Episodes 1-3 – Call of the Night

I remember a moment in between college semesters, on one of our less humid summer nights, when I slipped out my parents’ door and walked for hours through the cricket chirps and moonlight. I just had to get outside; some combination of insomnia and late-teenage angst rippled like electricity through my brain, and although I couldn’t articulate why, this seemed like the only solution. I’d lived in this city my whole life. I’d been down these streets hundreds if not thousands of times. But as my house grew more distant, the terrain grew more alien. Under the amber pall of sodium lamps, unfiltered by windshields, at my slow step-by-step pace, the sidewalks and roadsides took on an unfamiliar character. It was frightening. Although I saw no one save for the occasional car, I felt like I’d encroached into territory that did not belong to me. Every rustle of leaves stirred my imagination, and I envisioned all kinds of creatures lumping between the bushes and beyond my sight. Eventually, however, I felt at peace. The night did not reject me. It subsumed me. And when I returned to my bed, I fell asleep.

My story does not end with me becoming some hot vampire’s midnight snack, regrettably, but that’s what fiction is for. Call of the Night‘s power, to me, stems from its ability to express the exact fuzziness of the feelings I felt walking those dark and empty streets. I feel known by it. It paints the city after hours in a surreal super-saturated rainbow of hues. It shows the tightness in Ko’s chest and the lightness in his feet. It explores Nazuna both as an avatar of nocturnal predators and as a lonely soul searching for something daylight can never provide her. Call of the Night has comedy, romance, and horniness aplenty, but its quintessence is the night itself—unknown, probably dangerous, yet appealing to us weirdos all the same.

Full disclosure: I’m almost caught up on the manga, and I love it. It flew onto my radar when it was first announced, because at the time I was already a fan of author Kotoyama‘s Dagashi Kashi. That wasn’t a slam dunk series or anything, but the niche subject matter and filthy indulgences made the gag comic entertaining consistently, and I enjoyed the bony expressiveness of the character art. Call of the Night maintains the style and pinchant for raunchy humor, only with a greater emphasis on story and character. While that’s not to say Call of the Night‘s early acts don’t meander a lot—the series runs on pure vibes for a good while—I do want to say that Kotoyama eventually threads a rather compelling and appropriate drama together. And that’s all I want to mention about future developments in this and subsequent reviews, so the anime-only audience needs not fear reading on. I just think that’s pertinent info for anybody who digs the mood but might not feel the story’s barbs in their skin yet.

The anime-only audience is in a good place right now too, because we have a great adaptation on our hands. The voice cast all fit their roles, and the pacing of the banter between Nazuna and Ko is especially on point. There are a lot of quick asides and jokes of varying quality, and by not spending too much time on any one of them, they manage to make the dialogue sound funnier and more natural. The integration of the hip hop group Creepy Nuts into the soundtrack has also been an inspired choice—and an inspirational one, considering Kotoyama took the series’ title from their song of the same name (which now serves as the ED, the circle of creative camaraderie). Their insert song in episode 2, as Nazuna carries Ko through the air, sounds both upbeat and laidback in a way that captures the spirit of the couple’s rebellion against the waking hours. It’s a distinctive choice, and I feel like I can understand why Kotoyama was drawn to their music when drafting the manga.

Getting Tomoyuki Itamura on board as director was the perfect choice too. The Monogatari Series veteran knows his way around a vampire story or two, and he knows how to do it with style. Now, his involvement comes with a big asterisk: he’s fresh on the heels of two seasons of the excellent The Case Study of Vanitasso he likely had highly truncated availability for Call of the Night‘s prep work. To that end, Tetsuya Miyanishi is on board as chief director, and the two have worked together previously on Vanitas and other series, so I don’t think it’s a complete wash. Also, I’ve been really impressed with the results so far. Where most series, animated and otherwise, turn night scenes into a muted muddy mess, Call of the Night breathes reams of bright post-Impressionist color into its nightscapes. The storyboarding has been strong and efficient too, taking creative liberties with camera angles and blocking to add momentum to the dialogue, while punctuating most jokes with appropriate panel redraws. There’s always the chance the production values ​​could fall apart at any moment, but a firm and stylish foundation is as good a bulwark as any.

There is, unsurprisingly, an undeniable degree to which Call of the Night functions as a vampire wife simulator. The premiere especially is heavier on the conventional fanservice, and combined with Ko’s light flirtations with cringy teen boy misogyny, it doesn’t make the noblest first impression. By the third episode, however, the show settles into a more relaxed atmosphere. Ko is confused and melancholy more than he is bitter, Nazuna’s starting to show more shades of herself beyond being a perpetual tease, and Akira makes for a mellowing addition to the cast. The sex jokes are here to stay, but that’s okay, because they’ve got a pretty good hit rate. I can’t recall the anime’s wording at the moment, but in the manga, a flustered Nazuna calls Ko a “saucy little trollop” when he starts baring neck skin in public. It’s a great, layered bit: you’ve got a gender role reversal, Nazuna’s prior conversation conflating sex with food, the Victorian-era absurdity of freaking out over an exposed nape, and the fact that Nazuna says this while rocking hot pants and a gratuitous cleavage window. I also appreciate how well the anime gels with the series’ less conventionally horny aspects, such as Kotoyama‘s hand fetish. In the manga, the characters’ hands can be very bony, articulate, and expressive, and the adaptation has put in commendable effort projecting that attention to the phalanges onto the screen.

Ultimately, Call of the Night lives or dies on the appeal of Ko and Nazuna’s relationship. After all, he wants to become a vampire like her, and the only way that will happen is if he falls in love with her. Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for audience), neither party knows the first thing about romance, so their road there is guaranteed to be long, winding, and full of suck-heavy innuendo. While it may be tempting to dismiss these opening acts (especially the premiere) as another entry in a long line of wacky girlfriend wish fulfillment, I think the series already has evidence of depths beyond that. While Ko’s a familiar archetype, I like that he’s an unrepentant truant who’s enticed by the implied illegality of his night excursions. There’s some understated (if quintessentially adolescent) edge there, and his desire to be turned by Nazuna is driven by the lurid intoxication of the night as much as it’s driven by their heavy necking sessions. Nazuna’s been largely playful so far, but we also have evidence both of her otherworldliness and her all-too-human faults and foibles. They’re outcasts who have found each other, and they’re aspiring mutual monsters. I love both those tropes, so Call of the Night is as sweet to me as a drop of Ko’s blood on Nazuna’s tongue.


Call of the Night is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

Steve’s Twitter DMs are open to vampires and vampires only. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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