Directed by Shinobu Tagashira
Animated by Zexcs
Suitable for 17+
It’s not unusual for Japanese video games to spawn an anime spin-off. If the game is relatively successful, it stands to reason that a television show based on it would do equally well. Who wouldn’t want to relax and watch their favorite characters interact with each other in new ways? This was the attempted case with the anime version of Diabolik Lovers. However, it backfired miserably.
Diabolik Lovers was originally a series of PSP/ PS Vita visual novel games. A short explanation for those who don’t know what a visual novel game is: It’s essentially an interactive comic book. Most revolve around a harem (group of women) or reverse harem (group of men) and your attempts to get in your favorite character’s pants. Yes, before you ask, most of them have porn scenes.
Harem—or reverse harem, as the case is here—visual novel games can be incredibly entertaining to play. Who doesn’t like the idea of being able to seduce someone and then enjoy the fruits of your efforts? In addition, the promise of multitudes of endings between a large cast of characters ups the replayability factor immensely. On the flip side, harem animes do not always do so well. There are few (think Love Hina) that hit the proverbial sweet spot, with a varied combination of plots to keep you interested. Then there are others, like Diabolik Lovers, that are practically all smut and no substance.
Diabolik Lovers is a 12-episode series about a family of vampire half-brothers that are offered sacrificial brides. Yui Komori becomes the most recent bride, and the brothers all take turns torturing her and drinking her blood. This is literally the “plot” for the first six episodes in the series. Half of the series consists of Yui crying, a vampire brother biting her, him enjoying it just a little too much, Yui crying some more, rinse and repeat. The first half of Diabolik Lovers is so one-note that you probably could sleep through the entire thing and make it out better than those who trudged through it.
The second half of Diabolik Lovers does pick up some, but there’s no real transition between the two. There’s no plot; then suddenly, all the plot. We go from a band of egotistical, sadistic brothers torturing a young maiden to a troop of nearly powerless, whiny siblings fighting against a dominating mother figure (Cordelia) and their uncle. There are a few teasers of the mother here and there in the first half, but they are so overwhelmed by the rapey blood-drinking scenes that you completely forget you’ve even seen her before.
In addition, all the brothers get their “moment in the sun” (not literally of course) in the first half of the series, but the second half only really features Ayato, Kanato, and Laito, Cordelia’s sons. These three jump to the foreground, with the other brothers all but disappearing. And while all have their claim to Yui as the sacrificial bride, they suddenly give up without a fight when Ayato claims her as his own. When the entire first half of Diabolik Lovers is about the different brothers staking their claim on Yui, you’d think they’d at least put up some kind of half-assed resistance. But no, that would make too much damn sense.
The plot in the second half of Diabolik Lovers can be summarized thusly: Sons kill mother, uncle loves mother, uncle resurrects mother, mother wants sons and husband dead, uncle wants husband’s throne/betrays the mother, sons kill uncle/mother again, Yui whines plenty all throughout, then becomes a vampire at the end. Ta-dah! You’d never know that actually takes place in six full episodes! Had all of that plot been sprinkled throughout the series as a whole, with a little more meat on its bones, Diabolik Lovers might not have sucked so terribly. That being said, it wasn’t spaced out, which made the first half almost completely useless, and the second so hurried and forced that it didn’t feel worth watching either.
Not only were Diabolik Lovers‘ story and escalation lifeless, the characters were too (and not because they are undead vampires). The main character, Yui, is useless and naive. Her sole purpose is to provide blood for the brothers, all while pointlessly protesting, much to their amusement. The brothers themselves were equally one note and forgettable. It’s constantly clear that they have one goal in mind, which makes evolution of their personalities almost impossible. While they all have different quirks—Reiji is the brainy one, Laito is the sadistically suave lady killer, Kanato is the psychotically adorable one, etc.—that is as deep into their being as you get. Shallow characters cannot carry a series very far, and Diabolik Lovers certainly proves this.
If you’re into rapey vampire visual novels, Diabolik Lovers might do it for you. There’s a particularly blatant piece of fan service after the last episode where all the brothers speak to the camera in turn as if you were Yui. If that isn’t your idea of a good time, you’ll hate this series. To anyone that plans to watch it, you might as well skip the first six episodes since you really won’t miss much. The knowledge that Yui is a sacrificial bride and all the brothers want to drink her blood will carry you into the second half of the series just fine. Once you’re there, just go with it because that’s exactly what the series expects you to do. And speaking of mindlessly accepting things as they are, the brothers’ father is mentioned by name countless times but never actually shown. So beware Karl Heinz, the enigmatic “vampire king” who has somehow spawned all these demon sons without ever showing his babymaker, let alone his face.
Probably the most atrocious fact related to Diabolik Lovers is that it is getting a sequel. Diabolik Lovers More, Blood airs at the end of September 2015. Stay tuned for even more vampiric blood play, annoyingly defenseless maidens, and even more mommy issues.
Anime reviews come courtesy of Crunchyroll.com. Crunchyroll is the largest anime streaming service available in Western markets, with an ever-expanding library of anime series, movies, and manga. Any fan of Japanese animation and culture is sure to find a trove of things to love, and anyone new and curious couldn’t find a better place to start. Follow the link crunchyroll.com/dreadcentral, and check it out today!