Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fall 2010 - Fortune Arterial

Belated birthday wishes go out to Vampire of the Coast, the silent movie that spawned a genre that has been haunting theaters for a little over a century. It is all thanks to its release in 1909 that we got the likes of Dracula, Rasputin, and Edward Cullen romancing female victims into submission for...

Actually, hold the phone there, chief. The first "vampire movie" was Nosferatu in 1922, followed by Dracula in 1931. The earliest "vampire" movies were actually misnomers, as they involved the Kipling definition of the term, referring to "femme-fatale" characters as "vamps". Perhaps that slight misunderstanding of the definition was much more pronounced in Japan, as the manga and television series Vampire, a story developed by Osamu Tezuka himself, was actually about werewolves and other humans that change into animals.

That's not to say that Japan hasn't been able to provide their interpretation of the creature from European folklore—the first Japanese vampire film Onna Kyûketsuki ("Vampire of Women") was released in 1959, seven years before Vampire. However, the concept just hasn't seemed to catch on completely in Japan—as Daryl Surat pointed on the Otaku USA website, vampires in anime "(mostly) bite and suck". We've already seen a handful of vampire-based anime shows in the past year alone (Bakemonogatari, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Shiki), and these haven't been half-bad, so it has given some hope towards Japan finally getting the point about vampires.

The submission from software company August and animation studio Zexcs, Fortune Arterial: Red Promise, is surprisingly not the only vampire-themed show that originated from a visual novel this year (Hakuôki). The show, currently running on Crunchyroll, centers its story around the final move of Kohei Hasekura, a fifth-year student at Shuchikan Academy who once lived in the area as a child. His arrival reunites him with childhood friends Haruna and Kanade, but Kohei has garnered the most attention from the student council and its charismatic president Iori.

Like most visual novel games and shows, Kohei ends up befriending plenty of females, ranging from the sweet and innocent Shiro to the cold and quiet Kureha, all while trying to live his high-school days to the fullest. However, his friendship with the popular Erika is one of the most tenuous in the show—while he has been able to work well with Erika when it comes to council activities, he's shocked to discover that she and Iori are a variety of vampires who have survived dozens of classes.

And...that's about it. Vampires in the classroom? No big whoop.

Sure, there is some conflict in Erika as she worries she cannot repress her urges for blood and some initial fright when Kohei watches Iori dine on some maiden's neck, but Fortune Arterial lacks the panic that ought to come from a vampire story. Instead, we get filler that has no place in advancing the story, and there's no emergency from the initial discovery. Kohei is all smiles as he becomes a B.M.O.C. by helping plan the sports festival and swimming meets, but there is so much nichijô ("every-day") to this show that it makes it appear mundane.

Despite the lack of concrete direction, this show can be saved by a twist, especially with Iori and the student council pulling the strings so easily in the background. The show is good as an adaption of a visual novel—the vivid color in the characters is there, the stable personalities are there, even the possibility of everything collapsing on itself is there. However, as a story about vampires, it seems that there just aren't enough...vampires.

Does Fortune Arterial want to be a dark drama? Does it want to be a lighthearted comedy? Considering the show involves aspects of both, it's trying too hard to be both. The comedy does not get funny enough, and the drama is neither emotional nor emo. Fortune Arterial needs to target its audience and give that majority what they want to see; sitting on the fence will just lead up to disappointment.

I won't go so far as to say Fortune Arterial is unwatchable. There is potential for a good story under the average script, but if it continues to fiddle with stories that have little to do with vampires, I'll find myself agreeing with Daryl in the end that vampire shows suck.

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