Vampire Dormitory – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser April 9, 20240 Comments
Ruka catches Mito in midair

Content Warning: suicidality

What’s it about? Yamamoto Mito has been on his own since his parents died in a terrible fire, passed between relatives and finally left homeless after finishing school. His life takes a turn when he crosses paths with Ruka, a vampire who hasn’t drunk human blood in ten years but must take a “destined partner” in order to eventually take over as vampire leader. Mito is thrilled to finally be of use to someone, and Ruka is excited to have met a beautiful boy, since he can’t drink the blood of human women. Unfortunately for him, Mito is actually a girl in disguise.

Bias on the table: Vampire Dormitory had to do some extra work on me. Modern vampires are a queer storytelling device all the way back to their roots in Polidori’s “The Vampyre” and Coleridge’s “Christabel,” so unless a hetero vampire story is also dealing with some other lens of systemic violence or marginalization (see: Ganja & Hess, Near Dark) my level of interest and respect drops to nil pretty quickly.

I’m also pretty cynical about post-2000 crossdressing shoujo after reading a few too many takes on the trope that boiled down to gay panic jokes and opportunities to highlight the ways that people can just magnetically feel that the protagonist is really a girl. So while the episode ultimately managed to lose me in its last moments, it feels significant that Vampire Dormitory managed to draw me in for as long as it did.

Ruka being advised, "why don't you try your hand at raising him to sweet his blood?"
There’s also this, but it’s also nakedly apparent that dude giving him this advice is shitty if not outright villainous

The best moments of the episode, while drawing on a number of popular tropes—a tsundere love interest, a destitute-but-plucky heroine, silly fantasy reasons for an initially contractual relationship—have a breeziness to them that’s fun to watch. Our future lovers bicker, but Ruka’s more awkward than acidic and Mito speaks her mind. Contractual blood drinking is clearly slightly uncomfortable for both of them, but they also need each other for reasons both practical and emotional, and that’s good grounding for future development. Ruka plans to “love” Mito to make “his” blood taste better, but he seems to have no concept of what that means any more than the desperate-for-belonging Mito does. They seem like good kids.

So what pulled me out? The final minutes pulled a two-fer on me: the first was introducing a guy who seems to be a vampire hunter and is visually presented in the then-revealed opening theme as a guy who’s trying to save Mito from the terrible vampire’s clutches. I find mandated love triangles irritating at the best of times, and this type of condescending dude hits my buttons worse than most. Maybe he’s softer than he lets on or Mito tells him to get bent early on, but it set my guard up.

Mitose holding her wig, looking in the mirror with long hair and bound breasts
Weren’t you crashing in the back of a ramen joint? How are you keeping that wig in flawless condition? Where did you even get it?

The other factor, which I suspect won’t bother fans of het crossdressing stories, is when Mito pulls off her short hair and reveals flowing tresses. Ichinose Kana’s performance makes zero attempts to imbue Mito’s voice with any alto tones or huskiness, so I figured that there was no way this show expected me to buy Mito as a cis guy and that this was more of a Fujioka Haruhi, “gender is too much effort” sort of character. Doing a big reveal that she’s not just AFAB but apparently so incredibly traditionally feminine at heart that she can’t cut her hair as part of her no doubt plot-relevant disguise, played absolutely dead straight in the year of our lord 2024, just took it out of me. The thought of having boys’ boarding school-based shenanigans on top of that was just too much. I had my Hana-Kimi days in high school. I’m good out here.  

All that said, I recognize that what I just described is no deterrent at all for a lot of folks. It might be the appeal. To which I say: this might be for you. The main couple has promise, although it’s a real problem that a vampire series with explicitly erotic biting can’t manage a lick of sexiness thanks to severely limited animation. The shoujo budget stick hit this one square between the eyes, whether it’s a painfully awkward biting scene with a glaring continuity error (in your opener???), badly composited flames on Mahito’s burning childhood home, or the heavy reliance on sound effects because there isn’t space for expressive character animation.

Ruka leaning in to bite Mito's neck. it looks stiff
Sliiiiiiide to the left

It also doesn’t sit right with me that said opening scene opens with a very heavy moment of Mahito apparently jumping from a bridge and being rescued by Ruka, only to revisit the scene later and reveal that actually she only briefly contemplated the idea and then slipped while trying to climb back to safety. That’s just needlessly tacky—would it be so out of place if Mahito had attempted? I just can’t see why you’d pull a fakeout on something so serious when the plot mechanics of an accident are the same, unless you thought being suicidal would cast some kind of negative moral shadow on the heroine.

That aside, I’m wishing the best to those who are into the concept here. I suspect there’s a good deal of popcorn-y romantic drama and rom-com flailing in its future, and I want fans of the manga to have their best time with it. Even if I am over here in the corner grumbling about Bloody Mary constantly getting passed over.

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