Let the comparisons begin…
OP: “ViViD” by May’n
At first – and even second and third – glance, there are a striking number of parallels between Blood Lad and Hataraku Maou-sama. In addition to a regular guy demon lord as the main character, there’s a machine-gun humor derived from a combination of snappy dialogue and pop culture sight gags, and a story that seems destined to split its time between the human and demon worlds. We also have Ohsaka Ryouta playing that MC, and more personally, this is another show that was more or less off my radar screen going in that received a lot of support in the season poll and was the subject of considerable positive buzz.
As is usually the case in these situations a closer look shows that the similarities are mostly skin-deep and I certainly don’t think there’s any plagiarism going on here, but rather a shared sensibility and overall theme. But for the record Blood Lad was created first, if it matters. And the similarities are a good thing, because like Hataraku, Blood Lad hits the ground running with a very funny and smartly directed premiere. If the most important link between the two shows is that they end up being the surprise hits on my anime calendar, you certainly won’t get any complaints from me.
Blood Lad (which is reportedly only 10 episodes) represents a welcome return to form for Brains Base. I like it when this studio tackles seinen – Kamisama Dolls being a recent example – they fare well with concepts that have a little bite and sharpness to them. Oregairu certainly has that, but Blood Lad is a much better-looking show – fittingly for a pop-culture obsessed premise it really has the look of a manga come-to-life, with outrageous character designs and the best use of the Brains Base pastel color palette for a good while. It seems Ohsaka Ryouta is just about the hottest male seiyuu in the business at the moment, and while overexposure is a concern the fact is that he’s been good-to-great in every appearance so far. His Staz is a somewhat snarkier and higher-strung character than Sadao Maou – a bit of a perv, certainly an otaku, with a creeper edge that Maou-sama definitely lacks. Again – the similarities are skin-deep.
Generally speaking the premise seems pretty simple. Staz is a vampire who longs to be an individual first, and a vampire second – he eats garlic and likes crosses (bot not as much as “Dra-gunball” manga and phone straps and “I Heart Sushi” T-shirts). When we meet him in fact he’s dressed as a sort of hikikomori trying too hard to be an LA hipster, in a bowling shirt and ratty trousers. Staz is a territory boss in the demon world who’s obsessed with the human world – specifically Japan (sort of a Haiyore! theme here), so he’s naturally thrilled when Yanagi Fuyumi (Nomizu Iori) shows up out of nowhere with no idea how she got there. Sadly she gets eaten by a sort of Audrey II plant and turns into a ghost, which somewhat sours Staz’ initial infatuation with her – but he vows to turn her back into a human somehow (though researching it via “Dra-gunball” doesn’t seem too promising). When Fuyumi remembers how she got to the demon world – via a magic curtain that should have disappeared as soon as its summoner used it – Staz jumps at the chance to go to Japan, even if it means giving up his job as a territory boss.
This is a pretty stock and silly plot (Staz is thrilled at the notion of going to Japan to shop, so just how did he get all his otaku goods in the first place?) but as is so often the case, it’s all in the execution. Staz is immediately likeable and funny – in a completely different way than Maou. Fuyumi’s confusion and embarrassment is played very smartly, and the episode is peppered with solid gags and interesting supporting cast members. My favorite of both was the introduction of the “Cat Third Eye” cafe and its proprietor Mamejirou (a very funny Saitou Chiwa) a magical beast that seems to have some sort of symbiotic connection with a silent humanoid called Saty and acts as a kind of bartender/soothsayer. We also meet Staz’ loyal second Deku (Komesu Taichi) and the mimic who ends up impersonating Staz so he can leave his territory and visit Japan, Yoshida (Yamamoto Kazutomi).
I hate to revisit the comparison, but it seems very possible Blood Lad could fill the same slot for Summer that Hataraku did for Spring: the well-executed, smart character-comedy that simply delivers the entertainment value without being too flashy about it. There were no red flags in the premiere for me – the pacing was excellent, the visuals were good, the cast is superb – and while the premise doesn’t seem as interesting as Hataraku’s it feels as if there’s enough here to drive a cour at least (and certainly a 10 episode one). A viewing of the OP/ED indicates there are several major characters still to be introduced, so we’ve barely gotten started as far as the overall story is concerned. Sundays are busy this season, but this one looks like a good bet to stick on the blogging schedule.
ED: “BLOODY HOLIC” by Yuuka Nanri