Vampire Princess Miyu TV Series (Japan 1997)

Rating: ***
Music: Kenji Kawai

Contains 26 episodes

Miyu is an ageless young girl whose sacred duty is to return stray shinma (demons) to the darkness where they belong. She and her companions, Larva and Shiina, decide to hunt Shinma in a large metropolitan city for a while, and Miyu enrolls at a local high school in the guise of an exchange student. She makes friends with three girls named Chisato, Hisae, and Yukari, and they round out the primary cast. Miyu has a supernatural rival named Reiha who also hunts shinma, and their relationship becomes increasingly complicated throughout the series.

Each episode boils down to a simple "shinma of the week" story, where a shinma causes mischief and misery in the human world and Miyu hunts it down. The shinma rarely put up much of a fight and Miyu easily dispatches them with her sacred flame. Larva also comes to her aid when things get tense, and Miyu occasionally exhibits compassion towards shinma who aren't overly troublesome. Only in the last five episodes does any sort of story arc get introduced, which reimagines Miyu's origin and sets a great tragedy into motion.

The animation is mediocre and uses a lot of static frames. The character design is typical of the time period, and while the girls are cute, the shinma aren't particularly interesting. The voice acting is excellent and Kenji Kawai's haunting music score is superb. The writing is decent and explores some controversial topics like suicide, prostitution, and lesbianism, although with a very light touch. The horror elements are pretty tame, but towards the end I started getting creeped out. The biggest disappointment with the writing is that Larva has a voice and occasionally removes his mask, which totally ruins his enigmatic role and downplays his relationship with Miyu. Overall, the original OVA series is better and more intriguing, but the TV series offers a nice opportunity to revisit that world and watch Miyu do her thing.