this one for a while. The premise is perfect. A boy who fails to get into any prestigious private schools is accidentally enrolled in a school for monsters, Yokai Academy. The only human, surrounded by snow ghosts, succubi, werewolves, vampires, witches, cat people and blob monsters quickly attracts a posse of magical females… who all want him. The age and premise make this akin to a gender-swapped City of Bones. Powerful females constantly protecting the puny human from a world that he was unwillingly cast into? Multiple suitors vying for affection? One of them is an outright stalker?

Yup.

Tsukune Aono flirts with Moka Akashiya (who is a sweet girl wearing a rosary that keeps her violent vampire form underwraps), Tsukune likes her but doesn’t like sharing his blood and isn’t 100% about dating a vampire. He is also pursued by a busty succubus, Kurumu…

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…and the super stalker Mizore.

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Mizore begins as a villain, willing to hurt Kurumu, Moka and even Tsukune himself while in pursuit of his affections. During the altercation Tsukune blames himself. Says that this is all happening because of him. Kurumu wisely speaks up, telling him that he is not to blame, “It is never the victims fault! People are responsible for their own actions!”

This is something that is few and far between in media aimed for the tween and teen set (although I wouldn’t rate this anime in that category) we often see victim blaming in YA. Examples include, audiences not liking Clary’s “friendzoning” of Simon, the “romantic” stalker Edward’s over protectiveness of Bella, Buffy’s mother blaming her for the creeper behavior by Angelus after they sleep together. So I had a fist pump moment when she blurted that out.

Tsukune is also kind of a special snowflake himself: he’s the only one that can remove the cross from Moka’s neck. He solves his problem using traditionally female tactics like talking out problems with the monster.

Although I’m touting the feminist power of Rosario + Vampire… Moka’s transformation scene leaves much to be desired in that category.

At Anime Boston there was a panel called “Fight Like a Girl: How Magical Girls Weaponize Femininity” the presenter was named Nina (if anyone has additional info, throw me a comment, I’d love to add it) and she brought up this excellent point about magical girl transformation scenes from Sailor Moon and Ballerina Tutu. The Females put on jewelry, get a hair makeover and/or change into a fancier outfit. This can have both negative and positive interpretations. From “you have to be beautiful and girly to have power” to “you can be pretty and girly and have ability as well” to “pride in your appearance can be empowering” and it is really individual preference that will dictate one’s interpretation.

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But with Moka: We get and upskirt, her breasts enlarge and her shirt busts open. Brief flashes of (albeit not graphic) nudity ensue before her hair lightens. Her inner-vampire is a true immortal in the body of a girl and I see why this happens but I have trouble concocting a positive twist on cleavage and panty shots being a sign of power. The anime itself is rated MA 18+ (there’s a BDSM teacher/monster, a perverted senior and a million upskirts) so the case can be made that this is for adults… but the characters are still Freshman and Sophomores and one member of their group is only 11, Yukari Sendou.

And the lessons learned are very teenage. Yukari, for example, faces bullying for being a witch (a “being of the borderline” AKA a supernatural HUMAN) until Moka and Tsukune stick up for her. She’s also coming to terms with her sexual orientation she falls first for Moka and then for Tsukune she wants them to have a three way relationship. In one episode, after being teased by volumptuous Kurumu she wants to grow up and visits the school nurse who feeds off her body shame and self loathing but transforms her into a beautiful womanly figure who instantly attracts attention. In the end she learns to love herself as she is and not grow up too fast. So the rating and life lessons are very incongruent. I don’t know what the rating is in Japan and I have heard that the 18+ rating is ethnocentric and based on prudish Western connotations.

Still.. there’s nothing empowering about wind blowing your skirt up.

If you can get passed that it is very good and lots of fun. I enjoy seeing how the group of friends gets out of trouble and am impressed with how often opening their circle up to other characters- who are mainly female- solves conflict. I also enjoyed the varied interpretations of monsters, and despite pandering to male audiences there is some genuine girl power.

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