I have to admit, the thought of harem and ecchi anime used to leave a bad taste in my mouth. They're rife with childish innuendo and fan service, and center around a protagonist who inexplicably manages to attract numerous women while being the most cowardly and impotent person anyone can ever conjur up. When someone suggested Rosario Vampire to me, I wanted to see if there was anything particularly special about this show that separates it from others in the same genre. I have to say, I was impressed.
Moka, whose vampire powers are contained within a rosary.
Tsukune Aono is getting ready to apply for high school when his father stumbles upon a random acceptance letter to Yokai Academy, dropped by an unfortunate passerby and left on the street. His father gives it to Tsukune, who soon after departs for school. The bus driver warns him that Yokai Academy is a dangerous place, but at this point there's no turning back. Tsukune walks through the woods in order to reach campus; he is hit by Moka as she rides by on a bicycle. She smells the blood running from Tsukune's nose and is incredibly attracted to it. Moka reveals she is a vampire shortly before biting Tsukune on the neck. He doesn't realize that she's being completely serious; all of the people at Yokai Academy are monsters in human disguise. And because of Tsukune's unique human scent, Moka and all of the female monsters find themselves infatuated with him.
The series is without an overarching plot or a criminal mastermind. The experience of watching Tsukune sneak in some private time with Moka while the other female characters fight over him is what audiences should derive their entertainment from, and this is the case for both seasons. The first season focuses on Tsukune's growing adjusted to Yokai while hiding his human identity. Humans aren't supposed to be able to enter school grounds because it hides behind an extra-dimensional veil; only the school bus can move through this veil. In addition, humans are hated by monsters because of the torment we've inflicted upon them over the centuries. By the time the second season begins, Tsukune's fears are mostly gone, but he still has half a dozen girls who are after him. The episodes become small vignettes of each character's unique experience with Tsukune.
Moka and Tsukune.
Tsukune perfectly plays the role of a harem anime male lead. In the footsteps of the Tenchi legacy, Tsukune is befuddled by the numerous girls and women who love him. He is specifically interested in Moka, and often the two of them stare at eachother and whisper eachother's names. When it seems as if they are about to kiss, Moka instead bites him on the neck and draws blood. This happens almost at the end of every episode, serving as a metaphorical release of sexual tension.
Tsukune is not an interesting character in his own right; the girls he interacts with are far more interesting. His role is to facilitate for comedic situations and open the door for human-monster conflicts. Many episodes center around Tsukune being antagonized by a monster in a way specific to that monster's myth. For example, when Tsukune meets Kurumu (a succubus), he finds himself drawn to her and losing control of his actions; this presents a problem for Moka, who likes Tsukune, as she continues to spot him and Kurumu in very erotic situations. This is resolved through Moka transforming into a powerful vampire and beating Kurumu in battle. While these interactions are rather shallow and expected, there is a melodramatic element to Rosario+Vampire that entices viewers much like soap opera or reality television does.
I chose to rate this show a 3.5 out of 5 because it's unabashedly raunchy. Harem anime centers around sexual tension and innuendo. Sex is taboo for many cultures; sexuality in animation is almost unheard of. Many don't see animation as mature enough for violence and coarse language and sex. Rosario+Vampire flips these notions around and gets to the heart of the harem genre: fan service. All of the girls at Yokai Academy have short skirts and exposed panties. Kurumu and Yukari (a witch) are constantly comparing breast sizes. Kurumu also rubs her large breasts against Tsukune's body everytime they meet. In one episode, a teacher gets incredibly horny for Tsukune and moans and mounts him as if getting ready for sex. In addition to the show's overabundance of libido, there is a lot of foul language; everything but the "F word" is spoken.
Rosario+Vampire unapologetically flaunts its breasts and panties in every episode. For fans of harem anime, this show should not disappoint. And for those who have read the manga, the show is much more exaggerated, vulgar and graphic. It's not pornographic, but the show sure does straddle the line.
* Rosario+Vampire was produced by Gonzo. It is available for viewing on Netflix instant stream.