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Rosario + Vampire Complete Series BD/DVD Combo Anime Review

16 min read

You thought high school life was tough … try coping while dealing with overly affectionate monster girls!

What They Say:
Tsukune’s terrible grades stick him in the only school that will take him. To his mortification, all his classmates are monsters, and if they figure out his human status, he’s fresh meat! But when his scent attracts the hungry lips of a gorgeous vampire named Moka, it turns out he’s a sucker for supernatural chicks. Before long, Tsukune is being seduced by a bouncy succubus, tormented by a frisky witch, and stalked by a snow fairy! Moka tolerates her touchy-feely friends, but overprotective is an understatement anytime jealous fiends try to hurt her boy-toy. Beastly bullies beware – when Tsukune unlocks the sweet bloodsucker’s super-monster seal, he exposes a devastating beauty with a dropkick from hell!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this delightful release is available in English TrueHD 5.1 or Japanese subtitled TrueHD 2.0 lossless codec, and the fullness of this sound presentation helps to flesh out the show acoustically. We are presented with this embracing ambiance to throw the audience within a show which does not take itself seriously, given the subject of a human boy trying to deal with a monstrous and abnormal high school life. There is a delicate balance between each seiyus’ performance to carry the weight of the episodes and allowing the audio surroundings to reflect on a sense of normalcy, all while keeping in mind the secret they try to hide. As we begin, background sounds are all too familiar, girls chatting of what to do after class, birds singing as they soar high above and the breeze blowing gracefully dancing sakura blossoms, but once Tsukune crosses over, all that changes. Avian noises are exchanged for the squeaking of bats, wind rustles through dead branches and crisp leaves and that is not all as voices start to take on rougher tones before they erupt into roars of anger and screams of fright, all much to our obvious joy. Even these audio surroundings try to compete with rare orchestral accompaniments, but these essential elements stir up emotional fervor or excitement, setting the scene for what is to come and allowing the audience to prepare for what will be delight and plenty of laughter.

Even within this melange of normalcy and frightening acoustic ambiance, we still are able to relax within the fantastic themes used to announce and conclude the energy of the anime, and since this collection has both seasons, we are doubly welcomed by four songs. Plus what makes it all the more satisfying is the singer for all of the themes, the seiyū for both Mokas, Nana Mizuki brings forth endearing emotion by allowing the audience to feel her confidence and insecurities as she sings through her characters. This allows for Western viewers to connect to the songs more than usual as opposed to having some unknown J-pop star belting out feelings which seem disjointed when sung from such a detached, if not yet unique point of view.

The first season fittingly greets us with a touching and fast-paced dance/love song called Cosmic Love, in which Outer Moka reveals, and to a lesser degree the rest of the girls, the depth of her sadness until Tsukune came into her life. Before she was isolated and now she can explore a new world with him by her side – beautifully expressing her experience with humans until now. And as we absorb the loneliness of her alter ego, we then hear the opposing personality with the closing theme of Dancing in the Velvet Moon, sung from the point of view of Inner Moka. While she may be more guarded with her feelings, this strong declarative ballad strikes a chord as she expresses her love for Tsukune, wanting only him to get this close, and thus keeping him all to herself and allowing them to chase each other to her heart’s content. This initial pair of songs wonderfully impresses upon the audience the depth of the first season, how both sides of the same person want this human to themselves, but at the same time, with different objectives as to their affections.

Even within these delightfully insightful songs, we are further connected to the foundation of the series by the second season’s themes which promote the relationship between the group. This is amply expressed by the catchy and upbeat dance tune Discoteque which is further enhanced by the girls dancing and singing as go-go girls within a garishly loud and magical studio outfitted with flashing dance floor and sparkling mirror ball. As we watch this high energy scene, the song echoes in the background of how Inner Moka and the girls have broken out of their shell in hiding from humans and themselves. They now want Tsukune to see their true selves so that the love between them can blossom, and in turn, make all of their dreams come true with him by their sides. But as before, we cannot end the show without a beautifully pleading ballad by Outer Moka called Trinity Cross where she expresses her disappointment of their short meetings. Since she can only come out when the rosario is removed, each meeting is briefer than the last, with memories so important they become pieces of courage until they meet again. While she will never fully express her true emotions, this song brilliantly opens up her innermost thoughts, allowing us to see she cares Tsukune as much as her phantom does, even if she will never admit those feelings. This conflict is what connects the two seasons together – the passion each side holds for this human, but at the same time, one never willing to a admit this weakness within a supreme monster.

Video:
This series is respectively broken down by season, with each collection spanning thirteen episodes enclosed upon two appropriate disks. The viewer can watch either standard DVD encoded in MPEG-1/2 DVD media format and 720×480 anamorphic resolution or Blu-ray standard definition remastered in 1080p using the AVC codec for anamorphic playback, with both formats remaining in its original aspect ratio of 16×9. However, even with the daunting task of supplying so much animation footage for this show, the visuals are outstanding, for the most part. Since this series was originally broadcast in 2008, the video format is in keeping with the standard definition of the time, which was 480p. As such, the playback is fine on the past generation disk, however, when Funimation tried to update the resolution for Blu-ray, they did run into some minor problems.

It is striking to view the magnificent panoramic vistas of Yokai Academy with breathtaking Victorian architecture utilized for the school grounds and its facilities, all brilliantly illuminated by sunlight and other luminary sources. Even within the enclosed spaces of the interior, they are extensively lit due to ample windows and open spaces for the numerous scenes. Everything encapsulates the normality of the human world with students in generic uniforms until you exit the building and wander the surrounding grounds – this is when you notice something fundamentally different. The sky outside is blood red with a new moon shining down upon the desolate landscape surrounded by a crimson sea, and the area is dotted by gravestones and supporting barren trees with dried husks of leaves blown across the road. This is the type of environment which you acknowledge to be conducive the creatures who pose as students, and with a name such as Yokai meaning demon or monster, this is exactly what we expect. When we expect normality, details are not wasted, but once we cross over to the other side, neither does this ghastly display of restrictive horror come to play.

These monsters make up the populace of the student body, ranging from traditional tsukumogami, orcs, lizardmen, mermaids, succubus, witches and snow women. Great care is expressed in hiding their true forms, allowing the audience to accept them as normal until a threat is perceived or they wish to express themselves outside the range of human emotion. Claws grow, skin bursts and their bodies morph into the truth, giving us a rousing show of primal entertainment, all the while keeping the expected gore to a minimum. But of course, the underlying genre of this series being a harem/fanservice show is not forgotten – at every opportunity the camera does an upskirt view to allow us to see the panties of the day. With every high kick, gust of wind, or tear of clothes, this show does not forget to give the audience eye candy be it to these exposures, jiggly bounce of excessive cleavage or rubbing against our unfortunate male protagonist … all resulting in the complementary comical squirting of a nosebleed. You cannot but laugh at Tsukune’s misfortune, but at the same time watch in envy as these curvaceous girls all attempt to make him theirs.

But even as we watch in delight to see this amusing drama, there are times when the updated Blu-ray version comes up a bit short. Since Funimation tried to remaster standard definition into a high resolution, of course, there are moments when something amiss pops up amongst the crisp images displayed on the screen. Even if you may not notice them in the fast-paced action, on the rare moment of a close-up, the odd digital anomaly will come across jarring your enjoyment. Jagged lines are uncommon during the main show, but an out of focus scene during the opening and closing musical numbers does not detract from your pleasure of watching the gang blunder through clumsy relationships. These uncommon occurrences are few and far between, thus it does not interfere with what is a joyous romp of school life and a hilarious battle to prove who is best suited to be Tsukune’s loving if injurious girlfriend.

Packaging:
The case packaging is the first thing a buyer notices about this set and thus, it should project the proper attitude for this series, with Funimation doing a great job in creating the mood. Although the outer box may seem a bit stolid using a black base and small cast portrayals for the two series, it does keep your interest by clearly advertising this is the first time the collection is available on Blu-ray. It is not until we breach the shrink wrap does the real appeal of the show reveal itself within the two separate disk boxes. While we have standard Blu-ray disk cases, Funimation does manage to project the comedy and vivacity of the first show by having the main cast stand against a dark background with the girls innocently pandering for attention and Tsukune clinging onto the rosary for dear life. The second season case is more reserved, using the same ivory parchment frame accented by bats, but this time the girls are standing calming in a spirited portrait. But the best part of this collection are the interiors, using the full spread of the case to display a joyous scene of the girls having fun, inviting the viewer to join them in this delightful appeal, although it is a bit strange to view it through the blue plastic of the box. Finally, to close off the package’s charm, we are drawn to the disks with inviting images of the girls’ silk screened upon them, with either a burgundy background for Blu-ray or the school’s mustard plaid skirt pattern for standard DVD. All of these various merchandising techniques beguiles the viewer into wanting to watch the show, and this is how it should be done to make it a greater success.

Menu:
Funimation created a departure for this show through the menus of both seasons by using animated backgrounds, which would seem to be more trouble instead of opting for static background images. While the scenes are fleeting and repeat with a thirty-second cycle, it does keep you entertained as you choose your option and listen to a delightful accompanying soundtrack. With the show’s title plastered across the top of the screen, the selections are straightforward, printed within the pastel pink bottom third in black letters which alternate to white as you scroll along the choices. Although this change would seem to be cumbersome, it is the elegant simplicity which makes it welcomed and hopefully it will become a standard for this company.

Extras:
The extras for this collection are supremely disappointing considering the remarkable popularity for this fantastic title. While we still have general trailers for Funimation’s other properties, the only other supplements which they deemed necessary are clean opening and closing animations, which is the norm any licensing company. However for the first collection, Funimation only enclosed the creditless closing theme of Dancing in the Velvet Moon, which is strange since both Discoteque and Trinity Cross were included for the second season. While it is entertaining to see these songs without any text interfering with the glorious animations, I wish they also could have included other selections from the many songs sung by the characters’ seiyūs. It would have been fun to see these scenes out of context from the episode since most of the translations are cut short when the show moves along or confusing since actors are also speaking above the melody, which is a shame since all of these songs were more than likely included in the show’s soundtrack, and unknown to Western audiences.

Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Tsukune is your typical fifteen-year-old boy who just graduated from middle school, but as his friends discuss their prospective new romantic endeavors, they absently forget one thing – their classmate did not pass his entrance exams. Nonchalantly brushing it off and trying to cheer him up by proclaiming a year of cram classes will help him pass, they hurry off to the nearest arcade. However, as he mopes around home, his ever cheerful mother calls him downstairs to gloriously praise his father’s extraordinary luck and a chance for their son to attend a strange place called Yokai Academy. With none of the family questioning this opportunity, they hurriedly send off the new student, even as his cousin Kyoko tries to warn him about this foreign facility.

On the bus ride to Yokai, Tsukune watches sunny pastoral fields and rivers pass by as school girls ride bicycles with their uniforms and miniskirts flapping in the breeze. However as soon as his vehicle enters a tunnel leading to this Academy, the striking difference of the world on the other side begins to take shape and solidifies once he leaves the transport. The most prominent feature is a blood red ocean surrounding the landscape, with similarly colored sky supporting a full moon which shines upon the dead forest below. A scarecrow marks the bus station with a carved jack o’ lantern and tattered jacket body, signaling the first indication this is not a normal place. As he ventures deeper, the depressing landscape is dotted by gravestones, their decrepit markers supporting dead flora, all as crows caw from above, staring at this new pupil with glowing red eyes.

Although as he travels further down the depressing road, it is not these sinister features which attract his attention but the creepy sound of gears churning, propelling an unknown contrivance toward him at stunning speed. Upon impact both Tsukune and the rider and thrown to the ground, causing both to lose consciousness for a second, with him only to be brought back after squeezing the tenderness of a leg, accompanied by a shocked cry. Looking up in confusion, he is met by a beautiful face framed by long pink hair, her gentle smile calming his frayed nerves. Once they exchange apologies and brush off the dust, the young girl sees the boy is bleeding and offers to wipe off the wound, but then states he smells good … after which is followed by a swift kiss and the strange experience of blood being sucked from his neck.

Shocked and confused by this unusual event but noticing his wound is minor, the girl sees a Yokai Academy information packet and asks if he is a new student, then strangely questions if he likes vampires. Thinking it is all a joke, Tsukune returns her query with a smile and acknowledges he has no problems with those creatures. Gleefully jumping on him, the cheerful girl asks if he will be her friend and introduces herself as Moka. Now thinking all of his previous back luck has turned, the boy attends class but his new positive attitude is quickly turned once the teacher explains this school primary rules – first and foremost is all students must remain in their disguises since revealing their monster forms is the strictest taboo. Stunned by this revelation, Ms. Nekonome further elaborates while they are here to learn how to incorporate into normal society, no humans can penetrate the school grounds, upon pain of death. Now scared beyond all belief, he hears a familiar voice chiming in and apologizing for being late, while strands of long pink hair glistening in the morning sunlight. Moka has entered the classroom and joyously leaps forward after seeing her only friend, further confirming her prior comment of being a vampire – and a monster. What kind of trouble have his parents enrolled Tsukune into by allowing him to attend Yokai Academy … and how can it get any worse?

In case I forget to articulate this obvious fact before becoming obsessed in my ravings about this series, I will state it beforehand: Rosario + Vampire is my vampire anime. This show has everything which you will ever need in an animation of this genre: a selfless hero who is more concerned about his friends than outside appearances, overly caring girls who will do anything to capture said hero’s affections, classic Western and Asian inspired monsters all competing to see who is the strongest, comedy instead of angst-driven stories while keeping the seriousness of underlying themes and of course, an all you can drink blood buffet. Even if the original manga by Akihisa Ikeda does not take itself seriously, it still has an endearing plot whereby Tsukune, Moka, and the girls grow closer no matter what obstacles are put forth against them, which is what elevates it above other stories from this standard. But of course we have the other needs of extensive fan service, comical elements to defuse tension, uncomfortable events where we have the necessary squirting nosebleeds, and the quintessential component for a male lead story – the harem factor.

That being said, while I am appreciative of Funimation dedicating their time in remastering this show, there is still one glaring translation error which threatens to derail this series, and it has to do with Moka and Tsukune. Any person who is a fan of this manga will know Ikeda-sensei made a lighthearted series and does not have any ghoulish intentions when depicting our heroine’s numerous feedings, thus showing a set of cute lips beforehand in the anime. Also if you have read any of the mangaka’s interviews concerning these meetings, you will know the sound effect associated with the event, kapu chuu, is an onomatopoeia of bite and kiss – thus we have the origin of that innocent phrase. However this being said, in Funimation’s version, they convert a sweet sound to something macabre by changing it to chomp and slurp, all to match the vampiric nature of the event.

While I can understand this uninformed shift, this mistake changes the dynamic of the show and its underlying theme from Tsukune – he does not care Moka is a vampire, he will care for her no matter how anyone else judges her actions and thus sees her and the others as normal girls and not monsters. If this is the case, then why change the sound effect to a counterproductive side whereby she truly sounds like a creature of the night instead of giving her friend an innocuous kiss, which just so happens to coincide with a light snack? The whole point of using kapu chuu is to show how Ikeda-sensei sees this act as playful instead of the horrifying norm of a sanguine meal. By using this alternate form, Funimation also changes Tsukune’s caring premise toward Moka, the whole chomp and slurpmakes her sound like a monster and not the kind and likable girl the story portrays her to be.

With that being said, if you can overlook this stumble, the story itself is a wonderful piece of sexy harem anime. How can you not feel for Tsukune as new girls are introduced, all vying for his affections to be his friend, and later a prospective mate? Comical effort brilliantly balances the understandable need for monstrous fights within this school, however as a dedicated reader of the manga, I would have preferred Gonzo studio to follow Ikeda-sensei’s original stories instead of making changes due to time constraints and lack of another cour. The first season was enjoyable, but the second felt rushed with memorable moments either skipped or merged into meaningless episodes that summarized essential story points to make for a more exciting show. The one event which I would have liked to see depicted was Tsukune’s exposure to Moka’s blood, which was an epic event within the manga, but just glanced over in the finale. This is a shame since it helps him see how vampires are treated and later levels the field for him and his allies when they must face greater threats … which we thankfully will never know due to a lack of dedication by the studio.

In Summary:
Rosario + Vampire is a great show once you get past countless surface decorations such as numerous moments of fan service, sexy nose bleeding events and memorable fights with Inner Moka’s high kicking panty shots. Even with all of these moments to garner a target audience, the core of the show still shines bright – never to judge a book by its cover until you give it a chance. This especially holds true once you take our silver-haired vampire’s signature quote to light, Know/Learn your place. It is doubly relevant for both her foes and Tsukune once he learns how to fit into the school and all of the girls’ lives, making him an essential crux of the series. You cannot but smile throughout these episodes, watching as he learns how to hold close to his heart those he cares most for and also always give everyone a second chance, even if they do not deserve it. It is this optimistic outlook which makes this show a joy to watch and a pleasure to endure.

Features: Clean Opening and Closing Animation plus Funimation trailers

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 14, 2017
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC (SD Remaster)/480i mpeg-1/2 video codec
Aspect Ratio: 16×9

Review Equipment: Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Microsoft Xbox One S Blu-ray player via HDMI connection

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