Call of the Night Review: Still a Better Love Story than Twilight

Directed by Tomoyuki Itamura

Produced by Lidenfilms

Streaming on Hidive

Yeah, yeah, I know, Twilight jokes in 2022 aren’t the height of relevance, but you might understand how much real estate those vampires take up in my head when your wife watches those movies on a monthly basis. Furthermore, I…what was I going to review again? Oh, yeah, Call of the Night.

Tomoyuki Itamura has already proven his ability to make vampires, factually the sexiest type of monster, even hotter, when he directed The Case Study of Vanitas. That was just about all I needed to get truly hyped for this anime; I would like to avoid sounding like a pretentious manga reader, but seeing a series you love get an anime is a special kind of joy.

However, I was wary about this particular adaptation, as far as the producing studio goes. Lidenfilms is perhaps the biggest wild card currently in the anime industry. Sometimes they achieve adequacy, like in their adaptation of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, while other times they excel with projects like Kotaro Lives Alone or Salaryman’s Club. Other times, they butcher Tokyo Revengers and Berserk (2016).

Technically, Lidenfilms didn’t preside solely over Berserk; they were subcontracted by co-producing studios Millepensee and GEMBA, but Tokyo Revengers lies solely with them. Even so, when an anime goes as wrong as that, it’s more often the production committee to blame.

They control schedules, deadlines, creative staff oversight, and usually the studio just has to adhere to their whims. Unfortunately, production committees don’t have recognizable names or reputations like studios do, so I won’t know whether or not Lidenfilms was allowed to give Call of the Night the love it deserves until I sit down and watch it, so let’s get moving.

Do you remember the first time you ever stayed out just a bit too late? I have vivid memories of walking around the streets of my small town for the first time, realizing that the night is a whole different world. The roads and buildings I knew have become shadow-strewn monoliths, pitch black save the flickering neon lights of a bar or the buzzing yellow glow of a streetlamp. The world may as well belong to you and you alone.

But everyone has a reason to end up here. As a middle school student with good grades and plenty of friends, Ko Yamori should be in bed right now. Instead, he’s staring down the barrel of a tantalizing vending machine stocked with booze when a mysterious girl stops him in his tracks. He jumps out of his skin, ready to abandon this nocturnal experiment when his new acquaintance, Nazuna, begins asking why he’s out so late.

Ko’s been playing a part for as long as he can remember, but after turning a girl down at school and facing social isolation for the first time, he realizes he isn’t who he wants to be. He doesn’t want a girlfriend because everyone thinks he should have one, and he’s tired of marching to the beat of the world’s drum. Nazuna gives him a taste of what the night has to offer, and before he knows it, they’re in bed together.

Okay, well, they’re in bed because Nazuna promises to alleviate his insomnia. According to her, people stay up because of what they didn’t do during the day, and obviously laying next to a scantily-clad girl will calm the fourteen-year-old boy down enough to sleep.

What Ko doesn’t yet know is that Nazuna is a vampire, and her philosophical monologues about the freedom of the night is an excuse to clamp down on his neck. He doesn’t fall for her tricks or excuses about giant mosquitos, but he’s more than willing to donate a little blood as long as he gets to become a vampire too.

There’s just one teensy little catch about Ko’s imminent transformation, though; the human being bitten has to be in love with the vampire doing the biting. No problem, Ko says, he’ll just fall in love with Nazuna.

I have often said I don’t like it when romance anime drag their feet, but let me amend that statement. I don’t mind if they take their time, as long as they have a good reason to. Kaguya-sama’s whole set-up is that its leads would rather die than confess. My Dress-Up Darling’s central theme is about working up the nerve to not be ashamed of what you love. If you want to preserve the will-they/won’t-they, fine, but don’t just do it to do it.

Call of the Night establishes that it will take the slow approach. Ko has to fall in love with Nazuna when we’ve already established he doesn’t quite get romance. Nazuna’s super touchy about the subject and prone to cringing at the mere mention of the word love. As long as the story clearly communicates its intent and executes it well, I don’t mind being patient for the payoff.

That being said, Call of the Night is shaping up to be a lot of fun. Ko and Nazuna bounce off of each other naturally; her worldly experience crumbling under embarrassment contrasts nicely with his naïve yet somber personality. Put these two in any situation, their chemistry will keep it fresh.

That being said, I have at least one complaint.

I’m not in love with Call of the Night’s presentation. Reading the manga, I came to appreciate the restrained aesthetic of Kotoyama’s art. A large part of the appeal is that the mundane world Ko knows in the day has fundamentally changed. The darkness and emptiness has made the town become alien to him.

So, the anime looks good. It sounds really good. The character designs are faithful and snappy, the animation is fluid, and Itamura brings his impeccable direction as usual. My only hang-up is that to communicate the otherworldly quality of the setting, they’ve opted for an unnatural color palette. I wasn’t aware that the Northern Lights on steroids go on year round in this city.

Is it pretty? Duh. It’s just that I preferred Call of the Night to approach its visuals with a subdued touch. You can create a brilliant night sky without resorting to galaxy screensavers you found on Google Images, and I can’t help but feel it’s a missed opportunity for the series.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, or I have unreasonable expectations. However, what separates good adaptations from great ones is the extra touch to demonstrate a profound understanding of this story. I see it in Itamura’s other work with Vanitas and Monogatari, but maybe not here.

Call of the Night may be the strongest new anime of the summer lineup. I had to nitpick pretty hard about one personal issue in order to come up with anything negative to say about the series. If that doesn’t tell you I’m a big fan, then I’ll just come out and say I’m really looking forward to the rest of it. This is some of Lidenfilms’ best work so hard, and Call of the Night has snagged the highest rating of the season with Fantastic Neutral.

We’re nearing the end of my summer reviews, with one more anime I’m having a hard time writing about. It’s gorgeous, funny, with charm to boot, and I’m going to need some time to make up my mind about it. Time will tell, and I’m hoping it’ll tell me soon enough that my review won’t look like I jumped to conclusions.

So, while you’re waiting for that, you can check out everything else the Otaku Exhibition has to offer and follow on WordPress to get updates when the review goes live. If you like your notifications with a side of bizarre out-of-the-blue remarks and memes, head over to Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku, where stream-of-consciousness is a way of life, and you see all the tidbits that don’t find their way onto the blog. Until next time, thanks for reading.

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One response to “Call of the Night Review: Still a Better Love Story than Twilight”

  1. Yeah, Call of the Night is surprisingly good! I think it’s funny that your one little thing you can’t get over is that the sky is too sparkly in the anime. I kind of like the extreme sparkly sky but the thing I couldn’t get over was how Nazuna looks just like Himeko Toga from My Hero Academia. No matter how I try to ignore it, I just can help but see them as the same character. I think it would be funny if everyone that’s a fan of Call of the Night loved the series, but there was just one little thing that they couldn’t get over and for each person it was different!

    Liked by 1 person

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