The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
Call of the Night
How would you rate episode 1 of
Call of the Night ?
Community score: 4.3
What is this?
Nanakusa is a vampire. That's okay with human Ko. He wants to be one too. But transformation doesn't come that easily. When Nazuna invites Ko to spend the night at her place in an abandoned building, he awakens to kisses on his neck with a little too much bite to them. Then, when a cute girl from Yamori's past shows up and competes for his attention, his budding relationship with the undead is put to the test.
How was the first episode?
I think everyone has been lost at some point in their lives. For the most part we all do what we are expected to do, be that work, school, or other responsibilities. Yet, at some point, we are struck with the revelation that what we have been doing isn't enough—that we aren't satisfied with our lives. That is what Call of the Night is all about.
Ko is a kid who has succeeded at going with the flow. He is responsible, studies, and has a social life at school. Yet what he lacks is passion, though he doesn't realize this at first. It takes someone being passionate about him—i.e., having a crush on him—to drive that fact home. Discovering there is nothing that he outright likes in life weighs upon him, giving him insomnia. But more than that, in a subconscious desire to find something fulfilling, he heads out alone into the night. What he finds there is a freedom he's never experienced. No one knows who he is or cares. The normal social rules are cast by the wayside, and all the pressure simply goes away.
It's here that he meets Nazuna. While she may appear to be a manic-pixy-dream-girl of sorts, this is clearly a façade. Sure, she understands the night and is able to show Ko even more of the world after dark, but her true motivations are obvious when you think about it. She lives alone in an apartment off the beaten path. Her room is empty except for a mattress and she is against creating vampire minions. Nazuna approaches Ko not just for her next meal but because she is lonely. Like him, she too is unfulfilled—wandering the night looking for something to break her out of her humdrum vampiric life. Ko sees in her a freedom he longs for. She sees in him the potential for a true companion.
This first episode is a fantastic introduction to a world hidden within our own that only comes out when we are asleep and has the animation quality and directorial style to show that off. Likewise, Ko and Nazuna are an excellent pair of nuanced and complicated characters that are used to great effect in exploring human nature. Where will this love story between two people who don't understand love lead? Who knows? But I will be there for the whole ride.
I feel a bit off rating this as I have, because I know the story becomes more compelling from here. Chapter one of the source manga was my least favorite part of volume one, and that feeling is retained here – there's a lot that's interesting set up, but the story hasn't gotten to the point where it hooked me yet. In large part that's due to how off-putting I find Nazuna right now; she's got an edge that's not quite hidden and it makes her feel as if she's taking advantage of Ko's misery. And to a degree, why shouldn't she? She's a vampire and she's got to eat, and what easier mark could there be than a fourteen-year-old boy who's snuck out of his house with no one the wiser? The fact that he's clearly miserable is just the icing on her particular cake, making him all the more vulnerable to her attentions.
Ko's reasons for his sleeplessness and misery are perhaps the most striking part of the story thus far. Feeling like you're somehow broken because you don't have the same interests and feelings as other people your age is a very real, very debilitating thing, and goodness knows I went through the same “What do you mean you don't get liking someone and dating? How dare your feelings mean that you hurt someone else's?” crap when I was fourteen. Ko's in an awful place, and Nazuna's the only person who seems willing to talk to him and hear his side of things, so why wouldn't he embrace that, even to the point where he considers having her turn him into a vampire if he manages to fall in love with her? After all, it could hardly make him feel less human than he already does.
Nazuna's character design, which is plainly meant to be alluring, doesn't do much for me, though that's only an issue in one particular scene of this episode. What's more visually striking is the use of colors throughout; just because it takes place after midnight, there's no uniformity of blacks and greys. Instead yellows, purples, and dark blues overlay the gloom of night, and it more than makes up for the way the characters look. It's immersive, and when the story picks up it stands to make the setting just as much of a character as any of the people we follow as it explores the reasons why someone might be up late and the potential sadness of living forever. Even if this episode doesn't grab you, it'll be worth giving it a couple more for it to pick up, because I promise you that it does.
There's a lot of angles to take with vampire stories – and damn near all of them have been tackled in the century and change since Dracula codified so much of their mythos. Based on all the marketing it looked like this show was going for the tried and true anime path of being horny for bloodsuckers. And that's definitely a part of it. What I didn't realize is that behind the emphatically illustrated vampire midriff was something more spiritually akin to Let The Right One In than any other vampire anime I've seen.
Most of that is courtesy of our lead, Ko, who very much captures the kind of teenage ennui that might lead one to seek out vampirism over dealing with high school drama. Vampires have often been used as both a metaphor and power fantasy for people who feel out-of-step with the rest of the world, but here the appeal for Ko isn't about any special powers or even that he's run into a pretty vampire gal who's thirsty for his blood. Rather, he finds a kind of peace in the quiet solitude of a city in the dead of night. Those quiet, isolated moments where it feels like the rest of the world has disappeared are brought life with both stunning backgrounds and some wonderful use of color, painting the nighttime city with beautiful purples and the occasional harsh orange of a street light. That imagery, and the way Ko tentatively lets himself slip into them, were easily my favorite elements of this premiere, to the point I was almost disappointed when the actual vampire girl showed up.
Partially that's because I'm not really into Nazuna's design nearly as much as the show expects me to. Because they really, really crank up the horny direction whenever they get the chance, and if you're into her specific skin-and-vagina-bones look that creator Kotoyama clearly likes, you're in for some Monogatari level fanservice here, enjoy. Personally she reminds me too much of the dance students I knew in college who smoked a pack a day to keep their weight down and looked miserable doing it, but to each their own. More importantly, she acts as an interesting foil to Ko – laidback and self-assured enough to chat it up with drunk strangers for the hell of it, yet still awkward enough about l-l-l-love that you have to wonder how long she's actually been a vampire. Characters like Nazuna can often fall into the flat stereotype of the femme fatale seductress, and while part of her appeal is how she's dragging our introvert protagonist out of his shell, they still have a more concrete rapport that makes the pair enjoyable to follow.
Also it just looks fantastic throughout. Tomoyuki Itamura brings all the stylish, indulgent energy that made his Case Study of Vanitas adaptation such a pleasure to follow, and it's right at home in the modern urban sprawl as it was in steampunk Paris. I made the Monogatari comparison earlier, and anyone familiar with that series will notice a similar playfulness and ambition to the art here, making Nazuna feel larger than life in every way to emphasize her supernatural nature, while also grounding her in goofy super-deformed shots whenever applicable. It really pulls the whole premiere together, and it makes this a standout of the season.
Hell yeah. This season's premiere have pretty underwhelming, by and large, but Call of the Night delivers that vampire anime goodness with impressive confidence and vision. That's to be expected, I suppose, because even though this is coming from LIDEN FILMS and not Shaft, co-director Tomoyuki Itamura is here to ensure that this series retains plenty of that Bakemonogatari swagger. In other words, this premiere is here to smack you upside the head with slick visuals and witty banter, and it won't stop until you're just as obsessed with its vampiric leading lady as our hero Ko is.
Too many anime seem content to merely provide functional visuals to what otherwise amounts to an audio drama, but Call of the Night is here to remind everyone of what happens when you just go nuts with the flashier elements of the cinematic toolbox. This is the kind of anime that I would probably award top marks to even if I were watching it on mute. The bold and often monochromatic color palettes; the snappy editing; the incredibly well-framed shots—this whole first episode was like crack for an aesthetically inclined viewer such as myself.
Then again, watching on mute would deprive me of the great dialogue and music that elevates the whole premiere. Neither Ko nor Nazuna are quite the wordsmiths that any given NisiOisin character would be, but I actually think that works in Call of the Night's favor. While Ko certainly doesn't come across like an actual middle-schooler, and I think the show would be better off if it just aged up the whole cast by a few years, he at least feels a relatable approximation of a teenaged human, and without all of the layers of artifice that can sometimes make Bakemonogatari difficult to digest.
At the very least, Ko's predicament appeals to what I can only assume is a universal fantasy: Being picked up by a cute and witty vampire girl who wants to drink your blood *and* be your drinking buddy, and without any of the usual drawbacks involved in undead shenanigans! Do I wish that the camera wasn't quite as leery as it is, given that Nazuna is drawn to look like a middle-schooler? Yeah; it's basically the one major complaint I have about this otherwise pitch-perfect premiere. Her chemistry with Ko is quite endearing on an emotional level, though, so I can forgive the occasional bit of intrusive fanservice when the script is this good.
If you haven't figured it out already, Call of the Night is my favorite premiere of the season so far. It even managed to beat out Made in Abyss' grand reentrance to the small screen arena, which is really saying something when you know how much I adore Made in Abyss. If you have even a passing interest in anime vampires, dark romance, or animation that was clearly produced by a team with genuine creative spark and vision, then so yourself a favor and check it out immediately.
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