For anyone not in the loop; I’ve talked about Visual Prison before here, and here. Long story short, as a fan of VKei and anime I’ve been keeping my eyes on this project since I became aware of it. Now, the time has come to deliver my first true impression since the first episode has aired.
For clarity, this first impression does contain heavy spoilers for the first episode of Visual Prison depending on how closely you have followed pre-production (or my commentary). Procede at your own caution.
First, and foremost I need to admit that I was way off the mark on my pre-season impression. My deduction skills and ability to connect two and two are awful. Eclipse, the former band unit, now having it’s namesake transferred into possession of Dimitri and Hyde, is going to be significantly more important to the story then I hypothesized. Mostly because for some reason my brain managed to connect Dimitri and Hyde, but not the fact that Guiltia, soon enough to be of Oz, and Saga of Lost Eden are also former members of the band. I have no idea how in all my listening, watching, reading I missed that fact but here I am.
The Scarlet Moon of Visual Prison has humbled my pretentious ass.
That being said… this first episode is pretty ‘eh’ overall. It avoided being an exposition dump, but it threw all the characters at your before introducing them within the context of the story. It was fine for me, but for a first time viewer that had to be jarring. The timeline of events in this first episode were pretty cobbled together at best. They could’ve re-written it to be smoother. Making this told from Yuki’s perspective in retrospection was a choice, but not one I would have picked if it was going to be executed like this.
I liked the context of having Yuki’s reason for coming to Tokyo explored. As a fellow VKei fan, I understand such an important journey to your honmei band’s old stomping groud. However, this still left him a bit too blank slate for my tastes even by the end of the episode. There wasn’t much he did to make me invest in him other then he has special boy status thanks to the moon. I know this is intentional, as his circumstances are the whole show premise. But he feels way too hollow and clueless when the rest of the cast is more confident and filled in circumstance wise. I’m chalking the latter part up to them all being vampires compared to him being… him.
As for the performances and music; more alt-idol with backing band the true Visual Kei here. Which is fine actually since those scenes do overlap. I liked the guerrilla live element of Eclipse and Lost Eden’s initial battle. The on-screen lyrics were a nice choice; reminded me a lot of the Raid’s lyric MV’s. The vampiric elements threw me a bit, but were done in a way that makes enough sense for what we know currently. (Which isn’t much by the way) If there’s going to be European vampires in Japan, why not have them produce sword microphones and duel? I can only hope we get a good straight up sword fight or two out of it.
Musicially, this is turning out better then expected. Once I leaned more into the ‘this is an alt-idol anime, not a Visual Kei one’ perspective it makes more sense. The lyrical and composition hallmarks are all there for Vkei and alt-idol. Clearly, Elements Garden did their research, but it still sounds more idol-like then band-like. The ‘performances’ were somewhere in a grey area for me, a blend of the two genres. Overall passable, but not impressive. I’m not a fan of the 3D models, but I understand their usage and purpose in this series.
We do need to do some nit-picking though. Eclipse embarrassed themselves by having animation of their guitarist and bassist playing and being showcased… when there was no bass line or guitar being played. Ouch. That’s so minor, but so important to someone like me.
Lost Eden made the mistake of including, of all the random English to be thrown in, ‘Bro’ as an ending phrase in a stanza. That made me pause because I was laughing so hard. I can’t lie I stopped, went back, played it again and started wheezing from my laughter. It’s not a bad song at all, but god was it so idol-like it hurt.
I’m still on the fence about Ange Yuki’s voice. Admittedly, Chiba Souya has a very distinct singing style which is a good thing. It’s unfortunate that it’s not the color or style that typically blends in well with Visual Kei.
However, the biggest surprise and honestly highlight of this series is Guiltia’s voice actor Makoto Fukukawa. I’m not sure if he always sings like that when he does anisong, or he referenced someone but the opening notes of the ending theme he sounded EXACTLY like Kanata from Zonbi. To the point I had to do a mental double take, which in this case is a good thing. So if that’s what I’m in store vocally with OZ… the group might pull through.
My last tidbits of thoughts that didn’t have room anywhere else is… Saga and Jack sure are something. I really want some clarification, not for ship purposes (trust me the ship has sailed for those two already), but just because how… sudden and random those two were. Like it was kinda uncomfortable for me to watch even knowing that was for sure fan service and to get the fujoshi’s started.
Also, Elizabeth is probably my favorite character at the moment. He has got both the amazing quips: “They look like chickens” is the funniest damn line in the whole episode by far and I’m sure that was unintentional. But also seems to be the most insightful; his commentary about Yuki’s condition was so serious in comparison. Also not gonna lie, his costume is probably my favorite out of all the one’s displayed so far.
So… where do I land on Visual Prison overall? It’s pretty eh. I’m re-framing my perspective as more alt-idol then Visual Kei anime going forward. I think I’ll be able to enjoy this series much more that way. I’m mildly curious to see where this goes. If I wasn’t so pre-invested in the series I don’t believe the first episode would have hooked me in though. I honestly have no clue how this is going to pan out given how shaky this first episode was but… as long as there are thirsty fangirls, this series will do just fine with or without me.