Reviewby Luke Carroll,
DVD 1 - Phase 1
While Kouhei ranks among the best in paranormal photography, he's never actually seen a ghost! So when he fails to capture a hauntingly beautiful young girl on camera, curiosity drives him into the arms of a haughty vampire and a world he cannot comprehend. The vampire Hazuki, having waited years for someone to finally set her free, proves unwilling to part with her unwitting hero and follows him home and promptly adopts his life as her own. And as the adolescent vampire wrecks her own flavor of havoc, mysterious forces conspire to reclaim what was lost.
Some riddles are best left unsolved...
Production Company: SHAFT
I first got a glimpse of Moon Phase long ago at the local anime club. Dark vampire-ish shows have never been something that I am particularly fond of, so it goes without saying that the first episode I saw never really clicked with me. It is not often that my initial impressions get proven wrong, yet after watching some more episodes of this odd series, I can honestly say that my assumptions so far have been slightly off. Moon Phase may have its fair share of dark overtones, but amongst all of that is some wonderful comedic moments and a mysterious story that has a lot of potential.
The series kicks off with a two episode introduction that starts the series on a high note. A few moments into the first episode we meet Kouhei, an everyday looking guy who strives to be a great photographer. There is only one problem though, he is 'spiritually retarded' and thus every photo he takes winds up having a spirit or ghost in it. This of course makes him great for taking photos for supernatural magazines, but nothing else. During his travels near a castle in Germany, he notices a young girl sitting atop the structure, and as any photographer would do he takes some photos. When the photos are developed however, we find that the girl is not in them, and thus Kohei is left wanting to see her once more. It comes as no surprise that his co-workers are planning to go there tonight, and they need Kohei's 'spiritual retardedness' to get into the castle.
Once inside Kouhei soon meets Hazuki, the young girl whom he saw the night before. We begin to learn a little about this young girl, however before she can give Kouhei a 'present' for meeting her, the castle guardian Vigo steps in and breaks the pair up. This doesn't work as Vigo soon gets distracted by the break in attempt from Kouhei's co-workers. Hazuki uses this moment to give Kouhei his 'present', a nice bite on the neck. You see, it is not initially made clear but Hazuki is a vampire, and supposedly anyone who gets bitten by one of these creatures quickly becomes their slave. That is unless your Kouhei, whose 'spiritual retardness' even repels enslavery. Failing at making innocent Kouhei her pet, Hazuki believes all hope is lost for her to leave the castle's walls, however Kouhei has other plans, and after a number of set action pieces the spiritual barrier surrounding the castle is destroyed and Hazuki disappears.
This however marks only the start of the series, so it comes as no surprise that upon arriving home from the airport, Kouhei gets the shock of his life with the appearance of Hazuki. Thankfully the plot doesn't just end here, as we soon find out that Hazuki's real motives are to find her mother who left her in the castle some years before. We learn that this mirrors Kouhei's past somewhat, so he finds himself sympathizing with her and begins helping her out in her quest. Of course it isn't all smooth sailing as we eventually meet up with Elfriede, a fellow vampire who has been given the task to persuade Hazuki to return to the castle of her own free will. Although the first encounter with her is one of malice, she is soon to change her ways, reappearing once again as a nice and charming lady set on grinding Hazuki's nerves. Although the plot for Moon Phase is far from spectacular, these initial episodes give the impression that there is a deeper story hidden away amongst the characters that will hopefully become apparent in future episodes.
As with most of the current anime titles being released, the animation quality in Moon Phase is wonderful to look at. Presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, everything has a crisp clean look that is easy on the eyes. If there is one thing to fault the animation with, it is that it does not try to do anything special with its character details or colours, giving it an almost identical look to every other anime title currently on the market. Also noticeable is the focus given to make everything look lighter and softer. Whilst this generally is not intrusive, it is hard to not notice the many black areas that instead appear as a lighter gray tone. These small issues aside, Moon Phase manages to remain quite constant with its animation and looks quite good regardless.
The soundtrack for Moon Phase is quite a surprise package, mixing a great blend of music with the dialogue to create an overall package that not many shows can attest to. Of particular notice is the care given to keep the background music from interfering with the dialogue. There is almost a perfect level of music chosen for each scene, and it never decides to overstep its duties. The intro song "Neko Mimi Mode" would rate as one of the most oddest choices a series could have gone for, however it does have its charm. On the flip side the outro song goes with the series brilliantly, providing a great closure for every episode. Overall, Moon Phase has a number of great music pieces that are matched brilliantly to make the most out of every scene without overstepping their mark.
Unfortunately the dub is nothing outstanding, although it does an adequate job in portraying the personalities for each character. Voiced by veteran Monica Rial, Hazuki is likely the only exception, and is a treat to listen to when she begins her tantrums and arguments. But Kouhei's voice along with the rest of the cast is nothing special, although they do a good enough job to make the dub a somewhat watchable experience. Translation wise, Moon Phase is far from perfect, constantly deviating from the original lines and in the case of the next episode previews, not even following the translation at all. Whether or not the previews are any better is personal choice. But overall Moon Phase manages to pull off a some what bearable dub that does occasionally work, however those moments are few and far between, leaving the experience slightly underwhelming and at times quite average.
On the extras side of things, Moon Phase doesn't contain much worth noting. Included on the disc is the text less opening and closing, character profiles and madman trailers. Thankfully that isn't all, as Madman have also added a small booklet containing three interviews but they are very brief and could have easily been included on the disc instead. It is also worth noting that the fonts used for the menu options are actually quite small in size, leaving them to be almost illegible on smaller tv sets and causing strain on the eyes, which is a shame because I've never witnessed such a bad menu oversight since Spriggan. Overall though, the extras for Moon Phase are fairly underwhelming, however they are exactly the same as to what the US got, so there is very little room here to complain.
At the end of the day, Moon Phase is far from a ground breaking title. Alot of its ideas have been done before and the cast is barely unique. That does not stop it from being quite a fun little title when everything comes together, something which it manages to do numerous times. Moon Phase may not win any awards with its ideas or art, however the odd and humorous relationship shared between Hazuki and Kohei will no doubt make the title a favourite amongst many anime fans.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Soundtrack is great, Hazuki is a sight to watch, Can at times be quite humerous.
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