Highly Unusual Russian Immigration Policy; and a Japanese Quiz Show That Finally Makes Sense

Do cardboard cutouts count as cameos?

Another 2 more series debuts today, which can have taglines like, “from the makers of Baccano!” (Durarara!!), and “from the mind of Shinbou Akiyuki” (Dance in the Vampire Bund). So there’s actual known qualities on the production side which, as someone who really should pay more attention to those details, qualifies as a bonus. Which means my season rankings get shifted down a couple spots in the end.

That scar may have some significance...I'll just conveniently forget about it for about 15 episodes

I hadn’t actually seen Baccano!, but my expectations going into Durarara!! (I think that’s supposed to be an engine sound) were still pretty high. The first episode has normal high school student Ryuugamine Mikado waiting at Ikebukuro station to meet with his childhood friend Kida Masaomi. From there, Mikado is introduced to urban life for the first time, since he had never ventured outside of his hometown. In the process he sees strange things and strange people including an African-American Russian in a bit of highly unusual Russian immigration policy.

At the same time, there is another plot involving the abduction of women who have run away to the city. Three men kidnap a girl in her teens, but they are stopped by the most mysterious figure of all, a headless biker whose motorcycle casts a shadow of a horse.

Finally, a great first episode to top all of the other ones this season. I liked that this episode hypothetically could have passed in real time. There’s probably also a bunch of stuff happening in the background that I missed and would have to see multiple times to notice. I still worry that it may be a little too easy to connect dots in later episodes if there is supposed to be some sort of mystery involved here.

Completely Subjective Episode Score: 93/100

A Romanian girl by herself on a Japanese TV show filmed at night. Nothing odd there.

The first episode of Dance in the Vampire Bund takes place mostly in a television studio. A series of gruesome crimes had occurred in Suginami and the victims all had two bite marks on their necks. Which led to questions about the existence of vampires, the topic of which was the question being debated on the television show being filmed. A panel composed of an academic and 4 celebrities debated this as they were presented with evidence that vampires may actually exist.

As some interesting points are raised about vampires in popular culture, their relation to other legends and their rise in bad economic times, something peculiar begins to happen. The mood begins to turn hostile as more arguments are raised that they do exist, and that they may actually be on the stage. Then, one of the celebrities pitching a movie with vampires actually turns into a monster and all hell breaks loose on the set. Eventually, the action moves to the roof where Mina Tepes, who had been asking questions on the show, defeats the monster and reveals the existence of vampires to the world as their ruler on a reclaimed piece of land near Tokyo.

Going into this episode I expected the full Shaft treatment, however there was really nothing of the sort. Still the unusual episode setup makes me think it did. Given the stereotype of Japanese television, it was nice to see a Japanese quiz show that finally makes sense. The buildup to the reveal was also pretty well done. Sure it was completely expected, but not in the way it happened. This is certainly worth continuing to watch, though fears that it will turn into episodic dirge remain.

Completely Subjective Episode Score: 88/100

Winter 2010 Ranking So Far

  1. Durarara!!
  2. Dance in the Vampire Bund
  3. Ookami Kakushi
  4. Ladies versus Butlers!
  5. Sora no woto or ソ・ラ・ノ・ヲ・ト as it will be referred to from now on
  6. Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu
  7. Chu-Bra – Dropped Episode 1
  8. Omamori Himari – Dropped Episode 1