Venus vs. Virus Vol. 1
Venus vs. Virus Vol. 1 is a horror show made for four-year-olds. Now that's not to say that four-year-olds should be watching it. Most would flee from the screen in terror and have all sorts of nightmares and go into therapy early. However, they are about the only group of people I know who would find the creatures that populate this series remotely scary. Whoever created them should take a class in the basics of monster management. The best and most fearsome terrors are a combination of what follows: 1) lurking unseen in the shadows, 2) unstoppable, 3) hideously frightening when they are seen, and 4) able to do things to you that would make death seem a pleasant alternative. While apparently the Viruses of the title can suck the soul right out of you, we see no soul sucking of merit. The worst that happens to you if you do get soul-sucked is that you become a Virus too. Doesn't seem so bad to me.
Now some would argue that Venus vs. Virus is not really supposed to be a horror show at all; instead, it's an action drama with horror elements. I think this argument has a little bit of merit. When we meet our heroine Sumire, we find her to be a rather shy girl suffering from average Japanese teenager problems. She has the added dilemma that she can see evil baddies known as Viruses who would like nothing more than to make her soul into an afternoon snack alongside tea and Pocky. Sumire does have the proverbial ace-in-the-hole, though, in that she is a living, breathing anti-Virus. When shot with a certain chemical that can kill Viruses, she becomes a berserker who can trash even the fiercest demon with a few rips, tears, and screams. Of course, the problem with being a berserker is that you can't tell your friends from your enemies. This creates problems for Lucia, a slightly older girl who took Sumire under her wing when she developed her ability to see these creatures of the night. (Lucia is a bit hard to take seriously, as she wears a patch over one eye that has special powers usable against Viruses. Thus, she comes across as a landlocked pirate.) As the four episodes unfold, we find that it's difficult being a teenager who can spot these apparitions throughout her city, especially when you find a young man you find interesting. Can devil hunters date when they're busy saving everyone from calamity? Anyway, Sumire is a sympathetic character, and the fact that the show stays focused on her is the one thing that makes it remotely watchable.
However, what is problematic is that neither the action nor the drama is all that good. Nothing in the action sequences goes beyond standard-issue television show material, if that. The drama has been done before; who hasn't seen an angst-ridden shy young woman in an anime? Combined with the lackluster bad guys who have no personality other than bad teeth and snaky tongues and laughter like the Wicked Witch of the East lowered two octaves, you've got a pretty dull time. Unless you are a true anime newbie, this should seem like kid stuff, which it is. As for its merits, well, it does have good OP/ED music. That, and while Sumire's story may not be original, at least the writers knew that keeping the focus on her would at least make for a better plotline overall. It's not bad in the sense that its plot makes sense and there aren't any major storytelling faux pas. But really, the whole thing is a morass in my mind. I can't tell you a lot about what happened in the show because it was just so...tepid. Seriously, I watched this show less than a week ago and darned if most of it hasn't just fallen right out of my head. It's that unmemorable.
I glanced over at my friend Chris Beveridge's review at AnimeonDVD.com to see what he thought, as he sometimes surprises me with his opinions. While he wasn't all that inspired by it either, he didn't seem to find it quite as bad as I did. However, his primary defense of the show revolves around how appealing Sumire and Lucia look in their outfits. As he says, "right now it's all about the visuals with the character designs." Is that really what this program comes to...a fashion show? I think maybe he's right...the horror isn't horrifying and the action isn't electrifying and the drama isn't riveting because it's actually all about the clothes and the cute. Whether or not that's really the case, one thing is for certain...I just didn't get it.
Venus vs. Virus Vol. 1 -- violence, occult concepts and creatures -- C-