Reviewby Melissa Harper, Dec 24th 2006
Moon Phase + Artbox
Photographer Kouhei is on assignment in Germany, when he discovers a beautiful young girl sitting on the roof of a castle. Intrigued, he launches an investigation to discover who she is, and in the process, discovers a world of the supernatural, replete with ghosts, sorcery, and of course, vampires. He gets dragged into a complicated rescue when the girl, Hazuki, gives him the vampire's kiss, only to discover that it has no effect on him. She is a prisoner in the castle, and needs Kouhei's help to break free, but she has to learn to get help from someone who won't be her slave!
In the recent deluge of vampire titles hitting shelves, Moon Phase ranks as the cutest, slightly pervy show to be imported. This is one show that you can tell from the cover; and adolescent girl in a frilly dress, complete with cat ears, in the foreground, with eerie gothic scenery haunting the background. Indeed, in the foreground of Moon Phase is is the cuteness of loli-goth vampire princess Hazuki and her comedic craziness, but lurking behind is a more sinister story that will hopefully be revealed over time.
In the first volume of Moon Phase, the plot is firmly centered on getting to know Hazuki. Hazuki is a complex creature, so it takes all five episodes contained on the volume to really figure her out. In the first couple of episodes, she seems almost radically bipolar, switching at a moment's notice from sweet to bossy to downright evil. The reason for the swing seems to be a secret of a second identity, but this information is only hinted at in the episodes contained on volume one. However, after the initial battle to free Hazuki from her castle prison, her character evens out a lot, and is much more understandable. She turns out to be a fairly normal girl, one used to getting her own way and being able to persuade people easily. So, when she is met with Kouhei, who is absolutely immune to all her persuasion techniques, antics ensue as she tries every trick in the book to turn him into her personal slave.
Kouhei is a fairly bland character, as male leads go. His defining feature is that he is so dense that he is immune to spells; that doesn't make for a very exciting character. Still, he is entertaining; he has a mean streak that a lot of characters in his situation are lacking, and that leads to some hilarity when he and Hazuki butt heads. The other characters in the show don't get a whole lot of development; the focus is mostly on Hazuki. There is sure to be a mastermind villain lurking in the plot somewhere, but he is yet to surface on this volume. In fact, a lot of the plot is yet to surface in this volume.
The story of this show isn't making itself immediately clear. After the excitement of rescuing Hazuki from Germany, things grind to a near halt as the complications of being a vampire are thoroughly explored. Someone wanted her trapped in that castle, but no more details than that are explained. The show chooses to cover the important vampire details, such as how to deal with sunlight, and when vampires need blood. These episodes are really entertaining, and help to foster attachment to the characters, but the pacing of the main story is almost lethargic. One can't help but wonder what the bigger story is.
The show is very pretty, with the one weak point of having very boring character designs. They aren't ugly, you just feel like you've seen all these people before. The backgrounds, and especially the sky effects, are gorgeous, and there is one consistent graphic ploy that is very interesting. Kouhei's family home, more often than not, is drawn in a cut-away dollhouse style that is fascinating. It is a very original way to display the home, and you really get a feel for the layout of the house, looking at it that way.
The language tracks on the DVD are of comparable quality. The original Japanese language is a little dry and serious compared to the English dub, but the character of Hazuki is played much more effectively by the Japanese actress. Adolescent cuteness just doesn't translate well, and the English voice just doesn't capture the changes in Hazuki's personality to the effect of the Japanese voice. Everyone else in the English track sounds superb, and the English track is really a lot more humorous than the original language. It is recommendable either way. There is just one odd thing: Hazuki's ears are referred to, in the English track, as the neko mimi, one of the more interesting dub choices this reviewer has listened to in a while.
The music on this show is gorgeous occasionally. Most of the time it lurks quietly in the background, but there are scenes, like the opening scene of the first episode, that really highlight the complexity of the background score. This would be really nice to even listen to on its own. The closing song is average, but the opening song is very unique. It is fairly well know for this reason. It features Hazuki, saying various versions of “Neko Mimi Mode,” over a light techno track. It is bizarre, but everyone ought to listen to it at least once.
The case for this DVD is gorgeous. Even if you don't get the box set, the case is really nicely done. The lettering is done in silver lining, and is very shiny and attractive to the eye. Inside are some interesting character cards, highlighting Hazuki in an assortment of outfits, as well as a nice set of liner notes, featuring synopses of the episodes, and interviews with the Japanese cast and crew. The box for the box set is done in the same art style, and is definitely worth the extra if you plan on getting the whole series.
Moon Phase won't be winning any awards for creativity, but it is a very cute show, with some rather likeable characters, and a unique spin on the vampire trend. While the pacing is slow, and you may wonder what happened to the plot, you will certainly enjoy the antics of cute Hazuki working hard to get her way.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Good English dub, cute characters
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