Devils’ Line – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser April 7, 20180 Comments
Anzai stepping between Tsukasa and Akimura

What’s it about? College student Tsukasa lives an ordinary life, save for the strange feeling that she’s being followed; when her dear friend Akimura reveals himself to be a vampire trying to hold back from eating her, a near-miss rescue draws her into a dark world of monsters.

Content Warning: Sexual assault; violence against women

It’s always disappointing to see potential go to waste. There are a few smart ideas in this premiere and some primo unintentional comedy, but it manages to shoot itself in the foot right before the credits roll. Which is a shame, because the central twist of the episode had me hooked at first.

a vampire on his knees, screaming against a red-filtered sky
Pictured: Me, and my dashed hopes

Folks who follow me outside of AniFem may know that I have a bit of a taste for vampire stories, a fondness that persists even though the cultural zeitgeist has long passed by. That taste tends to preclude heterosexual love stories about human women and vampire men, partly because of the exact pitfalls this premiere falls into: playing into the idea of men as tragic, pitiable romantic figures who simply can’t help their constant urge to prey on comparatively helpless women, echoing a lot of extremely ugly real-world rhetoric around sexual assault and harassment.

Devils’ Line initially got my hopes up by seeming to look at that issue head-on. Tsukasa’s male best friend is an extremely noxious, repugnant Nice Guy stereotype, at first reassuring Tsukasa that he knows she doesn’t feel that way about him and that’s okay, but then in the same conversation mentioning that he’d freak out if she ever got a boyfriend and that he’s okay with being friends “for now.” Not long after, he’s revealed to be a vampire who’s been raping and murdering women to keep from preying on Tsukasa.

Tsukasa's friend standing up for her. Caption: Hey, cut her some slack. Tsukasa is "pure," okay?
I didn’t even get to the Not Like Other Girls business!

It’s a really great twist on its own, set in a scene with a good sense of unease and buildup and playing on the fear that someone you knew and trusted is actually a monster who could’ve turned on you at any minute. I was genuinely impressed, and between that, the hilariously gory opening backed by overdramatic wailing, and a badass lady vampire hunter, I was ready to give the series a thumbs-up.

Then the premiere spends its last five minutes dismantling all of the goodwill it had built up.

Tsukasa is naturally shaken and sad about losing her friend, but the episode proceeds to frame it as “isn’t it so tragic that she didn’t understand how he was suffering.” The fact that Akimura is (1) not killed here and (2) featured in the opening credits also suggests the show will push that element, having her guilt herself over not returning his advances for at least a chunk of the story—which is just stupendously gross and also an actively harmful message to send to young women. Tsukasa has every right not to return her friend’s feelings and shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it, dammit, especially when he is a threat to her safety.

Anzai talking to Tsukasa. caption: I think he really meant it when he said he loves you
And then this was followed up by “but who cares because he didn’t respect your personhood and wishes!” (It isn’t)

To make matters worse, Tsukasa’s love interest-to-be is a vampire hunter (they have a police force? I guess?) who’s a vampire himself and also fighting Sinful Violent Urges. In a closing scene that seems quite indicative of how the series means to go on, Tsukasa starts to complain that he was too rough with her earlier (twisting her ankle while pushing her away from Akimura), but since the fall also split her lip, his response is to push her down mid-protest and stick his tongue in her mouth. There is so much saliva; I’m still searching for my skin from after it crawled off.

Yeah, this looks primed to be one of those “he’s rough with me because he can’t control how powerfully he feels about me” stories, and like, nah. Naaaaaaah.

You want vampire stories, I’ve got a dozen suggestions that are way better than this.

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