Venus Versus Virus Collection (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 290 minutes approx.
Release Date: May 30th
Try saying that title ten times in a row after a few sherbets! This alliteration might make the show sound funky and possibly even topical, and does indeed offer a fair description of what the story is about, but it is not what you’re thinking – although that does rather depend on what it is you are thinking…
Sumire Takahana is your average high school girl – industrious, busy, kind, amiable, but also quite timorous. Oh, and she also has the ability to see ghoulish monsters. This is something of a boon for her after school job of helping out at Venus Vanguard, a dress shop which is in fact a front for a small organisation which battles demons know as Viruses. They are creatures who lost their souls and seek to replace them by stealing them from humans, who turns into demons as a result.
Leading the charge against the Viruses is Lucia Nahashi, a no-nonsense gothic loli girl with a magical left eye she keeps hidden beneath as eye patch for fear of going out of control. Armed with a gun that fires bespoke anti-demon bullets, Lucia is flanked by her adopted-father Soichiro and his loli-assistant Laura. They advertise their service via flyers which only people who are troubled by demons can see, which would seem to be a few considering how busy they are.
Forgive the flippant tone of this review but I am trying to make this generic show sounds as exciting as possible, which isn’t easy given the weak writing and jumbled execution. Originally released in 2007, Venus Versus Virus is the creation of Atsushi Suzumi, and by all accounts, it is the differences between this adaptation and the source manga that is part of the problem, specifically the yuri relationship of the two female leads.
Whether this is a deal breaker is a subjective; frankly, I don’t think it was necessary at all since there are other elements to the story which are far stronger and more urgent in terms of building the relationship. Which brings to me my next point – how the story has a lot of potential but, sadly, not met. Once it begins in earnest, which is roughly around chapter 7, there are twist, turns, and revelations which reveal a plot of some depth which would have made for an interesting series to follow.
Quite why this was abandoned I have no idea – I can only assume the manga corrects this problem. To elucidate, this series begins with the ending, only we don’t know it yet, of Lucia and Sumire about to do battle. Then post credits, we meet Sumire rushing from school to join Lucia at work having got a request to deal with a troublesome demon. The first three episodes are “demon of the week” fare, setting up the central premise and introducing the cast; it is not until episode for that we get the “origin” story.
Basically, Sumire finds a brooch on the street and its sharp edge cuts her finger, with something infiltrating her blood and sparking her ability to see demons, and one attacks her. When Lucia comes to the save, Sumire is accidentally struck by an Anti-demon bullet, and the vaccine reacts with her blood and turns Sumire into a dangerous demon slayer, unable to tell friend from foe.
Courtesy of Soichiro, it is discovered this ability, henceforth known as Berserker-mode is latent within Sumire via a “fragment” in her body which demons possess. Sumire must learn to control this power to defeat demons whilst being of use to Lucia who doesn’t want to use her magic eye. How this fragment came to be in Sumire is a mystery that needs to be solved, but the group have bigger worries when a man named Lucif arrives to reach the True World, or destroying humanity to you and me.
And so we have our antagonist, except he is no ordinary villain – he is related to one of our heroines and the reason she is the way she is today; suffice to say, this isn’t a happy reunion as old wounds run deep. Once again, there is a lot to be said for the depth of the backstory but marred from being shared through flashbacks inserted at odd times during the proceedings. The presentation is also esoteric, looking through an oval shape lens representing an eye, which is certainly a choice.
In fact, there are a number of choices made here which are equally as baffling and end up working against the end product, such as having Lucif appear mid way and not at the start, and the bewildering abrupt ending which doesn’t resolve anything. I will say that despite their filler-esque nature, the early episodes do lay some groundwork for further developments which initially come across as frivolous genre plot beats.
Previously, I mentioned this was made in 2007 but one could be forgiven for thinking it was made a decade earlier from the dated aesthetic and cheap looking animation. Still frames and a muted, primary colour palette are the first signs, along with the uninspired character designs. Bearing in mind this was released after Bleach, Naruto, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Paranoia Agent came out, this series really shouldn’t look as archaic as it does.
Notwithstanding the maladroit handling of the story and dated presentation, the clichés are given the mildest of spins to create a semblance of originality, just not enough to make them memorable. If there is one overriding gripe to be levied against this show it is how the occasional flashes of competence and interesting content are outweighed by a prevailing sense of ennui and lack of palpable, emotional atmosphere, something the story demands.
Venus Versus Virus could have been a good show with better, focused writing and more thrilling action sequences to offset the dated production values. It’s a title sadly destined to remain under the radar for a number of valid reasons.
English Language Stereo
Japanese Language Stereo
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black