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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Vampire Dormitory

How would you rate episode 1 of
Vampire Dormitory ?
Community score: 3.1

What is this?


Mito, who has no family to rely on, lives on the streets, disguised as a boy. Ruka, a vampire, saves her from a perilous situation and makes her an offer: become his subservient thrall from which he can feed whenever he wants, and she can live with him—in the boys' dorm. Because her very existence depends on her secret not being discovered, every day is a new danger.

Vampire Dormitory is based on the manga series of the same name written by Ema Toyama. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Sundays.

Content warning: This anime episode includes mention of suicide.

How was the first episode?

James Beckett

There's a lot going on in Vampire Dormitory. For one, our heroine Mito starts off as poor a neglected orphan who finds herself suddenly cohabiting with a bunch of mysterious and magical men, which, okay, we've seen that one before. Not only that, though, but those mysterious magical men are freaking vampires, and they're also working as sexy butler hosts for a fancy café. Also, Mito has been living life disguised as a boy, and she'll have to hide her secret so long as she's living under the protection of the mysterious vampire butler host, Ruka.

Given how brazenly Vampire Dormitory is trading in so many well-worn tropes and cliches, I decided to take it on goodwill and assume it is in on the melodramatic joke of being the incarnation of every feverishly written self-insert anime vampire story ever scribbled in a teenage otaku's notebook in the early 2000s. It's silly, over-the-top, and more than a little campy, which I think is totally fine for a vampire romance story like this one. If anything, the convoluted circumstances of Rito's new life make her situation still feel a little dangerous and melancholy — she was on the verge of leaping from a bridge before coming to the dormitory, after all — and that's exactly the way I like my vampire fiction to be.

Still, I won't lie to you and pretend that Vampire Dormitory is anything other than perfectly serviceable harlequin romance fluff. It doesn't have the lush production values or genuine erotic appeal to work as a real bodice ripper, and the two leads are two flat and generic to make for the kind of sizzling couple that can draw a more casual audience in on the strength of their relationship alone. I'm not speaking pejoratively when I say that Vampire Dormitory feels like it is meant to be an introductory, YA-fiction take on spicy supernatural romance for readers who are still young enough to both look past the story's shallow sensibilities and to relate to Mito on a more fundamental level. There's absolutely a place for those kinds of stories! I just don't know if I fall in with the target audience that this show is aiming for, and so I don't think I will be missing much if I bid the dormitory adieu and go looking for love stories that I can better sink my teeth into.

Richard Eisenbeis

If I were to make a single comment about this anime, it'd be that “I am just not feeling it”—or to put it another way I was not able to connect with this episode on an emotional level. Sure, I understand what has happened to Mito is sad. She's been raised without love since her parents died and treated like a burden by her remaining family. Moreover, her “boyish good looks” have constantly been used as an excuse as to why not caring about her is perfectly acceptable—“surely, someone who is so physically attractive is set to play life on easy mode.”

If all this had been played straight—if all the tragedy had been left unfiltered—this could have been an emotionally hard-hitting episode. However, Mito's situation is played for laughs as often as it is played for tragedy. She's fired from jobs for being too hot—for bringing in too many female customers. Every woman she passes on the street swoons as she walks by.

And then there's all the vampire stuff. Again, we're left with this odd mixture of seriousness and slapstick. I cannot say how uninvested I am in all the vampire politics stuff or the taste of male blood versus female blood.

All this brings us to the “big reveal” of the episode. I can't help but feel that Kana Ichinose, Mito's voice actress, was incredibly miscast. While she's incredibly talented, a voice actress who specializes in young male voices should have been chosen for the role. At no point did I ever think even for a second that Mito was male—leaving the closing cliffhanger completely without teeth.

In the end, this episode was more concerned with getting all the pieces into place—i.e., giving the reasons why a cross-dressing girl is living in a dorm room with a vampire—than telling a tonally consistent story. And frankly, I'm out.

Rebecca Silverman

Ema Toyama's manga series are very hit or miss for me. For every series of hers that I love (I Am Here!, Aoba-kun's Confessions), there's one I dislike nearly as much. Vampire Dormitory's source material falls somewhere in the middle, and while it wouldn't have been my first choice for Nakayoshi's seventieth-anniversary project, the bigger issue here is that it looks just okay, both in artistic and narrative terms. It's crucial that we get to the truth about Mito within this first episode. However, it still feels like we're rushing headlong through the opening chapter(s) to get there, throwing Mito, Ruka, and the all-important vampire succession battle onto the screen without considering how they all come together. It makes sense, but it lacks emotion.

I'd argue that's important, and not just because the episode opens with Mito contemplating suicide. It's not hard to see how things came to that point; Mito's life has been awful. After being orphaned, no one seemed to want to take the poor kid in, and the most recent relative that housed her then tossed her out as soon as middle school (compulsory education in Japan) was over. To add insult to injury, Mito's given only a small bag, which can't possibly contain all her belongings, and we hear the door lock after it closes. From that point on, Mito is homeless and unable to find work, not just because of her age, but because she's…too pretty? Honestly, that doesn't make all that much sense, especially as a reason not to hire someone presenting as male at a construction site. We don't yet know why Mito disguised herself as a boy, but if it was better to get a safe job, that backfired.

Or at least it did until she wandered into a strawberry-themed café and met a vampire named Ruka. Again, we're not getting the needed backstory here, but Ruka apparently can't drink from women (that he knows are women) and hasn't consumed blood in ten years, so being drawn to Mito is a big deal. And he thinks she's a boy, so he has fewer qualms about drinking from her. Or is it that this is all wrapped up in the "destined person" business that gets brought up at the big vampire meeting? We can make guesses, and the show doesn't need to reveal all its cards yet, but there are so many balls in the air here that it's a bit hard to care about any one of them individually.

Mito is the strongest part of this episode; if anyone deserves a break, it's her. But the aggressively pink color scheme (with bonus diamonds, because girls like sparkly things?) makes Barbie look subdued, and the pacing feels off. Toyama's art translated reasonably well, but the story feels far too messy. As of this episode, I'd suggest picking up the manga instead.

Nicholas Dupree

Objectively speaking, this premiere isn't very good. It's a hodgepodge of shojo manga tropes from 20 years ago, slapped together in a shape that is at once heavily contrived and oddly clumsy. It suffers from severe tonal whiplash, jumping from wacky comedy to deathly serious in moves that do not work. It's a mess. Thankfully, that's also what makes it a lot of fun. Seriously, I was smiling throughout much of this premiere, and I get the feeling it was mostly the intended response. As its plot points grew goofier and more unbelievable with every scene, I felt my gawking skepticism turn into delight.

Yes, it's incredibly dumb that Mito can't find work because the job market is hostile to ikemen. Yes, it's ludicrous that the vampire underworld is raising its crop of royal heirs by having them run a butler cafe while going to school. And yes, the twist at the end reveals this is basically a mashup of Vampire Knight and Ouran High School Host Club. However, both those things were pretty darn fun back in the day, and the clumsy configuration of it all made for a fun ride, even if I wasn't always laughing with the show.

While maybe not wholly intentional, there's an element of camp to this whole premiere, like how there are at least a dozen different shots of Ruka grabbing, holding, and/or licking Mito in just this one episode. The twist at the end is both obvious and silly, but there's also something inherently funny to the prospect of Mito having to Ouran her way through a sexy vampire boarding school. I want to see this gay-but-secretly-not-gay love polygon play out for at least a little while.

It all feels so indulgent as if the creators are asking the audience to just drown in a deluge of all the tropes they loved from mid-2000s shojo manga. There's an endearing honesty to that, even if it's not what I'd call dramatically sound writing. I have no idea how long that energy will last, but for at least these 22 minutes, it's a fun ride.

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