Vampire Princess Miyu - Volume 5: Dark Love Review
Firstly a confession, for review purposes I am jumping in at the deep end here having never seen the four volumes that precede this release and introduce the characters featured throughout. However, Vampire Princess Miyu is being promoted as a series that features standalone episodes and therefore should be accessible no matter where you begin viewing. Despite this claim and the fact I rarely felt in over my depth I would still recommend starting from the first volume of the series so you can experience everything it has to offer. For an idea of what that is please refer to the reviews of the Region 1 editions by our very own Bex in the sidebar to your left or the pull down menu at the end of this review.
In the opening credit sequence a voice over details the presence of Shinma in the human world, supernatural beings that devour the hearts of men and lead them to ruin. Long ago, they were sealed in the Dark World but there are some strays that live secretly amongst humans, lurking in the division between night and day. The beautiful Vampire Princess Miyu is a Guardian dealt with the fate of locating these beings of all manner of description and returning them to the Dark World. Interestingly enough Miyu is aided by two friendly Shinma, companions if you will that assist her, a fact which immediately suggests the line between good and evil is not as clear cut as the initial voice over suggests.
Her cover in the human world is that of a high school student, a role which not only allows her to blend in with the common populace but has also seen her develop a close bond of friendship with three other girls from her class. Both aspects of her cover are important to the story as the Shinma Miyu must banish to the Dark World disguise themselves as humans so by blending in herself she can observe her suspects without suspicion, while her friendship with humans shows that she is developing an affinity to the very people she must distance herself from to go about her job unhindered. As her companions frequently inform, and I have no cause to argue otherwise, this will no doubt eventually cause her trouble.
Miyu's ability to seek out the stray Shinma is portrayed almost like a sixth sense, as once her suspicions are aroused she only need get close to them to feel their presence rendering any human disguise useless. To maintain her cover during battle she transports herself and the Shinma into a realm between our own and the Dark World, where she employs her ability to manipulate the fire elemental to overcome her enemy. When required she calls upon her companions, Larva, a fearsome cloaked figure who can more than hold his own in a fight and Shiina, a small pink creature who other than divulging information seems to be of little help in the heat of battle. In this volume neither feature a great deal. This is probably because the Shinma Miyu faces never pose much of a challenge once they have been discovered for what they really are, which also results in battles that are often anti-climactic though in reality this is not an action based series. It bares far more in common to those stories that often make up films such as Tales of the Unusual, where by each episode is a singular story with its own characters, setting and storyline which Miyu and a few other key figures are common too but only as a means to an end, they are not always the central figures and that makes for interesting viewing as you get something different with each episode.
Four of the five episodes on this volume conform to this structure and each have enough supernatural activities to keep interest high and deliver a satisfying twenty-five minutes of light entertainment. The fifth and final episode gives us something different by featuring Miyu heavily while also delving into the background of another central figure who resides in her world. The character in question is Reiha, who like Miyu has special abilities (in this case she controls wind and ice elements) and a companion of sorts, a motionless doll whom she carries in her arms and appears to be part of her split personality. Reiha is an interesting addition to the cast for she appears to have some link to Miyu and despite having powers is neither a Guardian nor Shinma. Miyu however is not fond of her presence and Reiha herself feels the same animosity towards the title character and seems to take some pleasure in analysing Miyu's interest of humans and the way in which she goes about fulfilling her destiny.
The stories present on this volume add up to create a well balanced mixture of mythological and supernatural storytelling while also developing the main characters to a point that suggests the beginning of the end is upon us and is ready to spill over into the sixth and final volume...
Each episode is presented in the original 1.33:1 Full Screen aspect ratio and have a very pleasing look to them. Other than a slightly soft appearance detail levels are pretty good while colours and black levels are well reproduced. With no sign of any noticeable compression issues there is little here to complain about.
On the audio side of things we have both the original Japanese language track and an English Dub presented in crisp Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo while the optional English subtitles that accompany the Japanese audio are well timed, easy to read and present us with a literal translation of the dialogue.
Extra features on the disc are standard anime fare with the Original Japanese Opening sequence present and accounted for, while a gallery of the Shinma creatures featured on this volume also makes a welcome appearance.
Having only just been introduced to the world of Vampire Princess Miyu I guess the best recommendation I could give is to say that having enjoyed this volume I am now keen to check out those preceding this release, which in itself offers solid and varied entertainment on a well presented disc.