Anyone whoís seen the Buffy spin-off ĎAngelí will be immediately familiar with this premise. Itís not bad though, if very cliched.
Shido is a vampire clinging onto his humanity as a private detective, solving the grotesque cases that involve demonic Nightbreed with Yayoi, an agent with the NOS that deals with extraordinaty cases. Their office plays host to Riho, a girl whose parents were killed by a nightbreed, but when she takes it upon herself to help her employer she finds that sheís in well over her head, and Shido is hard pushed to protect her from the world of the night.
As with many anime horror shows this series doesnít really have the budget to pull off the scares. They do well with a dark atmosphere, spattered with gore and the occasional cute bit of character banter, but in the end this series showcases the traditional facets of the Ďgood vampireí genre and aims to disturb rather than scare. The show also slows down towards the end. The first half or two thirds are good at exploring what the show has to offer, but later on they start throwing in some stand alone episodes that just felt dull when so much else could be done. The flashback episode to Shidoís past running from his creator was flogging a dead and rather uninteresting horse when we donít get nearly enough of Riho and how she is dealing with life at the time she is being told this. Thankfully the final episode is certainly the best of the bunch, and makes sure the show doesnít fizzle out.
The show is largely made up of a selection of stand alone episodes bound together by the progression of the characters as they (specifically Riho) learns more about the world of vampires and nightbreeds. The thing is that each story telegraphs its plot pretty clearly, so itís usually fairly obvious whatís going to happen. This is as much to do with the writing and direction as it is with the fact that most of the material is compiling and recycling the genre rather than trying to do something new. Itís not bad though. Despite seeing the stories a mile off they are still entertaining as you watch them unravel, and considering they are playing to stereotype they do at least do it well. It falls into the Japanese pitfall of explaining too much of the obvious too, but in this series that doesnít seem to be so much of a niggle as it is with most since predictability and familiarity with the genre it a large part of the show. Itís kind of nice and nostalgic that itís doing it this way rather than re-inventing vampires into super-badass Blade or Matrix images. It is about grotesque horror and character development of more traditional vampire tales rather than slick moves from faceless heroes, which is good in my book. Itís just a shame that the Japanese have no imagination when it comes to vampire names, because we have yet another Cain here.
Lots of gore in this one, and fairly nasty gore at that, though itís not as detailed as it might be thanks to the visuals. We also have drug use, blatant sexual innuendo and references, as well as very obvious nods to the old adage of homoerotica in vampire stories.
The visuals, as mentioned before, are nice and moody, but it just doesnít have the budget to be as effective a horror as it deserves to be. The frame rates can be far too low in key scenes, and while the characters designs are nice what action there is doesnít get you worked up much. The visuals are not this showís high points, especially since some of the monsters look cliched and uninteresting as well as having below par animation.
The dub here is mediocre at best. The voices arenít always that bad, main characters and incidentals alike for once, but the deliveries are often stilted, rushed or lacking in conviction. The translation writing doesnít do the script any favours either, playing up the blatant foreshadowing and overly obvious explanations. Not one to look for.
Those familiar with this type of horror will be immediately at home, as will anyone coming from Buffy, The X-Files and the like, and the familiarity is not as much of a handicap as it might seem. However, some people might lose patience with it, especially in those late episodes that donít do the series any favours, and despite a good ending and some decent characters, that, together with the less that stunning art might be enough to put people off. Something to rent at least, but only ardent fans of the genre should actively search this one out.