Diabolik Lovers (Review)

When seventeen year old Yui Komori’s father has to go overseas for work, her church convinces her to temporarily move into a large house shared by six teenage boys… Because that’s totally something a church would do… And transfer into the night school that they all attend. What they don’t tell her is that the six boys are all vampires, and like any boys their age, they are only interested in one thing.

They make no bones about the fact that she now belongs to them, even branding her with the demeaning nickname “Bitchu-chan,” which roughly translates to “Little Bitch.” With no hope of escape, and hungry fangs awaiting her at every turn, will Yui’s new living arrangement turn out to be a sweet dream, or a beautiful nightmare?

Before I sink my own fangs into the meat of the story, I guess I should talk about the artwork and animation. Thankfully, I really don’t have anything negative to say about it. Diabolik Lovers has a very strong, very consistent sense of visual style, blending the flowery water-color aesthetic that you’d expect from a shoujo series with a dark, gothic edge to a very beautiful result. The backgrounds are rich and highly detailed, with a lot of obvious love and care going into every frame. The character designs are inspired and memorable, if not a little on the rough side. The animation is low budget, but it’s well managed, so it still looks passable.

It’s a very pretty looking show, but unfortunately, that beauty is only skin deep, and this anime has a wealth of problems below the surface.

To start, the dialogue may have a few clever moments, but it’s mostly stilted, expositional, and sophomoric. We’re told a lot of things that the characters say ‘should be obvious,’ but that’s rarely ever the case, as the logic behind it all is spotty at best. The six brothers have unique traits to them, but at the end of the day, they all have one thing in common: They’re all heavily unlikeable douchebags who don’t care about our heroine for any reason other than the bright red juice flowing through her veins. In fact, they’re so voracious about it that the only thing the writers have to do to endear one of them to Yui is to have them stop drinking her out of boredom. Nothing about them ever changes, from first episode to last. Even the flashback episode, which tries very hard to humanize them and explain their adult attitudes, just comes off as hollow for the effort.

But as badly as our male cast is characterized, they have absolutely nothing on Little Miss Little Bitch. Even though she clearly doesn’t like being feasted on, she is submissive down to her very last drop, rarely ever putting up a fight against them aside from a half-hearted ‘no, please stop!’ request. She’s not clever, she’s not smart… Painfully so on both counts. No matter how much pain her frail little neck endures, it doesn’t even compare to how sore my throat is from yelling at her to stop making so many stupid decisions. Yes, I know, this anime was adapted from a Visual Novel, and the people doing the adapting thought it would be just fine to leave her as the blank slate she was when they found her. It’s not uncommon for the main character in this type of adaptation to be a self-insert wish-fulfillment character, but who the hell would want to insert themselves into a role that could basically be described as human livestock?

Well, let’s examine that idea for a moment. If you haven’t caught onto this just yet, Diabolik Lovers has developed a reputation for being incredibly rapey. This is a reputation it whole-heartedly deserves, on numerous different levels, from the vampires’ lack of concern with Yui’s emotional status to the genuine affection she develops for them as a result. But I’d like to take it one step further… I don’t think this show is rapey by accident. I think it was intended, in every conceivable way, to be a rape fantasy, with actual rape being replaced with fang-rape. And I can prove it, with one simple observation.

See, the icing on this cake… Is the fact that the vampire brothers all eat cake! Yes, that’s a bad joke, but I’m not really kidding, either. The vampires are shown eating human food on several occasions, and it’s suggested that they do so on a fairly regular basis. They like the taste, as well. It’s not hard to draw the conclusion that it sustains them just as well as it would sustain any other human, since no information either for or against this idea is ever brought up in story.

Why is this a problem, you ask? Well, in most vampire stories, the nocturnal ne’er-do-wells need blood for sustenance, which makes their plight all the more sympathetic and understandable. They can survive on substitutes, like the animal blood in Twilight and the synthetic blood in True Blood, but it’s a poor substitute for the real thing. In Diabolik Lovers, however, the brothers don’t actually need Yui’s blood… They can survive on human food, which eliminates the sustenance argument completely. They don’t physically need it, which narrows their desire down to two possible explanations… It’s either a psychological compulsion(addiction), or a sexual desire.

Since they express their desire for her blood right off the bat, and immediately start the process of ‘domesticating’ her, It’s fair to say this isn’t just an addiction. If that were the case, they’d be actively farming humans to drink from. Which wouldn’t be difficult, because they go to school, and are surrounded by human females on a nightly basis. (At least I assume so… We only see them in school once, and no other human characters are shown.) They want her, specifically, because she’s in their territory, and she belongs to them. Once that sense of male entitlement enters the picture, It doesn’t get any more clear-cut than that. They want her blood not for the nutrition, but for the thrill of it… For the sense of power it gives them over her, as they know in their cold hearts that she wants it just as much as they do, whether she realizes it or not.

In other words, the thirst for blood in this show is entirely sexual, and never consensual. For that, Diabolik Lovers isn’t just specifically designed to be a rape fantasy… It is hands down the rapiest anime I have ever seen. Oh, and the fact that Yui is basically roofied in episode five doesn’t help, either.

And even if you’re able to forgive all the moral problems with this show, you’re still left with a terrible story. For ten straight episodes, we follow this helpless little damsel in faux distress as she gets bounced from vamp to vamp, having her seemingly endless supply of blood drained as inappropriate music plays in the background, ranging from romantic to borderline pornographic, a musical tone that’s not at all helped by the way a lot of these attack are staged and framed. Her wounds then magically heal faster than you can say ‘Wolverine,’ and she’s on to her next pitiful display of self defense.

Even in the rare moments when she escapes, she never takes advantage of it. She’ll run to a church, instead of to a police station, and even though the crucifix approach failed her in the first episode, she’ll be surprised when church doesn’t work, as they just effortlessly teleport to wherever she is. She doesn’t try to ask anybody for help, and at one point even consciously decides to stay for some forced, senseless reason that never actually gets followed up on.

There’s an actual plot in the last few episodes, but the writers clearly had no interest in it, as it has little impact on the story and gets swept away with little finesse, despite the admittedly impressive set-up that went into it. The episodes are mercifully only fifteen minutes in length, but the pacing is so awful that I didn’t even notice it until episode ten. There’s no development, no logic, no consistency, and seemingly no thought beyond the desires of it’s immature target audience.

And here’s the most annoying part… With a sweets-guzzling, stuffed animal-wielding immature character like Kanato floating around, there’s a very distinct possibility that this entire franchise might have been conceived as a terrible Ouran High School Host Club fanfic, with Haruhi replaced by the author’s own blank slate self insert character. Seriously, think about it… The eldest brother is a lazy blonde, who pushes all of his work and responsibilities onto a glasses-clad second in command, and if that doesn’t prove it, nothing will.

This show is intended specifically as a metaphorical rape fantasy for teenaged girls who can’t decide between 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight, and hey, if that’s what you’re looking for, then look no further, this is the perfect show for you. For fans of dark vampire romances who DON’T want all of their precious bishies to be detestable douchebag rapists, then I highly recommend checking out the first season… And I can’t stress this enough, ONLY the first season… Of Vampire Knight. It’s not a great show, but it’s still leagues better than this piece of garbage.

For the rest of us, Diabolik Lovers is an uncomfortable and often infuriating experience. There are some things I kind of like about it… It looks great, and I thought having the episode numbers represented by a ticking clock was kind of cool… But overall, It just doesn’t have any qualities that are good enough to justify all of the things that are glaringly wrong with it. For that, I can’t think of any good reason to give it anything higher than a 2/10.  

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