Nightwalker: Midnight Detective is an animated series that the creators hope will excite fans of vampire stories. It is beautifully drawn with a dusky color palette, and well-accented with an ambient-jazz detective story soundtrack. But are vampire fans ready for a quiet, understated, animated hero?
Animation for adults has long been an accepted norm in Japanese society. In addition to the animation aimed at children, there are animated dramas, animated soap operas, and even animated pornography. The concept that animation is only for children is a theory that American audiences too are beginning to reject -- there are Japanese "cartoons" available with such intricate and mature storylines that converts to the medium can no longer understand why they ever thought that animation was only kid's stuff.
Nightwalker is a twelve episode animated series about a vampire, but it is not a standard vampire story. While I, as a vampire fan, enjoyed it very much, it is not for the viewer seeking the deeper meanings of vampirism, or philosophical explorations into the meaning of life. Though it does, later in the series, delve into the difficulties of immortality and being alone throughout centuries, this is not a series about the workings of vampiric lifestyles. Rather, it is a story about human (and in-human) interaction in a dangerous and violent world, and about love and heartache.
Private Detective Tatsuhiko Shido is a several hundred-year-old vampire who specializes in murder cases -- murder cases of an especially brutal nature. The murderers he searches for are not, in fact, human, but rather peculiar night demons, called the Breed. The Breed, also referred to as the Night Breed, are distantly related to vampires, but lack a vampire's finesse and charm. The Breed thrive on blood and violence, and Shido has made it his job to protect mankind from these dangerous creatures.
Shido doesn't remember his past. His maker, a handsome and evil vampire by the name of Cain, took away Shido's memories when he took his mortality. Shido only knows that he has rejected Cain's cruel ways, and that he wants to help make the night safe for humankind by battling the loathsome Night Breed.
And Shido isn't alone: He is joined by a small bat-winged imp named Guni, who tries to keep Shido honest with her smart-mouthed charm, sticking by him through everything. He is also accompanied by Yayoi, a beautiful policewoman who always brings Shido the cases that leave the special teams baffled. More importantly Yayoi is immune to a vampire's bite -- where others would be transformed, she remains human -- and can provide him with much needed blood. Yayoi, like Shido, has a mysterious past for which she wishes a kind of atonement. Finally there is young Riho, a high school student with a crush on Shido. After the Breed killed her parents, she decided to help Shido in any way she could, which currently involves playing secretary when she's not at school. Riho is the only one of the group who doesn't know Shido's secret. . . . Will her opinion of him be forever marred when she realizes that he, too, is a monster? And does Shido maybe harbor some feelings for his bright, cheery tag-a-long, that make him wish she would never find out?
Shido is not a typical vampire. In addition to the anime affectations of blue hair and a magical sword created out of his own blood, he can walk in daylight provided he's well covered and wearing sunglasses, and he doesn't seem to have a problem with entering churches. His only real fear seems to stem from his old master Cain, who appears to him from the shadows trying to recall Shido to his former life of lust, blood, and abandon. How far will Cain go to get Shido back? When Cain realizes how much Shido cares for Riho, will Shido be able to protect her?
More mysteriously, could Cain have some connection to the Breed Shido is chasing? The Breed seem to prey on the weak and the helpless, killing some and possessing others to perform their nefarious deeds. Are the Breed truly nothing but evil?
Though die-hard fans of traditional vampire stories will find themselves disappointed, I believe that the less stringent viewer will appreciate the themes illustrated in Nightwalker. I admit that the sword made from Shido's blood is not the most awe-inspiring of vampiric powers, but the story is not found in the mechanics of Shido's supernatural abilities. This is a story about characters that the writers successfully make us care about, and about the struggles humans have with the emotions which open them up to possession by the Breed: greed, lust, and anger. The messages of the series are delivered with humor and wit that makes each episode enjoyable.
Nightwalker: Midnight Detective straddles the boundary between shows for young adults and mature audiences. While there is no profanity or sex, there is some brief nudity and violence, and a story worthy of adult attention. With graceful art and superb character interaction, Nightwalker rounds itself out as an entertaining series: a detective story showing the gentler side of vampirism contrasted with the cold-blooded Breed, and the more complex evil that Cain wishes to bring to humankind.
Nightwalker hits store shelves on April 10th, but has been available for pre-order from retailers since mid-March. U.S. Manga Corps, owned by Central Park Media, is releasing the first six episodes on one DVD, both English dubbed and Japanese with English subtitles. The second half of the series is scheduled to arrive on DVD in June. There will also be VHS releases.
Erin Donahoe was born on February 21, 1977 at 12:21pm, proving that she has never been a Morning Person. She currently works as a Virus Hunter at a University Computer Lab, and attends Law School. She has several poems Accepted for Publication (see her web site), and vows that when she is Evil Overlord her minions will wear clear plastic face shields.