If an anime is pure fun, I’m happy. If an anime is pure fun and tugs at your heart a little, I’m even happier. If an anime is pure fun and tugs at your heart a little bit and kinda starts to make you feel a little crazy, I’m even happier still. And what’s more, I know I’m in unique territory. Then I start saying words like “enthralled” or “ecstatic” or “in love.” Call of the Night did that to me.

This anime is fun from sundown to sunup, pun intended. It was a ton of fun to watch and a pleasure to experience. It’s lightweight but pulls you in. It’s funny but throws in some sadness when you least expect it. It’s quirky, unusual, a little on the artsy side even, but it does all those things very well. It makes quirky sexy! If that’s not unique I don’t know what is.

I highly recommend this one.Take some time out of your day, or your night maybe, and imbibe the terror—I mean, the sheer entertainment—of the dark and lonely night as showcased in the wonderful anime Call of the Night

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 10

Somebody get the preacher, because I’m getting married!

Nazuna Nanakusa. Amazing, enchanting, crazy girl! The co-protagonist in this show is the young vampire girl by that name, and she is the call of night all by herself. As good as so many parts of this show are, she sits at the pinnacle of reasons to watch this show. I was in love after one episode.

My first thought when I saw her was that she was a Toga Himiko doppelganger. She looks a lot like that character from MHA. She seemed to share some of her characteristics as well: notably she had that yandere fierceness about her that was instantly visible (I was in love after one episode). But that comparison quickly lapsed from my thoughts, as this character wasn’t a copy of anyone or anything. Perhaps there’s something to the fact that she shared a hairstyle with Himiko or someone like Kirari Momobami (Kakegurui), as I always seem attracted to these character types, but that was the end of the similarity between Nanakusa and anyone else. She was, above all, extraordinarily unique.

She had me right away. Her wildness masked in that smug calmness made me crazy. Her crazy eyes and alluring outfit enthralled me better than any vampire’s fangs could. Watching her leap through the sky with her cape growing in length and flowing freely in the night breeze behind her felt like an experience of a lifetime. I was in love after one episode.

Captivating, exhilarating creature! From you who shall ever wish to escape?

Hawk, seriously? You’re getting into that marry-an-anime-character business? Let’s put it another way: the thing that I love most about Nanakusa is what she says and, more importantly, how she says it. Put it another way: I’m in love with Sora Amamiya.

Nanakusa’s voice is amazing. Sora Amamiya is the reason for that. Amamiya-san has voiced some of the most memorable anime characters of all time such as Aqua (KonoSuba), Akame (Akame ga Kill!), and Touka Kirishima (Tokyo Ghoul), along with many other personal favorites of mine such as Chizuru Ichinose (Rent-a-Girlfriend; absolutely captivating), Rui Kanoya (Re:Creators; she also plays herself once in that show too, which is kind of fun), and Miko Yotsuya (Mieruko-chan; a masterful performance in its own right if you know about that show). It’s not much of a stretch to say I like pretty much anything she puts her voice to. She’s one of maybe three or four VAs who I’ll watch a show just because I know she’s in it. 

But despite how impressive her resume is, I have to say that I think her performance as Nanakusa in this show is her new best. This isn’t the first time Amamiya-san has used this particular voice (one example is Killing Bites), but it’s her best use of it I’ve heard. Great VAs like Amamiya-san almost always give life to their characters in a way only they can, but Nanakusa’s voice goes beyond that. I jest when I say I want to marry Nanakusa, but that response is a true one, and it’s prompted by the true vitality given to this character by Sora Amamiya. Nanakusa feels very real because of her voice. That’s pretty good voice acting.

She said “Mitte mitte Ko-kun,” then this. I burst out laughing, even with everyone around me.

What’s so great about it you say? What makes you love the person you love? Ever been asked that question and found yourself struggling to find an answer? That’s what’s it’s like with Amamiya’s voice for Nanakusa. Of course I like the uniqueness of the voice, that raspy, mid-pitch, silky smooth voice that conjures up dreams of heavenly nights but promises only blood sucked from fangs in your neck. Yeah, I like that. But it’s more than that, and that’s the part that’s hard to describe. If I had to sum it up, I’d simply say that this voice performance is the number one thing that makes Nazuna Nanakusa Nazuna Nanakusa. That’s magnificent in so many different ways and definitely got my attention more than a little.

By the time I’d finished the first season of this anime another interesting aspect of Nanakusa flew wildly into my musings. This show is all about the lure of the night to free spirits. I think the character Nazuna Nanakusa is meant to be the embodiment of that. All the threatening yet peaceful allure of the night, the cool darkness and quiet of it, the feeling that you’re alone but not in both a frightening and exciting way as you walk empty streets dimly lit by electric light—I think Nanakusa represents all of that. Her wild and free behavior and attitude, her personality that loudly whispers “Hell yeah I’m dangerous and you love me for it,” and her stubborn resistance to anything that remotely seems “normal” or which would help her fit into some group, all of this is what I believe the authors of this series are trying to portray in this “call of the night.” It’s all packed into this one character, and the result is magnificent. She’s a joy to experience as a character and she’s exciting to think about in this more intellectual sense. That’s quite an accomplishment in a character.

As great as Nanakusa is, she’s not the only fun character or high-quality character in this show. She’s at the top of the heap by far, which says a lot about her, but it’s definitely a heap she’s on. 

Second on that heap is a character who appeared very late in the first season but who, like Nanakusa, is impossible to ignore. And, also like Nanakusa, the foremost reason she’s memorable is due to her voice actor.

You should’ve heard her say it live.

I’m getting to a point where at any given time I have a different single favorite seiyuu, but a lot of that time is occupied by Miyuki Sawashiro. Sawashiro wipes out my senses with her voice for such memorable characters such as Kanbaru Suguru (Monogatari), Kirari Momobami (Kakegurui; yep, her again), Ultear (Fairy Tail; don’t make me think about that anymore for now, it’s so sad; and she plays Virgo from that series too, which I actually didn’t realize until recently), Daki (Demon Slayer), and Sinon (Sword Art Online). Her voice is what makes these characters as memorable as they are. 

So powerful is her voice that I rank Anko Uguisu, the vampire hunter, my second favorite character in Call of the Night. Anko shows up very late in the first season and further upsets the peaceful dynamic between Nanakusa and Kou Yamori, inserting herself into Kou’s life and threatening to kill Nanakusa. And boy does she threaten! Those powerful moments where she leans into Kou and whispers in his ear are perfect for Miyuki Sawashiro, and she aces them. It’ll make your skin crawl to listen to. Not from fear, but from the power of her sinister voice. 

Again I had a thought about this after the anime ended (when I’m thinking about something like this from a show that far after the fact, it certainly got my attention; but I stray): Sawashiro’s voice for Anku is threatening, but also has that same attractive quality that is so appealing to me. This is a given for her voice in pretty much any type of character she plays, at least in regards to my opinion. What I found interesting about this quality here is how it contrasts with Sora Amamiya’s performance as Nanakusa. Both of these voices for these respective characters are threatening, but they’re also endearing. By “endearing” I mean they elicit a positive emotional response akin to feeling like you like the person the voice is coming from. The difference between the two is that Sawashiro’s threatening voice has a fear factor to it, whereas Amamiya’s threatening voice excites the senses. The difference is like the difference between the fear we feel in a rollercoaster (degrees and phobias notwithstanding) and the fear we might feel if someone was really threatening our life. I feel those two sensations distinctly when I heard the voices of these two characters. 

I could fall in love with this. Maybe there really is something wrong with me. But you should’ve heard her say it live.

I wonder if this was intentional or simply a coincidence given the quality of the voice acting. I’m inclined to say it’s the latter for two reasons. First, it’s hard to imagine either the two VAs meeting and working this out or even the director instructing them to speak in such a manner. Second, my feelings in regard to their voices are subjective after all, so what I perceive as an interesting contrast in two vocal performances might be nonexistent to anyone else. So I doubt this aspect of their two voices was intentional. Nevertheless, the fact that their performances lead me to think things such as this and to even consider the possibility that it was intentional speaks volumes to these performances. 

My greatest, and perhaps only, disappointment with this series is that Nanakusa and Uguiso never interacted. I presume this showdown is going to come to a head in a subsequent season, so I won’t be disappointed for long hopefully, for I looked forward to hearing Sawashiro and Amamiya engage each other verbally with the greatest excitement after Anko appeared. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, and I must wait. That’s going to be something when those two confront each other.

The display of great female voices in this show doesn’t end there. Nobody was going to surpass Amamiya and even Sawashiro, but those five vampire girls that show up about midway through S1 definitely made their own impact on the series. Once again voice acting played the biggest role.

See below. No no no, wait, that’s not…

Seri Kikyou, the blonde gyaru vampire girl who hunts victims by seducing them—very original but still very successful—is voiced by Haruka Tomatsu. While there are many great voices in this show, Tomatsu-san might be the most prolific of the VAs here just based on her resume. Asuna (SAO), Zero Two (Darling in the Franxx), Sumireko “Pansy” Sanshokuin (Oresuki), and Kyouko Hori (Horimiya) are just a few of the main character roles she has voiced. She’s wonderful as Seri. Kikyou-san starts out as the sultry gyaru type and is instantly attractive (definitely to me), but she quickly and clearly becomes an antagonist after she attempts to victimize Kou (who is rescued spectacularly by Nanakusa). But after this she becomes very sympathetic as Kou befriends her and we get a glimpse into her sad past. Normally I would object to a character wearing this many different hats in a single show, but the writers made it work here. Not to mention Tomatsu, who definitely brought her A-game to compete with Amamiya. Seri is a very memorable character.

The other four vampire girls had a much smaller role but still were highlights because of their voice acting. Niko Hirata, the mature and stately red-headed ringleader of these five vampires, is played by Eri Kitamura, of fame for roles like Sayaka Miki (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and Karen Araragi (Monogatari). Midori Kohakobe’s VA, Naomi Oozara, will be very familiar to audiences reading this at the time I publish it (December 2022), as she’s played a slew of characters recently all featuring her trademark vocal style, including Hana Uzaki (Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out), Jahy (The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated), and Samidare Asahina in the rather confusing Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer.

Kabura Honda, bangs hanging over her matronly closed eyes, is voiced by Shizuka Itou, who most of us know as Akeno from High School DxD and a few of us know as Koko Hekmatyar from Jormungand. Lastly is Hatsuka Suzushiro (technically a dude, but that aside), who is played by Azumi Waki, most famous for Senko (The Helpful Fox Senko-san) and Rem (How Not to Summon a Demon Lord). They all do a great job in limited roles in this series. I always appreciate when studios go and get top talent for voice roles and don’t settle for just anybody, and we were not disappointed by these efforts here.

A popular sequence from the manga. You know I don’t read manga. I hope this doesn’t format stupidly. No I don’t read manga.

But there’s still more! You can’t have a much more limited supporting role than Asai Akira and Kirosumi Shirakawa have in this show, but these two girls are very memorable. Respectively they are voiced by Yumiri Hanamori (Ai Hayasaka, Kaguya-sama: Love is War; Kagamihara, Yuru Camp) and Youko Hikasa (Emi, The Devil is a Part-Timer; Mio Akiyama, K-On; and of course Rias Gremory, HS DxD, completing the duo with Shizuka Itou, Akeno’s VA in HSDxD). They both do great jobs as always, but these two characters are more memorable for their design than their voice acting, unlike many of the other characters. 

Akira, Kou’s “childhood friend,” is a very heartfelt character. She seems like one of those people who it’d be very easy to be friends with. She easily and quickly fits into Kou’s love of nighttime and feels like a good match for him, creating sort of an unspoken competitor for Nanakusa. Shirakawa is an office-worker lady who comes to Nanakusa (and hence Kou) for her massage service. She has some fun scenes with Kou and Nanakusa, but then all of a sudden her backstory and her present state are revealed, and it’s painfully sad. Most of that sadness if due to its relatability to many people in her age group (college-graduate age), but I can see her generally being a sad character to all audience demographics. She made my heart sad and so I will always remember her.

Yes, that was all girls. The girls are everything in this show. I think there are only one or two guys other than Kou, and they only appear to disappear in short order. To not be truly a harem-type show, this series presents a lot of different kinds of girls and most of them touch our hearts more than a little, and in a lot of different ways. This show plays a lot with our feelings, evoking a wide range of emotions, and this is largely due to these girls and even their VAs. It’s a great cast all around.

I almost jumped through the screen.

So…after all that, let’s talk about Kou, the little p***y himself. Sorry, I can’t help it.

It might just be me. It might just be my opinion. But I put Kou Yamori in the Most Undeserving Male Protagonist category without a second thought. Usually such honors are reserved for harem protagonists—that rotten lot. I guess you could argue Kou is kind of a harem protagonist though at that rate. Anyway, think about the male MC you thought was most undeserving. A lot of people pull out names like Kazuya Kinoshita (Rent-a-Girlfriend) or Makoto Itou (School Days; though he does kinda get what he deserves). Feel free to share your rage with me about this in the comments or wherever; it’s always a fun discussion! But this guy, this Kou Yamori, bugs me way more than any of those type of guys. 

He’s supremely naive. I get it. He’s at that age. The magical “fourteen years old” that so many famous suffering anime characters are known for. But he’s on another level. It’s like he’s been injecting naivety into his brain. And I get it again. There’s this twenty-ish vampire girl running around with him. But some of the things he muses about and doesn’t seem to pick up on from her are too ridiculous. It borders on ignorance, like he’d never experienced any such thought or feeling before. The phrase ”even a child could understand it” comes to mind. Then I see Kou’s crosseyed face and start to make mildly jealous faces back at him.

Yeah, she only hangs around with you all the time, exclusively drinks your blood while unambiguously asserting its deliciousness, invites you to join her in bed, viciously attacks anyone who could remotely be considered a rival to her for you, drapes her body all over you every time you’re together…yeah I wonder what she’s thinking.

Because for whatever reason Nanakusa seems drawn to him. Maybe it’s a veiled shouta thing—doesn’t seem like it but you never know. But she definitely likes him and wants to keep him around, and not in a vampire-sucks-out-your-life kind of way. It doesn’t make sense to me. Romantic attractions in anime not making sense is nothing new, but for some reason this one bugged me. Kou seemed overtly pathetic, and compared to the overwhelming Nanakusa he measured up even worse.

But enough about my only negative in this anime. This cast of characters is amazing overall. It’s rare that you have a magnificent main character surrounded by compelling supporting characters. That’s how it’s supposed to be, but it’s rare that you actually see it. More common are magnificent mains surrounded by average to underwhelming supporters, and even more common than that are average with average with average all around. This show does it right, does it better than right. If nothing whatsoever had happened in this story, this show would be compelling just watching the characters. That’s always a big deal, and always makes me happy when I can say that.

Artwork

Rating: 9

This style is very distinct. It is the style of the mangaka Kotoyama.

Some of you may be familiar with this author and his style. Kotoyama also authored Dagashi Kashi, which not only shares the art style but character elements as well. But we’ll focus on the artwork for now.

The eyes are the trademark. They’re very oblong in shape and usually have uncharacteristically undetailed irises. Three things are actually nearly exactly the same between Dagashi Kashi and Call of the Night eyes. The first are the MC’s eyes. Hotaru Shidare in DK and Nanakusa in CotN both have small light blue irises with two concentric circles inside, coming to a point on a dot of a pupil. You could take these parts out of the eyes of either character and switch them around and I don’t think there would be any difference. 

Definitely in love.

The second similarity is the tiny pupils themselves. Nanakusa has color in her eyes, but many of the other characters, even some of the girls, have just the black dot with all white. Kou’s eyes are definitely this way, and Akira’s also. Back in DK you have Kokonutsu (maybe my favorite character name in anime) and Saya both sharing this style, though Kokonutsu has bigger dots for whatever reason. The lack of detail is very unusual and thus all the more recognizable for this author.

You might think this is a bad thing. Anime is all about eyes after all. But it actually plays on the third similarity between the two shows’ styles and is my favorite hallmark of this author’s style: everyone’s just a tiny bit crosseyed. This is not so obvious on characters with color in their eyes, but its extremely obvious on the dot-pupil-only characters. The more the characters’ faces are facing straight towards the screen the more this is emphasized. It works really well despite what you might think. It gives the artwork a jaunty, quirky look, which fits the author’s overall style very well. 

The biggest divergence from similarity to DK in this show is in impact frames. By “impact frames” I mean single frames that are meant to catch our attention, shock our senses, or otherwise make us stop and think “Wow that was a really good image.” They have impact, in other words. DK doesn’t really have much of this. Maybe it’s not supposed to, but another story for another day. This show has a bunch of them, most of them of Nanakusa’s face and vampire fangs. And they are really, really good.

This was wild at the beginning.

Nanakusa’s design is really good in the first place. Her long, narrow eyes with colored accents at the edges and heavy but light-colored eyelashes are amazing. The pigtail loops (the Toga Himiko similarity) and the two locks of hair framing her face are perfect for her. When she looks out of the side of her narrowed eyes and smiles, then we get a lot of those impact frames. It was exciting to see. “Exciting” is an unusual word for describing single frames, but that’s definitely how they felt. It was interesting because this show aired in the season following Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie, which made the most amazing use of impact frames I’ve seen in a long time. This show was comparable, and that’s saying a lot.

This is one of a number of anime in recent memory that have done a really good job with lighting in nighttime settings. I say “lighting” but by extension I mean coloring. Things lose their visual color without light as we all know. Yet in this show we have a strong sense of those dimmed, low-light colors on many different objects, not just a bluish-gray on everything. I can think of a number of anime off the top of my head that have key nighttime scenes where everything really looks like it’s nighttime, which is great on one hand, but on the other hand—you can’t really see anything at night. Call of the Night did a really good job making sure we could discern and differentiate between anything we were looking at in those nighttime scenes.

No I’m not going to sum it up today! Unless I simply say: Nazuna Nanakusa. Let’s move right to the Story section!

Story

Rating: 7

I regularly praise anime for its additions to vampire lore, and this show is no exception.

At the risk of being repetitive, I will say this again here: imagine if American film writers used a Japanese legend so effectively, and so regularly so, that it magnified those legends in a very positive way. Say American writers took the kitsune or ninja legends and used them perfectly in movies. Any Japanese who’s a fan of Hollywood films would (likely) be ecstatic. It’s unusual for cultures to take legends from other cultures and blend or adapt them effectively into their own. Yet Japan continues to do this well with vampire lore, and I am accordingly ecstatic about it.

So Western vampire lore meets Japanese anime once again in the form of a svelte girl in her early twenties who haunts the night streets of Japan, whereupon she meets a doltfish of a middle schooler and becomes unreasonably attached to him, and adventures and discussions and meetings and all manner of funny faces result. I love it!

At one point Nanakusa plays a video game called Doki Doki Sewing Club (see top right). Didn’t know we had one of those too. We should probably run.

There isn’t too much to the story because there doesn’t have to be. If this show was nothing but Nanakusa and Kou interacting it might still be engrossing to watch. Add to that all the dynamics of the other people they meet, then you have a wonderfully character-centric anime where story becomes nearly irrelevant. That’s totally fine with me in this case.

Hawk, you’re the doltfish, there are all kinds of themes in this show. Sure there are coming-of-age themes surrounding Kou and Akira. There are young adult themes such as Seri’s relationship troubles and what that drives her to become. There’s the theme of freedom and culture and expectations and counterculture. There’s even the weird shouta thing with Nanakusa and Kou overarching everything like Dracula in the skies of Transylvania. 

And that’s all wonderful, and for two reasons. One is easy: it’s like the buffet, there’s always a little something for everyone. If you want to think about this show in terms of those themes and go into all that, that’s great. You definitely could. I personally think this show is so fun and even a little powerful (second reason below) that all of that isn’t important to the show. It’s great if it’s there, but I don’t have to dig into it to enjoy this show.

You tell him Nanakusa.

The second reason is because some of those themes create some extremely sad moments in this show. Akira’s story is a little sad, and certainly the radio swapping thing was touching. But then I got hit with things like Kiyosumi Shirokawa’s story (the young lady who’s just gotten into the professional world and visits Nanakusa’s massage service). That whole thing broke my heart. Then if that wasn’t enough the brief Seri saga and her troubled heart crashed into this otherwise peaceful show, and I got really sad once again.

You might think a comedy turning sad is a bad thing, but I have seen it used very effectively many times. I think it’s a very apt combination for whatever reason. This show does it great. Everything’s all sleek and sexy and totally hilarious until, all of a sudden, something very real and very relatable is thrust in front of us and our laughing heart turn extraordinarily sad. That’s the effectiveness of including all these different themes in this show even if they don’t affect the overall story particularly. It’s very well done.

Overall: 10

This show is more emotional than you might think actually. Not only does it have the sadness that appears here and there, but even things like Nanakusa’s quirky liveliness and sexiness are extremely evocative. This isn’t just a fun show to watch in your downtime. It’s an exciting show that’s going to plop you down on that rollercoaster called emotions and set you loose for a wild and engrossing ride. It’s fun and emotional, and even both together. Not many anime do that.

I mentioned some of the similarities this show has to Dagashi Kashi. I like those similarities. I like that they’re easily identifiable. To me that says that not only is the author’s style very distinct, but it’s very effective. That’s what makes a great storyteller. The only other mangaka I associate this recognizability with is Hiro Mashima, the author of Fairy Tail (and Groove Adventure Rave, and Edens Zero, all of which are extremely recognizably similar). Interestingly, Fairy Tail is one of those few series that is both extremely fun and extremely sad just like this show. I wonder if that’s a coincidence.

The music in this show is damn sexy. So there’s a lot going on here in regards to the music. The most important of these things is that, most likely, the original manga for this series was prompted by the song that is the ED for this anime, Yofukashi no Uta (same as the Japanese title of this anime) by Creepy Nuts. If you can understand the lyrics of that song (or have seen the translation), you’ll easily see that it probably inspired this show. That song is so sensual it almost crosses that line! 

Nanakusa dancing hard in the ED. It just about laid me out cold.

But it also contributes heavily to Nanakusa’s character. I always love EDs that place a big spotlight on one of the characters from the show and elevate that character with their content. I like to point to EDs from shows like Black Lagoon that do this really well. But this show’s was amazing. All Nanakusa’s moving around and the stuff she’s doing in that minute and a half is mesmerizing. Nanakusa was already doing things to me, but she did it double here. My heart was on fire after I saw it the first time and I continued to experience that every time I saw that sequence.

Lastly, the two Creepy Nuts themselves got cameos in this show. That was so cool! It was the episode where Nanakusa drags poor Kou to the night pool and he just about…anyway. Two guys try to pick up Nanakusa when she gets separated from Kou, and Kou has to get up his courage to go rescue Nanakusa (a classic anime sequence). But those two guys are the Creepy Nuts singers! Unlike most of the dumbass sub-characters who try to pick up main-character girls in anime, these two come off as cool in the end even after Kou rescues Nanakusa, which is kind of an indicator right there that something was different about them. The author clearly has a thing for this group.

It was really sweet at the end.

The rest of the music is very background music-ish. It has a lot of calm, quiet, even sometimes dissonant, electronic instrumentation. There’s a name for this kind of music but I can’t recall what it is. Lo-fi? Slow beats? I don’t know, that’s not my area of expertise in the world of art. It works well for this show, and at times is quite—sexy.

Wow, what a ride! This is one of those shows I looked forward to every week and watched the moment it came out and watched it from the first second to the last, OP and ED included. Everything was an experience. It was fun fun fun until it was sad sad sad, and I loved every moment of it. Sora Amamiya as Nanakusa was everything, and all the quirky artwork and the silky music and the crazy characters and wild dialogue—this show was pure entertainment. This is not to be missed. And I definitely recommend, for just a little added edge, to watch this at night. Even stay up really late and watch it, and share the nighttime and its lure with Nanakusa and Kou and company. It’s the call of the night! 

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