The Fall 2017 Anime Preview Guide Sengoku Night Blood
How would you rate episode 1 of
Sengoku Night Blood ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
I just finished watching Sengoku Night Blood about thirty minutes before sitting down to write this review, and I've already forgotten almost everything about it. Nothing about the show is especially terrible, but it does everything so flatly, with such a lack of character and conviction, that it fails to leave much of any impression. It doesn't help that the show revolves around a cast of historical warlords who also happen to be pretty vampire and werewolf boys; I am absolutely not the show's target demographic, since I am not a Japanese military history buff, nor do I have a particular affinity for supernatural bishōnen.
This isn't to say the show is all bad; the character designs are unique enough, and the show has an appealing, almost dreamlike color palette. Unfortunately, that's the only thing that sticks in my mind about the show, and I even had to double back and re-watch half of it to make sure I remembered all the plot points. Everything from the “girl is suddenly whisked into a fantastical version of historical Japan” to the cavalcade of attractive men that surround our heroine within minutes, everything about Sengoku Night Blood is crafted to be as familiar and easily digestible as possible. The heroine of the show (who I'm not even sure has a name) is about as bland and nondescript as any self-insert protagonist, and the rest of the episode parades about a bounty of beautifully bedazzled beast-boys without ever giving them much to say or do. Hideyoshi Toyotomi is the closest thing we get to a realized character, but he's the same kind of “sexy bad-boy vampire” type we've seen a thousand times before.
In the end, this lack of ambition and generally middle-of-the-road production means that I also can't be too mad at Sengoku Night Blood. It was a forgettable, low-stakes detour into the land of Pretty Vampires with Big Swords, which could be a decent enough way to kill some time for those with a taste for fashionable bloodsuckers or historical warfare. Anyone looking for something to really sink their teeth into will probably be better off searching elsewhere.
So I'm sure the thought process on this franchise went something like this:
“Hey, we've pretty much run the gamut of Sengoku-era samurai as pretty boys, so what new twist can we come up with on the concept?”
“How about transporting the female lead to an alternate world where one side is vampires and the other side is werewolves?”
And that's exactly what we seem to be getting: bishonen vampires and werewolves, with the former group powering up by tasting the heroine's special blood. Because they're on opposing sides, it's a classic vampire/werewolf rivalry setup, which recalls the popularity of Twilight or Diabolik Lovers as well. It's also technically an isekai story, with the heroine being whisked away from a modern era by a magical burst from her smartphone (which makes sense since this is all based on a smartphone game). So far though, the story doesn't at all capture the feel of an isekai story.
That's probably because the central character has shown absolutely no initiative whatsoever. She's just passively hanging out, observing, and occasionally getting dragged along while most of the focus is on the antics of these versions of Date Masamune, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and company. Heck, she isn't even getting worked up over all these hot guys with such unbelievably familiar names! They could have made at least some effort to do something with her, give her some kind of agency or at least a personality, or even make her more convincingly show fear or emotional conflict. If things don't change quickly, then I can see her just being a total doormat. None of the male characters, who all have slavishly standard personalities for a reverse-harem series, have anything interesting enough going on to offset the lame lead either.
With technical merits by Typhoon Graphics (whose only previous lead efforts were the shorts One Room and Room Mate) and a lackluster directorial effort, there's very little here to recommend even under “it's not really aimed at me, but...” standards. I'll be shocked if this captures much of an audience.
How do you prefer your feudal warlords? Cute and female? Historically accurate? Hot and vampiric and unreasonably obsessed with a random girl from another world? I hope it's that last one, because that's Sengoku Night Blood's gimmick – our heroine, whose name I never actually caught, is whisked away at the tap of a cellphone to an alternate version of the oddly specific battlefields of the Sengoku period, where history's great warlords are either vampires or werewolves.
Why? That's a good question. The episode is much more concerned with showing us its anachronistically accoutered versions of the characters than actually telling us what's going on. The fact that the heroine's name doesn't seem to come up is indicative of both the show's mobile game roots and the show's lack of commitment to actual storytelling. Rather than giving us any insight into the plot, the episode instead rushes to introduce as many pretty men as possible to the viewers. We do get a brief moment when the heroine meets a cute mascot character, who tells her about the missing (and mysterious) Himemiko-sama and her final directive to find the girl from another world and her super-special blood, but that's really about it.
Fortunately, all of this looks decent, especially if you don't mind a weird temporal mish-mash of costumes. (I'm pretty sure I counted at least three distinct time periods per costume.) Even better is the fact that heroine is less of a doormat than many nameless otome game heroines; she doesn't have much going for her, but she's willing to do more than just wander around the battlefield. She still doesn't show much thought when she's asked to do something, but at least she doesn't just look dewy-eyed and blank. It's too bad that her smattering of personality is lost in the frenzied introduction of all of her potential love interests.
Sengoku Night Blood may be trying to get to a specific point where the game plot kicks in so that it can really start the story. If reverse harems are your thing, this may be worth a second episode, even if only to figure out why the werewolves have cat ears. It's easy enough on the eyes to make it worth waiting for potential. But if it doesn't slow down and start an actual plot next week, I doubt it will hold much interest beyond visual appeal.
“Girl gets spirited away to a feudal world full of cute boys,” “exhaustingly specific reinterpretation of sengoku battles,” and “reverse harems starring a bunch of supernatural bad boys” have all become anime staples by now, so I suppose it was inevitable that some show would eventually smoosh them all together. Enter SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD: a mobile game-based series that promises all three subgenre flavors at the same time. If you've ever wanted to see Oda Nobunaga as an arch camp vampire, today is absolutely your day.
SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD (okay, that's the last time I'll all-caps the title) begins with the classic scene of our heroine falling from the modern world into a stylized sengoku period, then quickly being swooped up by vampiric general Hideyoshi Toyotomi. From there, this episode motors abruptly through a variety of other characters, giving us a sprinkling of motives and named heroes on both the vampire and werewolf sides. Night Blood is unfortunately hamstrung by the conventions of both “gotta catch 'em all” mobile game adaptations and sengoku period pieces—both of those styles of shows tend to get buried under their sheer number of characters, and Night Blood is no different. This episode's dizzying march through characters comes off as confusing and dramatically sterile, an awkward attempt to make sure we get to see everyone's favorite.
The central plot focused on our heroine Yuzuki fares a little better, though it's still not the most engaging affair. Yuzuki herself is kind of a nothing character, another unfortunate side effect of this show's mobile game roots—in fact, I'm not sure this episode actually states her name even once. (I had to look it up in the promotional materials.) Her keeper Toyotomi is mostly just a seductive badass, and the actual battles are presented as so inconsequential that it's hard to feel much sense of excitement. All of the sides in this conflict seem to treat battles as fun games you indulge in and then go home for dinner - none of the named characters ever acted or looked like they were in any real danger, and everyone who actually dies is a faceless soldier.
On the aesthetic front, Night Blood is a generally reasonable but not terribly noteworthy production. The most important visual element of a show like this is how good the boys look, and these boys do indeed look good—Toyotomi and his compatriots all have distinctive looks and outfits, occupying a variety of classic visual archetypes. The show's tendency toward technicolor saturation results in a pretty distinctive visual identity, and though the animation is relatively limited, the show never stretches beyond its means.
There's definitely an interesting potential show in “sengoku battles reimagined as werewolf-vampire feuds,” but unfortunately, I don't think this show is it. Night Blood's mobile game roots consistently undercut its narrative focus and dramatic potential, making this feel more like a meet and greet than a propulsive story. I have to give this one a pass.
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