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Diabolik Lovers Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Diabolik Lovers
Diabolik Lovers
The Fifty Shades of Grey of anime.

What They Say:
Yui Komori has spent her life sheltered by the Church and the man she thinks of as her father, but now she’s going to a new home and there’s a very different kind of family waiting for her. To her dismay, she discovers that she’ll be living with six very attractive young men, and not a single one is human! If trying to keep an entire brood of vampires at fangs’ length wasn’t stressful enough, there are even more sinister forces at work, threatening not only Yui’s life, but her very soul. Drawn into her wildest fantasies, or perhaps her most salacious nightmares, one thing is certain: Yui’s life will never be the same!

Contains episodes 1-12

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the English language track, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is not one that has a lot of big action sequences in general and even when things do go big, it’s more about the music and atmosphere than actual action. The series is more about the atmosphere and setting, along with the music, that brings it all together well to make it a very engaging show from that perspective. The dialogue for this ranges well with a lot of it focusing on the quieter side with intent and threat, and that comes across very well with what it has to do in being clean and clear and very easy to listen to and discern, especially during the much quieter sequences.

Video:
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show has a shorter than usual episode count as it’s just about thirteen or so minutes each and that makes it easy to bring the entire run on one disc. Animated by ZEXCS, the show has a very good look to it with some beautifully rich colors and a lot of great detail throughout that makes it a visual treat that was strong in the simulcast and even stronger here with what it does. The show is not one that does a lot of big sequences so it’s less “animated” in a sense, but still very fluid and appealing throughout with what it does. The color depth level is great and I loved the look and feel of the series with the atmosphere that’s generated by it. This release definitely gives me what I want from it in terms of the transfer.

Packaging:
THe packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that has the one disc against the interior wall. The front cover artwork is the familiar promotional artwork piece that has Yui being surrounded by the young men of the house as they interact with her in different ways while she winces and cringes from what she’s being put through. It has a great illustration style to it that manages to work well even with the darker tone of it all. Each of the characters stands out well and I rather like that Yui seems to disappear into them as well. The back cover works the dark ornate style fairly well with Ayato getting the main character piece here, though he’s surrounded by an array of images from the show that brings more of the cast together. The premise is covered well with the summary here and we get a good breakdown elsewhere with the extras and production information as well as a clean and easy to read technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is one that works well by not just replicating the cover here but instead providing another cast shot of the main characters, sans Yui, against a kind of Victorian style wallpaper background that just adds an interesting kind of richness to it. The static image sets the atmosphere of the show well and with it being another illustration piece it also has a different kind of depth to it that works nicely. The navigation along the left doubles as the pop-up menu and its mostly straightforward with a breakdown of episodes by number as there are no titles for them. We also get the language submenu and one for the extras, which also includes trailers for other shows.

Extras:
The only extras included here is the clean opening sequence because there really isn’t one for the closing sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
More of a multimedia project than a direct adaptation of any one thing in particular, Diabolik Lovers is a twelve episode series that aired in the fall of 2013 that came from studio Zecxs. The show is a bit different from most even as it plays in the kind of reverse harem world, though I like that it’s at least working with something that may be tighter and better for it with a thirteen minute run time. Rather than padding it out, it may play more concisely overall as we’ve seen from the few recent shows that do work with that run time. Reverse harem shows are always tricky in some ways, but Diabolik Lovers at least starts off with a certain kind of style and sense about it that definitely paints it as something different.

The series revolves around a young woman named Yui who has come to a particular dorm hall to live for school. This turns out to be news to those that live there though and Yui runs into problems right away as one young man named Ayato there that she thinks is dead actually is alive and seemingly threatens to drain her neck dry. Her presence in the place is a curiosity there as nobody knows what to make of her being there, but as more of the young men of the house arrive, they actually get close and lick her, getting a taste for a yummy looking human. It’s a simple series of quick introductions of several very pretty young men with pale skin and open outfits. Yui’s presence is unnerving for some of them since she is a human, and they’re obviously not, and her scent is something that raises a fair number of problems for some of them.

Though she tries to leave, silky words manage to get her to stay longer and she finds herself drawn into this group of young men and talk of brides. Yui’s confusion is kind of fun to watch, especially as it’s given some fun gothic trappings with the visuals and music, and the young men certainly torment her in their own way. An abusive relationship certainly forms right from the get go here and Yui finds herself trapped, though at least she does try to make an honest run for it and use some of the classic trappings to deal with vampires as she realizes what she’s facing. Each new instance only makes it clearer though that these young men will definitely make her life a living hell, from the names they give her to the tone and words they use in general. Yui’s sense of desperation is quite well done and feels honest as she runs, only to be scared more and more by them and realizing all the more just how trapped she is.

Diabolik Lovers gets a lot of grief, and for good reason, with what it is. But I keep coming back to the opinion that a show that makes people uncomfortable is a show worth watching to try and understand why. I watched this when it was simulcast and I fell in love with it week after week because it didn’t play it like every other show of this nature. As we get introduced to more of the guys, we don’t learn anything that really makes us like them more, though we may understand them more. They are what they are, creatures of the dark with dark pasts that survive on blood and the sweet sustenance that is Yui. There is a larger story that comes into play in the final episodes about the families as they exist and what kind of overarching plan is in place for someone to try and gain power over it through the use of Yui, but honestly that’s just a decent way to cap things off and not the real motivating part here. What we get is a focus on each of the young men, apart and together, with how they deal with each other and with what Yui is and represents.

For me, Diabolik Lovers is simply a treat. There is a bad power dynamic at play here because Yui is without any ability to defend herself, she’s continually humiliated in different ways – physically and verbally – and the young men of the house treat her as little more than a plaything. Which is what she is to them. They are blood drinking vampires after all. With the popularized version of vampires out there and the romanticism of them, something like this where even when they do sort of defend her, it’s not because they truly care about her, though there is an edge of that. They don’t truly betray what they are and it’s refreshing. Seeing the blood drinking alongside the defenselessness of Yui without a heavy bit of sensuality to it works well. But they introduce that as well, with one of them that has a preference for her inner thigh. When you see that in other shows, it’s done cutely with a blush and a sort of “oh no, my maiden honor” kind of silliness about it. Here, it’s a threat, but one that’s layered. This darker side of the series is hugely appealing when you watch a sea of safe shows out there. Diabolik Lovers doesn’t delve into hentai by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s far less safe than other shows. And that makes people very uncomfortable.

In Summary:
I love this show. Plain and simple. I felt on the outside when it was simulcast as I largely saw vitriol about it. There’s a lot to like in the weekly aspect of it, especially with how it brings the introductory nature of each of the characters and their basic explorations, but marathoning it here in far less time really makes for a better overall narrative since the threads of it all comes together just a bit better, especially in the boys themselves. The show is a draw for me because it plays with the standards, darkens it up and doesn’t try to show an inherent goodness at the end in truth. It’s visually striking with some great moments of tension, fear and sensuality. Perhaps it’s because I have an extensive hentai background, but I like seeing different power structures in relationships playing out in shows because there are interesting themes to explore. It doesn’t go deep here, but sometimes even just playing it on a superficial level can make it more engaging. This is one of those shows that I’m already looking forward to revisiting and exploring the differences in the language options more.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 24th, 2015
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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