The four episodes in the Vampire Princess Miyu OVA series only touch the surface of the manga series, but they do a good job of it. Miyu is a vampire, tasked with returning escaped “shinma” (literally “god-demons”) to the darkness where they belong. Himiko is a spiritualist who keeps running into Miyu and becomes somewhat obsessed with tracking down Miyu and figuring out who and what she is.
I love the character designs for this series. Narumi Kakinouchi is one of my favorite manga artists. She has a very delicate hand, and is able to easily convey emotion with only the slightest of lines. She and her director husband, Toshihiro Hirano, worked on this series together, creating one of the most interesting takes on vampires I have ever seen.
“Unearthly Kyoto” introduces Miyu and Himiko, when Himiko arrives to look into the mysterious coma of a young girl in Kyoto. She quickly discovers a number of vampire attacks in the area. I really liked the plotting of this episode. Hirano chose the slow reveal, only giving out tidbits of information at a time. The animation was gorgeous as well, showing off the talents of Kakinouchi and the team of animators. I really liked how creative Kakinouchi was with the vampire legends, making this one truly its own thing. This is my favorite episode in Vampire Princess Miyu.
More is revealed about Miyu in “A Banquet of Marionettes”, where Miyu and Himiko face a formidable opponent who may be almost as powerful as Miyu. This episode showed some of Miyu’s human side, allowing the viewer to feel some sympathy for her situation. This episode suffered slightly from unusual pacing and plotting, but things tied together nicely at the end. Those familiar with bunraku (Japanese puppet theater) will really enjoy this episode.
“Fragile Armor” has Miyu requesting help from Himiko when someone captures Larva (Miyu’s Shinma servant). This episode requires more understanding of Japanese culture than any of the others, which may make it less accessible. It did show Miyu’s youthful petulance more than any other episode in Vampire Princess Miyu, so perhaps that played a part in making this my least favorite of the four episodes. Still, she is a 13 year old stuck in time, which leads us to the fourth episode.
We finally learn more about Miyu’s origins in “Frozen Time”, as well as more about Himiko’s past. This episode was my second favorite of the four. This episode, more than any other, helped me to understand Miyu’s tragic life and the horrible burden put upon her. As the final episode in the OVA series, it really packed a solid punch and solidified this anime series as one of my favorites.
The final element which really made Vampire Princess Miyu an excellent series was the music by Kenji Kawai. He is one of the best composers in the world, and has received many accolades over the years. The creepily-tragic opening theme song sets the entire tone of the series. This continued throughout the series with incidental music that kept the tone just right. This soundtrack has been one of my favorites for years. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves interesting horror without all the gore.
Original Release Dates: July 21, 1988 – April 1, 1989 (Japan)
Suggested Age Rating: 13+
Language: Japanese, English
Original Title: 吸血姫美夕 (Vanpaia Miyu)
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief smoking)
Language: 1 (mild)
Sexuality: 1 (innuendo)
Violence: 2 (vampire attacks, scary monster attacks, some death, nothing graphic)