At first glance, Vampire in the Garden may appear like many of the other vampire based anime that have come out in the past. With a truly beautiful visual style, and some amazing talent behind the scenes, this is a series that was on many people’s radar, well before it hit Netflix. Behind the pretty visuals, and massive studios, is a complex story of love, hope and a future free from war.
Written by Ryōtarō Makihara, and directed by Makihara and Hiroyuki Tanaka, Vampire in the Garden is a five-episode series that explores a world ravaged by war, and the endless struggle to build something more from the ashes. The beautiful and desolate world is brought to life with striking attention to detail by the team at Wit Studio, known for Vinland Saga, Attack on Titan, and most recently, Bubble, and it all works to craft a feast for the eyes, even if the story can feel a bit rushed at times.
Taking place in a war-torn future, Momo is a low-ranking soldier in humanity’s last real organized nation. Kind-hearted, and still filled with the wonders of life, she is not as brutal or cold-hearted as many of the other members of the military, still wanting to believe there is hope for peace. She hopes for more than the brutal military rule she finds herself in, one that music, art and freedom are rewarded, not stamped out.
As she looks for hope, Fine, the queen of the vampires, looks for an escape from the horrors of her kind. Refusing to drink blood or be a part of the major war effort, she just wants to be alone to be with her own thoughts, at least until she crosses paths with Momo during a major conflict. It is here their lives will be changed forever, as they find new hope and the drive to build a better future for themselves, and find a paradise that is free from the brutality of war and hate.
“Vampire in the Garden is a stunning journey that anime fans need to experience.”
With a limited number of episodes, and a massive world to explore, Vampire in the Garden wastes no time diving into the story, moving from location to location at a breakneck pace. There is a lot of world building done in montage, giving a taste of the journey Momo and Fine are embarking on, and the many people that live on the outskirts of the main narrative.
Even with this method of compressed storytelling, there is never a real sense of how vast or complex the conflict the characters face really is. While there are pieces of backstory interwoven into the larger narrative, it never paints a complete picture. Vampire in the Garden often feels rushed, with major aspects of the story feeling forgotten.
It is a shame that while much of the story in Vampire in the Garden is well told, as the anime reaches its climax, much of the complex interpersonal relationships and desires are tossed aside to make room for typical antagonists looking for a barley fleshed out desire to do evil things…for reasons. When the complex and nuanced reasons for conflict and struggle are the main basis of the series up to that point, this choice takes away from what could have been a very interesting and important conclusion to Momo and Fine’s story.
Even with this issue, the contrast and struggle between the two factions in Vampire in the Garden was brilliantly brought to the screen, giving a clear sense of how society has changed for both humans and vampires. Humans are very much in the style of Soviet Russia, banning all forms of art and expression in favour of military rule and the good of the whole. Vampire society, on the other hand, embraces the beauty of the arts, basking in the glow of possibility, and having music, culture and literature as a major part of what it means to be a vampire.
It is a world ripe with possibilities, and even with the well-earned ending, there is plenty to explore and expand on should Netflix decide to go back for a second season. Momo and Fine’s story feels finished, with a good conclusion to the journey they went on, giving catharsis to the many issues they found along the way.
Beyond the issues, and the rushed narrative, Vampire in the Garden is a stunning journey that anime fans need to experience. Ryōtarō Makihara has crafted a universe that is as complex as it is beautiful, filled with complex characters, interesting backstory, and a range of possibilities well beyond what is shown on screen.