By: Vrai Kaiser July 9, 20240 Comments
Live carrying Masakichi through the air, framed by Masakichi's phone

Content Warning: Suicidal ideation

What’s it about? Masakichi has just been booted from the Hyped-Up Sisters NewTube channel after throwing a punch during a livestream. Spiraling and desperate to make a comeback, Masakichi stumbles on the perfect solution in Live, a vampire who just woke up from a 20-year dream of a woman who’s Masakichi’s spitting image. The two make a deal: if Live will star in videos and rack up a million subscribers, Masakichi will offer herself up as dinner.

Sometimes the sky parts in the world of anime, and an angel floats down from the clouds with a show made specifically for me. Last time it was “giant robots piloted by a disaster bisexual doing Utena references.” And now, I am being treated to the delights of anime original failgirl vampire yuri made by PA Works, a studio famous for having their shows all or nearly completed before they ever get to air. The series composer (Shirasaka Hideaki) is pretty new to the industry, but worked alongside MAYONAKA’s director doing episode scripts for previous PA hit Ya Boy Kongming!This might not be a guaranteed slam dunk, but it’s a hell of a strong start.

Masakichi sitting in front of a sparkly "sorry" banner and frowning

The episode is a feast for the eyes, with some especially sumptuous nighttime backgrounds, but what really impressed me is how tightly executed it is from a narrative and comedic perspective. The script devotes more or less equal time to both of its leads and in that time offers a complete sketch of where the show can grow from here. Masakichi is especially fascinating and clearly the emotional anchor of the show: she encouraged her sisters (who I think are her blood relatives but it’s not 100% clear) to get into making videos and has held onto that fact as the “fun thing to do together” turned into a professional career, a mental shift Masakichi has clearly struggled with.

Her story is one that happens on a daily basis in that sense, particularly among the millennial/zillennial cusp, before the industrialization of “content” really took hold as a standard. Masakichi is quite clearly ill-suited to the role of an internet public figure—she acts impulsively, spirals and stews when things blow up, and digs her heels in even when she’s in the wrong. She’s not a human monster by any stretch—it’s clear she feels regret about trying to strike out on her own before apologizing…but then she’s sucked down into the spiral, where the real critiques get supplanted by the wave of people calling her a talentless hack or a “violent bitch,” and the stubbornness turns into being frozen. It’s easy to see why she keeps digging her own grave.

Live covering her face with her hands. "I can't think straight and it's driving me wild!"
We know, sweetie

At the same time, this is not a “wehhhh, Cancel Culture” premise, despite the episode title (“The Canceled Girl and the Sleepy Vampire”). Masakichi is legitimately traumatized in some ways by the online backlash, but she also makes the wrong decision at every intersection after that initial punch, blaming the nebulous ghost of “the haters” with increasing fervor until a service worker at an izakaya snaps at her for drunkenly shouting about her persecution and keeping them from closing, shaking Masakichi a little out of her “none of my behavior has ever been at fault for anything” defenses. The writing’s sympathetic to her sadness but also well aware that she’s a kind of a shit, and that makes it more fun to ride the rollercoaster of her fuckups.

Live’s story is much more straightforward. She took a long nap, during which she apparently only had a single very horny dream about a hot naked lady offering her blood (we only see her from the back, but Live’s facial expressions do the rest), and woke up to two facts: first, that her vampiric roommate Ichiko racked up a massive amount of debt trying to play the stock market; and second, that this newfangled “smartphone” can show her the spitting image of the woman from her dream. These scenes have a lot of physical comedy, but they also don’t mistake volume for comedy, which went a long way (along with the lack of fan service) to making baby-faced Ichiko fun rather than irritating.

Ichiko proudly gesturing at a pile of bills

I am also dead impressed with the needle the show manages to thread during Live and Masakichi’s first meeting. Live looks quite effectively eerie through Masakichi’s eyes, so when a chase ensues it’s clear the alarm is centered on being eaten rather than hit on. Meanwhile, Live monologues to herself about conducting a proper courtship while her still-hangry vampire instincts home in on the nearest warm body. It’s spooky as well as funny, and when the two finally talk it’s clear that there’s pathos here in addition to the sight gags.

Right now Live’s attraction to Masakichi is veiled in bloodlust, but the whole “dreaming about naked women” thing hints at least the potential for more conventional attraction. And the fact that the deal the two strike is functionally a suicide pact on Masakichi’s part absolutely screams for the kind of “oh no, but you’re NOT food” twist that I am an absolute sucker for in any kind of monsterfucker story. MAYONAKA PUNCH has flown beneath the radar of pre-season chatter, but I’m encouraging y’all in no uncertain terms to put it at the top of your list. This one’s got the goods.

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