I had put off buying the anime adaptation of Yami no Matsuei (Descendants of Darkness), which I had enjoyed when I first saw it, because of the price, which was way over my budget. Then I noticed that I could get the individual DVDs for much less than the complete set, and I also noticed that most of my favorite seiyuu (voice actors) are in it. Well, at that point, there didn’t seem to be much choice.
Vampire’s Lure introduces us to the Summons Section of the Ministry of Hades, which is charged with leading the souls of the recently deceased to the afterlife, and with investigating any anomalies among such souls — like the ones who are supposed to be dead but haven’t shown up in the afterlife yet. The hero of the series, Asato Tsuzuki (voiced by Shinichiro Miki), is a very powerful shinigami (basically, “death god”) who happens to be a real slacker with an obsessive desire for sweets: as he says, he always makes sure to have dessert after every meal. At any rate, there has been a series of killings in Nagasaki, which is in Tsuzuki’s territory, all involving puncture wounds and bodies drained of blood. Tsuzuki is sent off to investigate. His new partner will meet him there.
Said new partner, Hisoka Kurasaki (Mayumi Asano), is a sixteen-year-old boy who meets Tsuzuki when he tries to kill him, suspecting him of being the vampire. The two run into another anomaly: it is the beginning of the Nagasaki Singing Festival, featuring a very popular singer from Hong Kong, Maria Wong (Yuka Imai). It’s only later that they learn that Maria Wong has been dead for two months. (Oh, by the way — both Tsuzuki and Hisoka are dead, too.)
Tsuzuki also meets Dr. Kazutaka Miraki (Show Hayami), who has a much deeper connection to Maria — and to Hisoka — than Tsuzuki suspects.
The story is supernatural adventure with comic elements and a boys’ love subtext that is, at this point, mostly subliminal, although Miraki’s interest in Tsuzuki isn’t much open to interpretation. It’s kind of creepy, though. We start to see the beginnings of something between Tsuzuki and Hisoka that has potential, but it’s still kind of edgy and unresolved — after all, there are three chapters left to go.
There’s also the characters’ history, which adds interest to what is, after all, a fairly straightforward story. Everyone has a past, and those pasts just won’t let go — there are facets of these characters that are only gradually revealed, which is something that keeps my interest.
The comic elements meet the dramatic elements in the character of Tsuzuki. Sometimes it’s hard to take him seriously, until he calls up Suzuku, the god that is his special protector, and then we see his power and substance. It think one thing that adds to this tension is the character design: in general, characters are in the style I’ve taken to calling “high shoujo” — long limbs, androgynous features with eyes dominating the faces, and great hair. The animation moves back and forth between comic realism and abstraction, adding a lot of visual interest to the action.
Shinichiro Miki is a tremendously versatile actor, and he captures the mood swings of Tsuzuki’s character without a hitch. The contrast between this and his portrayals of Kyuzo in Samurai 7 and Katou in Embracing Love: Cherished Spring is no less than amazing. Show Hayami has the kind of seductive voice that makes Miraki into much more than a run of the mill villain. (Miraki is, without doubt, nutty as a fruitcake, but he’s still creepy as all get out.) I found Mayumi Asano’s portrayal of Hisoka to be very interesting. It’s not at all unusual to find women voicing the parts of boys or young men, but her roles mostly seem to have been female characters. She does a wonderful job on Hisoka. For those who follow such things, Toshihiko Seki is here as Watari, a sharp departure from previous roles I’ve heard him in, which include Takaya in Mirage of Blaze and Sanzo in Saiyuki. Toshiyuki Morikawa, whose resume is thoroughly intimidating, appears as Tatsumi, Tsuzuki’s immediate superior. (Morikawa is one of those actors who, when you watch the credits, you sit there thinking “That was Morikawa?!”) You see why I couldn’t resist getting this DVD.
(US Manga Corps Video, 2003)