animefringe september 2003 / reviews

Vanilla Series: Dark
Format: Bilingual DVD
Production: Critical Mass Video
Comments: A bit too dark.
Animefringe Reviews:
Vanilla Series: Dark

I don't think I've reviewed hentai before here at Animefringe. I suppose Vanilla Series: Dark is as good a place to start as any. To begin, I want to let all our readers know that I have no moral qualms against hentai in general. I'm a firm believer in the ability of mankind to draw the line between fantasy and reality, and seeing as this not only involves make-believe circumstances but also happens to be a cartoon, I have trouble believing it will make me more conducive to the type of behavior it features.

That said, I still couldn’t say that I enjoyed this show. The visuals were sharp, even if the animation wasn't incredibly dynamic. A couple of the sex scenes depicted within actually used the same footage (on different girls, though it was the main character both times) twice, which I found a bit disappointing. Overall, the character designs were sexy (if all a bit too similar when they were naked) and the colors were vibrant.

I was also fully cognizant of the fact that there should be little or no plot for Dark, since the main point of most hentai is simply sex. As far as the writing was concerned, my expectations were rather low. With only 60 minutes to develop the story, there's not much you can do to weave a complex tale for viewers to enjoy.

To sum it up, Dark is about Shinji Yagami's descent into acts of violent sex that he had only fantasized about before. He had heard rumors about girls in his school and was thinking about their possible connection to a bondage website he discovered when all of a sudden, Satoshi Kojima, a fellow student, tells him to head to the nurse’s office.

There, he finds an attractive girl, and proceeds to rape her. He realizes that he enjoyed it very much, so he and Kojima quickly begin picking new targets - both students and faculty - to violate.

Now, at this point, you have to throw everything you know about reality out the window. As if under some magical spell, each girl being raped is unable to fight back in any meaningful way. None of the women really threaten to expose the two for their acts, either, because the two guys tape everything they do and promise to humiliate their victims if they dare break their silence.

When Shinji's not busy raping his classmates, he's visiting the bondage site - which actually contains pictures of women from his school - in his spare time. I found these parts of the disc to be a little annoying, since it's one of the most realistic parts of the show. It's realistic because you actually get to watch him download - in real time - pictures of women in S&M poses. If I want to watch someone download porn, I'll go to a college dorm, thank you. Waiting for loading times as the obsessed boy goes from picture to picture forced me to struggle to keep my interest in the show.

In the end, while I recognize the fact that some people are turned on by this, I have to admit that rape simply isn't enjoyable for me to watch. The sort of power play that the characters are making, demonstrating their dominance over weak women, is just not very appealing. My basis for not enjoying this series as much as other hentai titles I've seen is connected more to my failure to empathize with the main characters than anything else. I really can't see things from their perspective, and thus I find myself wondering when the show will end more than anything else.

I know you can't really break down the plot of a hentai title, but in the show, we're told that "Sex means you can do whatever you want to the other person," and that "If you worry about your partner's needs and wants you'll only end up stressed yourself." I suppose contrary thoughts to these sentiments are buried too deeply in my personality for me to not consider these statements completely wrong.

Technically, the disc is sound, and a mini slideshow is even included as a nice bonus feature. The subtitles are smaller than average, but that might be purposeful. After all, you want to see as much of the onscreen action as possible, right? The disc loads quick, but trailers of other releases would have been a welcome addition to this volume, especially since hentai isn't exactly the most publicized anime out there nowadays.

The Japanese actors are fine, but the English dub is a bit perplexing. Even in hentai, it bothers me to hear actors and actresses that sound twice the age of their characters. Aside from sounding wrong for their respective parts, there wasn't all that much emotion put into the acting. Shinji sounded more like the main character from Office Space after his hypnosis than a horny teen turned on by S&M.

Then again, maybe I don't want to know what he should've sounded like.

So, if explicit S&M is your thing, this is a pretty solid release in that genre. Without any realistic foundation for me to latch onto, I couldn't find much to enjoy in Dark. At least I've finally reviewed a hentai disc.