Vampire Princess Miyu article published in Animerica Vol. 9, No. 12, December 2001
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.."At one time, gods and demons were as one. They were sealed away in the abyss of distant memory. The hearts of humans who feared the Dark brought this about. For the present, let us call these beings "Shinma." Now they have awakened from their slumber and gathered in the Dark. On the final night of that gathering, when Shinma and Humans met again, a young girl strayed into their midst. This is her story."*
Thus begins Vampire Princess Miyu, a four-volume OVA series which would prove as eternally popular as its mysterious lead. This hauntingly beautiful tale is comprised of stories which are both frightening and touching, for most stray Shinma feed on human suffering.
Miyu, herself, is equally mysterious and tragic, and ultimately fascinating. Here is a vampire who is not affected by the classic vampire weaknesses. Garlic, crosses, daylight, holy water -none affect her. She even has a reflection! It is Miyu's ancestral responsibility to return Shinma in the human world to the Darkness. Because her lineage must live among humans in order to do their duty, they are mortal. As a result, Miyu's family belongs neither in the human world nor the Darkness. For Miyu, however, the situation is even worse. Because Miyu's mother denied Miyu her heritage, trying to keep Miyu from taking her place, many Shinma escaped the Darkness. For Miyu and her parents, time has been frozen until Miyu catches all those who escaped. Miyu's sole relief from the loneliness is her tall, dark, powerful servant, Larva.
The enchanting beauty of Miyu's stories is the result of several talented creators. Miyu's character design and comics are drawn by Narumi Kakinouchi who has an uncanny ability to portray the grace and mystique necessary to convey Miyu's stories. Most of the Miyu comics have been written by Toshiki Hirano (a.k.a. Toshihiro Hirano) of Iczer fame. He also directed the videos and much of the TV show, demonstrating a remarkable ability to transform the poetic qualities of Miyu's tales into animation. Miyu's anime wouldn't be nearly as potent or otherworldly without conductor Kenji Kawai's talent for combining traditional Japanese musical and theatrical elements into a truly haunting contemporary score.
Due to the efforts of these three and many other talented people, Miyu grew beyond its original four-episode OVA with a manga. Now, along with the four OVAs, there are two shojo (first o long) manga series, a TV series, a novel, and numerous CD dramas -each telling different tales of supernatural Shinma and their haunting hunter Miyu.
Comprised of four separate stories, the OVAs are strung together by the experiences of the Buddhist exorcist Himiko Se. The first three take place in Kyoto, Japan's historic capital, where Himiko travels to investigate a possible possession. The victim is a little girl named Aiko who has been asleep for 60 days. After sensing something sinister, Himiko attempts an exorcism, but her efforts are of no avail.
Outside the girl's home, Himiko meets Miyahito, a young man intent on killing a vampire. His girlfriend was the first victim, and he saw the white-robed blood sucker enter Aiko's house.
That night, as Himiko contemplates the fact that all the victims have been female, she is attacked by the white-robed man. Before she can blink, Himiko is saved by a black-robed man and a mysterious pale girl perched atop a toori. It's Miyu and Larva. Miyu comments the creature behaves too much like the stereotype of a vampire and suggests Himiko not get involved.
It's difficult making a living as spiritual medium, and Himiko's curiosity has been sparked. Contemplating vampires, Himiko buys a cross. It proves no use against Miyu, for a short while later, Himiko comes across her drinking Miyahito's blood in broad daylight! With Larva's help, Miyu draws Miyahito and Himiko into the surreal world of the Shinma. There, Miyu explains that she is a vampire, but she's not what Himiko thinks of as a vampire. Miyu survives on human blood, but she gives those humans eternal life and a fantasy of their fondest desire to keep them happy. The white-robed creature, on the other hand, only takes life. Once Miyu has had her say, in a flash Himiko finds herself and Miyahito in a playground. Himiko thinks they should go to the hospital, but Miyahito dreamily asks, "Why? I feel fine."
Himiko consults a doctor about Aiko and discovers Aiko's parents are actually dead. The family was in a car accident, and only Aiko could be saved. They'd had several emergencies that day and were out of AB blood. Aiko's parents gave theirs to save their daughter, causing Aiko to consider herself a vampire.
Miyu's pursuit of the white-robed creature leads her to Aiko's house. Within, she is about to drink Aiko's blood, but a horrified Himiko stops her. Undaunted, Miyu drives out the Shinma who has taken up residence within Aiko's miserable soul. With pyrotechnic flare, Miyu and Larva banish the Shinma to the Darkness. As a result, Aiko dies; such is the price of giving your soul to a Shinma. While Miyu is philosophical about it, saying Aiko may be happier dead than living in the illusion the Shinma provided her, Himiko is outraged. This encounter only solidifies Himiko's determination to find Miyu and discover the truth.
In the next video, Himiko investigates a mysterious disappearance in hopes of finding Miyu again. She succeeds, and Miyu reveals she is the last of her line whose duty is to return stray Shinma to the Darkness where they belong. Both the hunter and vampire aspects of Miyu come to play; she's after the Shinma responsible for the disappearance as well as its next victim. Despite Miyu's eventual success in returning the doll spirit Ranka to the Darkness, the human girl within is hurt by her failure to win over the beautiful Kei, Ranka's last victim. This dichotomy of untouchable supernatural and emotional human girl demonstrates Miyu's vulnerability as well as exposing a glimpse of her complex, lonely soul.
The third video actually finds Miyu seeking Himiko's help. Larva has been taken, and Miyu is willing to tell Himiko what she wants to know in exchange for her assistance. It turns out Larva is the one responsible for awakening the vampire within Miyu. He came across the ocean, and on the shore he took her blood with the intention of becoming the leader of the Shinma. With eyes turned golden in response, Miyu drank his blood. Because he couldn't kill her, Larva's voice and face were sealed away behind a mask, and he became her servant. He is her only companion, and Miyu wants him back. The problem is, though supernatural, the possessed armor involved in taking Larva is not a Shinma. This means Miyu has no power over it and needs Himiko's abilities. Himiko's investigation is intercepted by a mysterious man. Once the man exposes himself as a Shinma, Miyu appears. This Shinma, Lemures, was very close to Larva and intends to free him from Miyu's control. Lemures learns the hard way that Larva is loyal to Miyu.
The final video takes place in the historically significant coastal town of Kamakura, far from Kyoto. On a whim, Himiko has returned to the place where she recalls having a traumatic experience as a child, seeking a mysterious mansion which might have been a dream. What she finds is the ancient home of Miyu's family. There Himiko learns of Miyu's mother's attempts to protect Miyu from her heritage and the tragic results.
These four videos make up an enigmatic but tidy package. Miyu's story has been told, yet viewers are left wanting to know more, craving more tales of this complex, powerful young girl. Although it took nearly a decade, more Miyu anime was made.
THE TV SERIES
Like many TV series based on OVAs, the Vampire Princess Miyu TV show offers a unique portrayal of the characters and scenario while still remaining similar enough to the original to be familiar. One of the major differences is Miyu plays a junior high student in many episodes. She even goes so far as to become part of a group of friends. This situation allows her to gather more information about possible Shinma activities than she could alone as well as providing a means for the writers to demonstrate how out of place Miyu can be in the human world. As a result, Miyu comes off as more subdued than in the OVAs.
Along with her impish qualities, Miyu's otherworldly altruism also seems lacking in the TV series. In the OVA, only Lemures' theft of Larva could raise her ire enough to want to destroy instead of banish a Shinma, but Miyu seems less discriminating in the TV series. She can also be less sympathetic toward humans. In the first episode, Miyu lets an arrogant teenaged boy fall to his death. In the second, a whole gallery of women, whose self-conscious concerns about beauty gave a Shinma the power to turn them into living mannequins, are left to languish in eternal misery because, according to Miyu, it's their own fault. Harsh!
The twenty-six-episode series begins with fairly episodic stories of mystery and tragedy and occasional informative glimpses into Miyu's life and character. About halfway through the series, a longer, more engaging story arc evolves.
The chronology of the manga is a bit odd. The first manga, Vampire Miyu, is made up of unique stories and was published in the shojo (first o long) anthology Horror Comics in 1988 and 1989, about the same time as the release of the OVAs. For a while, this single volume was the only Miyu manga available. Then came the five volume series Shin Vampire Miyu (New Vampire Miyu), published from 1992 - 1994. Currently at 10 collected volumes, Vampire Miyu began again in 1997 to coincide with the release of the Vampire Princess Miyu TV show. Some of the characters and plots of these recent Vampire Miyu comics are derived from the TV series.
The first Vampire Miyu manga was written as well as drawn by Kakinouchi. It has several tragic short stories and is the only Miyu story without some credit to Hirano. Once the series starts again after nearly a decade, the stories begin to grow longer, eventually incorporating themes and characters from the TV series.
New Vampire Miyu is its own separate story which focuses more on the complexities of the Shinma than on Miyu's life among humans hunting rogue Shinma. Recall that Larva came across the ocean from the West in order to kill Miyu and become the leader of Japan's Shinma. Well, a whole boatload of Western Shinma arrive to finish the job and reclaim their stray comrade. Each of the Western Shinma has unique personalities and motivations, creating a colorful cast of antagonists to tear Miyu's world apart.
Behind all of Miyu's enchanting, otherworldly adventures are very human stories, usually tragic ones. The armor Lemures uses to fight Miyu is the reincarnated spirit of a man whose loving wife sacraficed her soul so her dead husband might be reborn. The reborn man has forgotten his humanity, choosing to falsely believe he is a Shinma instead of facing the tragic truth. The drama and emotion of touching stories like this combined with the allure of supernatural scenarios, intriguing characters, and Kakinouchi's beautiful art result in a potent magic which has garnered Miyu more than a decade of success.
Mysterious, mischievous, enigmatic, Miyu's personality is as complex as her situation. Born to be the guardian between the human world and the Darkness, Miyu was raised as a normal child. Miyu's attempts to resist her heritage and her mother's efforts to shield her from her duty resulted in many Shinma escaping into the human world. Time has been frozen for Miyu until she can return all the stray Shinma to the Darkness. Very old, yet eternally 13, Miyu is at once a knowing and distant immortal and an impish young girl.
Responsible for awakening Miyu's vampire blood, Larva is portrayed differently in the OVA and the rest of the Miyu series. A Western Shinma who is bound to Miyu by her blood, Larva was originally masked and mute. In the manga and TV series, Larva's mask and silence become mere dramatic options. Either way, Larva is Miyu's devoted servant.
Miyu's mother (or Miyu's Parents, if you prefer)
Probably the most tragic character in the Miyu universe, Miyu's mother is also a vampire whose duty is to return stray Shinma to the Darkness. Wanting to give her mortal husband happiness, she granted him immortality. As a result, he lost touch with reality and lived without focus. Wanting to protect her daughter from the lonely life of their lineage, she did not teach Miyu about their heritage. In the end, she gave her all to her child, only to doom Miyu to a worse life than her own.
One of the few significant humans in the Miyu universe, this Buddhist exorcist is part of a fading discipline of religious spiritual mediums. Initially a nonbeliever, it is through Himiko's experiences we learn about Miyu and Shinma in the OVAs. Himiko does not appear in any other Miyu series.
This elegant doll spirit was the antagonist in the second OVA, set on giving eternal beauty to narcissistic students by turning them into dolls whom she feeds upon. Ranka returns in the plot of the New Vampire Miyu comic as Guardian of the Second Layer of Japan's Shinma realm and Miyu's ally against the Western Shinma. She also cameos in later volumes of the Vampire Miyu comics.
Lemures (Lemules, Remlas)*
This Western Shinma is one of Miyu's greatest emotional threats, for he and Larva were very close before Miyu claimed Larva as her servant. Capable of becoming a crow, Lemures is the primary antagonist in the third OVA and plagues the Vampire Miyu manga more than once.
Yui and Nagi
Having received Miyu's blood, Yui is another young vampire who's responsible for dealing with wayward spirits. Yui also has the blood of the "Shi" in her, a supernatural race similar to but different from the Shinma. As Larva is to Miyu, so is Nagi to Yui, though their relationship is more that of equals than master and servant. Aside from having their own set of five manga (being released in English by Studio Ironcat), Yui and Nagi have appeared in both Miyu manga series.
Mascot of the TV show, this cute little bunny is actually a Shinma. Behind that right ear is a bulging, bloodshot eye which can see through illusion and across great distances. Since Shiina is not a real threat to humans, and Miyu likes her, Miyu allows Shiina to remain with her in the human world. Shiina also appears in the later Vampire Miyu comics.
Reiha and Matsukaze
Reiha the snow demon is like an old rival, for she also seeks stray Shinma. In contrast to Reiha's eternal politeness, Reiha's doll Matsukaze is rather forward and has violent inclinations. While Reiha acts as though Matsukaze is a separate entity, he seems more like a vehicle for another personality within Reiha.
Chisato, Yukari and Hisae
This trio of friends appears only in the TV series. Chisato is cheerful and sweet; she befriends Miyu, drawing her into a circle of friends. Yukari is daring and strong while Hisae is the bookworm of the group. These three offer a contrast for Miyu's subdued portrayal of a junior high student while also demonstrating strangeness is in the eye of the beholder.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
If you look for information about Miyu in English, you're bound to come across several different names for the series. AnimEigo and Tokyopop, the companies responsible for the U.S. video release of the OVA and TV series, use the title Vampire Princess Miyu. Antarctic Press and Studio Ironcat, the publishers which brought the comics to English, use the titles Vampire Miyuand New Vampire Miyu. So which one's right? Both are legitimate translations of the title.
In Japanese, the word for vampire --"kyuketsuki" (first u long)-- is made up of the kanji (ideograms) meaning suck, blood and demon. Miyu's title changes the word ‘kyuketsuki' (first u long) in two ways. First, the last kanji has been changed to one which means princess, which can be pronounced ‘ki'. This subtle change conveys the idea that Miyu is not only a vampire but also a princess. The second change involves the pronunciation. In writing for younger audiences, furigana often appears above kanji to express the pronunciation of the kanji as an aid in reading. By changing the furigana which goes along with the kanji, authors can convey multiple ideas with the same words. This is exactly what the Miyu comics do. Instead of ‘kyuketsuki' (first u long) as the pronunciation for the kanji ‘suck, blood and princess', the pronunciation is written as ‘vampire'. The use of furigana with the title occurs only in the comics, which is why the U.S. comics omit ‘princess' from the title.
MIYU IN THE U.S.
A long time favorite of many fans, it's small surprise most of Miyu has made it to the U.S. The videos were first released by AnimEigo in 1992 on VHS and LD. Recently, they have been re- released on DVD. The first manga was translated by Antarctic Press in 1995, and Studio Ironcat has released the entire New Vampire Miyu series since then. Just this August, Tokyopop has begun to release the Vampire Princess Miyu TV series in English. With the renewed interest which should accompany the TV release, many fans are hopeful the rest of the Vampire Miyumanga will also be translated in the future.
Along with all the episodes and manga there is also a ‘comic novel' and more than a dozen CD dramas to further expand the Miyu universe. Some of the stories in these media are unique while others draw on the manga for their inspiration. For those of you who'd like to see the ‘comic novel' brought to English, there is an online petition here: http://www.csclub.uwaterloo.ca/u/mlvanbie/miyu/cnpet-form.html
I know it may seem a little awkward at times, but the opening quote is from the AnimEigo original subtitled version of the OVAs. I thought is summed up the basic concept of Miyu pretty well.
Different English versions give Lemures different spellings for his name; I thought it best to include them all.