Blood-sucking monsters have become a popular trope in the anime industry in recent years. Netflix's latest original, Vampire In The Garden, depicts a world divided between humans and vampires.
What will happen to those who refuse to participate in the blatant massacre on both sides?
In the latest anime from Netflix, Vampire in the Garden, there is a lot more blood than gardening. Momo and Fine, a human/vampire pair who managed to flee the horrible conflict between their species, are the subject of a wonderful story. Their adventure, which takes place in the ruins of an unidentified but post-Soviet nation, is equally about the horrors of war and the joy of music.
As the creative minds of Studio Wit (Attack on Titan, Bubble) is in charge of the production, the animation is of the highest calibre and the story's small five-episode season conveys a powerful anti-war message.
Momo is a low-ranking soldier in the last army of humanity, yet she is unable and hesitant to murder her adversaries directly. While Fine is the vampires' queen, she refuses to ingest blood.
The humans are barely surviving under military control that rigorously restricts partaking in vampire-like pastimes, such as singing and watching movies, while the vampires live opulently in aristocratic grandeur.
Momo and Fine both strive for harmonious cohabitation since they feel out of place in their respective worlds. When the two encounter one other on the battlefield, an odd friendship develops, and they go out in quest of paradise.
The superbly animated action-packed skirmishes vividly capture the gory reality of armed (and winged) fighting, but the real pull is seeing Momo and Fine's friendship grow and change in emotionally fraught situations.
The mutual mistrust between the two is most evident when Fine attempts to disarm Momo with a piano bop. When Momo does erupt in fury, it is both unexpected and completely understood because there aren't many words needed to express the delightfully tense contradiction between Fine's joyful playing and Momo's terrible anxiety.
With just over two hours to work with, Studio Wit propels the narrative forward at breakneck speed, quickly switching from a grim war movie to an 'us versus the world' road trip, back to a tragedy, and so forth. The series rarely experiences whiplash because it crams challenging character decisions and thrilling visual sequences into pretty much every scene. Its plot is as well-defined as any two-hour movie, and as a result, it never veers from the two species' fundamental struggle for coexistence.
It's tragic that when the two do eventually arrive in their paradise, the storytelling suddenly deteriorates with foreshadowed plot turns and flimsily convincing opponents propelling the narrative.
Their utopia isn't just a hoax, they just happened upon it; it's a typical anime. All the lovely nuances and paradoxes up to that point are missing. However, after an intense final battle, it does expose the darkest aspects of both humans and vampires and separates Momo and Fine. Fortunately, it's still gorgeous to watch and only a little blip amid an enormously powerful anime. The ending is well-earned and seems fitting.
Ultimately, Vampire in the Garden makes a tough but unmistakable anti-war stance by following two idealists who are fleeing a never-ending struggle. Momo and Fine believe that disengagement is the only way to end a war. The only opponents worth facing off against are those attempting to prevent her from discovering her paradise because neither side is inherently good or wrong.
Momo's freedom was fought for but cannot last. It's an elegant solution to a straightforward, pressing real-world query. But for her, it's enough.