The penultimate episode of this anime features a episode preview where the lead girl is saying some faux-poetic speech about inner nature, but the sequence is presented with the same visuals as the other previews of the season, with two girls shaking their skirted asses at the camera before flashing their panties to the camera. If there was a better metaphor for how this adaptation fails, I don’t know it.
Anime adaptations of manga can take many forms. Most, especially more recently, tend to be slavish and reluctant to stray at all from the source material, for better or worse (examples being Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Assassination Classroom, Blood Lad, and My Hero Academia are examples of this). When being more adaptive, though, there are ways to go about it successfully. You can create a story interwoven with the source material’s unconnected stories to create an arc (see Blood Blockade Battlefront for an example of that), rearrange the source material to work in a shorter format in a different medium (see Tokyo Ghoul for an example of that), or you can do an in-name-only adaptation retains none of the tone or spirit of the original (see Gatchaman Crowds approach to adapting Gatchaman to modern audiences). This is the latter and it takes the concept a step further by completely misunderstanding what even worked at all about the manga.
The anime stars Tsukune Aono, a human who ends up “mistakenly” enrolled in a high school for monsters. This school has the monsters disguise themselves as humans because they’re learning to coexist with humans, but no humans are allowed in the school, so he has to keep his humanity a secret, lest he face the bloodlust of several of the students in the school. However, he is discovered by one student, a vampire girl named Moka Akashiya, who becomes addicted to drinking his blood because he’s human (and he gladly lets her because he very blatantly has the hots for her). He then ends up attracting other students through both his human nature and his bland, harem-protagonist nature, including a succubus, a snow fairy, and two witches. Oh, and the camera is constantly focuses of the girls’ thighs and legs to get constant panty shots.
Now, I mentioned before that this is not a faithful adaptation of the source material. Well, it’s accurate and is a problem that comes right from the core ideas of both series. The manga, while initially beginning as a harem comedy, was not really fanservice-focused and had more horror tinges in presentation and managed to transition into a shonen action-horror story (think Hellsing with much less blood and you have a good indication of what the genre transition looked like) more or less successfully. This, however, is a full-on harem fanservice comedy (and I need to emphasize, there is a lot of fanservice in this series, you can’t go two minutes without a pair of panties being shown on camera, and thats when the camera isn’t trying to showcase the girls’ “assets” in the most blatant and obnoxious ways possible), with all of the lame jokes and catty in-fighting that tends to make the genre insufferable, even to people who don’t care about a plot and just wants to ogle anime girls. Tsukune no longer has the character arc that made him one of the best protagonists in a genre that could use more personality, so he becomes indistinguishable from the other hapless and wishy-washy harem leads in the world. Moka, like in the manga, is meant to be an overly nice girl, with her “inner personality” being more forceful and strong, but the inner personality isn’t given the room to be a character she is in the manga, while the outer Moka is a bland “lead harem girl”, the most boring offer in a show full of girls. Kurumu, the succubus, is changed from a prideful idiot to a complete moron for the sake of comedy. Yukari, the young witch, is made more immature for the sake of lame comedy, with her prodigy status being more told than shown. Mizore, the snow fairy, is introduced as a molestation victim (gross, especially because it wasn’t present in the manga that more regularly featured villains threatening that to Moka, but is present in the anime that is obsessed with shoving their panty-wearing asses in our faces) and is changed into nothing more than a stalker. Ruby, the older witch, is characterized as an adult and has her personality completely removed following her introduction. Oh, and we’re assaulted with panty shots at least four times each minute.
The more fanservice-based and comedic bent the series takes on may have been more tolerable had the jokes been funny, but it really is a rehash of every harem cliche that’s existed since Tenchi first came out. Outside of a few baffling episodes (like the one where everyone becomes a curry zombie, or the one full of vignettes whose overarching plot involves Ruby trying to make everyone wear longer skirts), if you’ve seen one harem series, you’ve seen this one. That this comedy comes at the expense of a somewhat interesting plot (featuring all of my favorite cliches regarding shonen action and vampire romances) only makes this sting more. The first season adapts the main girls’ introduction chapters (albeit loosely) and throws the first two major arcs together as the season’s last 5 episodes (again, loosely adapted) to create something resembling a plot. However, given the comedic turn most of the story takes, as well as how serious those arcs are, it creates a weird tonal whiplash that the series never recovers from (seriously, compare the song sequence in the pool episode with the sequence in the last episode where the villain is trying to burn Tsukune alive while on a cross in a public execution). The second season, which adapts the first half of the manga’s last arc, the end of the first manga, and the first character introduction of the second half while mostly being original material, is more consistent (and goofier), it suffers from the problem most harem comedies have, where they go on without a plot or any sense of direction or character progression. I can say that the staff probably had more fun with season 2 (especially with the incubus spell episode), it still was lackluster writing that became quite insufferable as the series went on.
This adaptation came to us by studio Gonzo, so there are a few things that you can expect going in. First, lots of fanservice (even their more conservative shows still have plenty of fanservice in them). Secondly, as an adaptation, they won’t care about the source material (it’s why Hellsing TV was so bad). Thirdly, they’ll give the show to directors and writers who are looking for their way into directing and/or writing, but may not be looked at elsewhere (both the writer and director of this adaptation have this as one of their first projects they were in charge of, though both gave us Noucome, so maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to make anime). And lastly, their animation will be terrible, especially towards the end. The show looks awful. While the designs are a decent recreation of Akihisa Ikeda’s artwork in the manga, the actual animation is lazy and bad. The show utilizes every animation shortcut in the book and still ends up having shots where the characters look awful. I’m not surprised by the quality, but it still annoys me that the series looks this bad while still trying to entice the viewer with constant panty shots.
The music is bad. From looking at the dub, where the songs are translated and sung by the English voice actors, I can see that there were some rights issues regarding most of the music in the series. However, the music is not good. The score has no consistent tone and is contently blaring obnoxiously in the background. The insert songs are sugary and sweet and exactly why I tend not to like J-Pop. The openings are, while fitting for the show, obnoxious and disposable. The show’s endings, meanwhile, feel like they belong in a different show altogether.
This series was a frustrating watch for me, not just as a fan of the source material, but also in general. There is very little, if anything, to get behind here and the show never reaches the heights of stupidity needed to make it’s turn to lame comedy successful. It’s an unfunny, unexciting, kind of ugly excuse to shove clothed asses in our faces, whether we wanted it or not.
FINAL GRADE: F
PROS: character designs, some parts are delightfully stupid
CONS: music is obnoxious, characters are dull, no plot or direction, the girls asses are distracting rather than enticing, animation falls apart, seriously why couldn’t you just adapt the manga straight?
Rosario + Vampire is available streaming by Funimation on their website and on Hulu. The show is available on DVD by Funimation.