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Himiko is a cynical, charlatan "medium" faced with a real-life case of demonic possession in Japan's former capital of Kyoto. There, amid sleepy, leafy lanes, she witnesses a battle between the Shinma, evil "demon-god" creatures from another dimension, and Earth's only protector, a vampire princess called Miyu.
Like Claudia in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, Miyu is a former human who bears a vampire curse, trapped forever in a world of teenage angst. Motivated sometimes less by a sense of justice than by her own raging hormones, she pushes a succubus away from a man she secretly wants herself, parades Lolita-fashion around her devoted servant (and former enemy) Larva, and slowly worms her way into Himiko's life. Like Pet shop of Horrors, VPM features the ghostbusting odd-couple of a mundane person from our world and a flashy spellcaster from the next. The olde-worlde charm of Kyoto makes a nice change from the sprawling city of Tokyo, particularly when the animation has aged so well. But amid the long, long silences and dark, meaningful glances, VPM is a mass of contradictions. As Himiko points out in a rare moment of lucidity, Miyu walks around in daylight, licks up holy water, and can crush a crucifix in her bare hands-so for the peculiarly picky audience of vampire folklorists, VPM is little more convincing than the execrable Beast City. Furthermore, since she often seems only to be protecting people so she can chow down on their jugular veins, what exactly makes her any better than the creatures she is supposed to be fighting? Don't expect any answers, because Miyu (and, it would seem, her creator Narumi Kakinouchi) would rather smile condescendingly and tell you that you could never understand rather than admit they don't know either.
Sometimes this approach pays off, especially when the story reverses the roles of the sexes. It makes a change to see a predatory succubus chasing after a young male virgin, or indeed to see a vain pretty-boy selling his soul to the devil to keep his looks forever. There are some great ideas, such as the girl who loses her mind because she is kept alive by blood transfusions from her dying parents, or alien parasites that feed off people's dreams. But such moments are few, making for an elegantly chilling and curiously watchable anime that constantly promises more than it delivers.
The video series is based on Kakinouchi's 1988 manga and directed by her husband, one of Japan's masters of horror and creator of Iczer-One. In 1997, it was snapped up for TV adaptation amid the post-Evangelion boom when so many old video shows were reborn as cheap but at least partly market-tested TV. The TV series, conceived by Kakinouchi, Hirano, and Yuji Hayanami, introduced new characters such as Miyu's little bat-winged rabbit Shina, and another servant, Reiha, a snow demon who detests Miyu and also has the power to send Shinma back to the shadows. Reiha confides in her doll while chirpy human schoolgirl Chisato balances Miyu's coldness and further enhances the disturbing links between magic and childhood. Megumi Kadonosono reworks the character designs without obvious disharmony, and Kenji Kawai's music is just as evocative and elegant. Hirano (by this point using his real first name of Toshiki) disliked some of the changes required by Japanese TV censorship, including the removal of much of the projected second episode story line, and restored the deletions for the video release in 1998. Another Kakinouchi project, Vampire Princess Yui, the story of a girl whose mother was bitten by Miyu while pregnant, was published in manga form but not animated. V