Seasonal First Impressions is a column where I detail my thoughts, however brief or long, about a currently-airing anime’s first episode or so.
Ko Yamori (Gen Satou) is having girl problems. Quite the opposite of the many heartbroken protagonists who litter his genre, Ko has recently turned someone else down, on the grounds that he doesn’t really understand what “love” or wanting to date someone actually are yet. Through a combination of resultant bullying and just plain ol’ feeling bad, this has made him want to stop going to school. So, he does. He skips class by day and walks about town late at night. The city is neon-on-black and blown out around him as he absorbs the relative tranquility of a small playground and rambles to himself.
Scrolling post-sundown social media (never a great idea), he gets it in his head to try drinking, despite being only 14. He finds an alcohol vending machine—did you know those were a thing? I certainly didn’t—and, more than a little paranoid as he does so, slips a few coins in. The machine emits a yellow-amber glow all the while, almost sickly in its illumination of the scenery.
He is then promptly jumpscared.
That is Nazuna Nanakusa (Sora Amamiya), nighttime socialite, owner of a pretty cool cloak, and vampire. The specifics are less important than the broadstroke; Nazuna turns Ko’s life on its head over the course of their single night together, which takes up the entire first episode, with not a single second of concession to the morning after. She chats up drunk salarymen, she teases and prods Ko, she says she likes to help people who can’t sleep at night solve their problems.
She takes him to her apartment.
Sadly, she does not climb up the side of her apartment in lizard fashion.
An aside; Call of the Night is somewhat new territory for this site. Despite being the holder of the seasonal romcom slot like previous Let’s Watch subjects My Dress-Up Darling and Kaguya-sama: Love is War!, Call of the Night is not particularly similar to either, and it would be a mistake to lump them together simply because they’re part of the same genre. Call of the Night‘s pedigree is older, and puts the series itself in a more sensible context. After all, people being attracted to vampires instead of (or in addition to) being afraid of them stretches back to the very dawn of popular vampire fiction. They’re nothing new in anime, either, with more or less popular titles that are about or prominently feature a vampire love interest including, just off the top of my own head, Rosario+Vampire, Vampire Knight, Actually, I Am…. / My Monster Secret, Seifuku no Vampiress Lord, Vampeerz, etc.
These span several different genres, but what all have in common is that the vampire is portrayed, at least initially, and in line with their origins as a creature of the horror genre, as something dangerous. Something that warrants caution. This is true of Call of the Night as well, even as Ko himself throws that caution to the wind not long after discovering Nazuna’s true nature and he decides he wants in on the whole “vampire” thing, the framing never lets her seem too innocent for too long. For every cut that depicts Nazuna like this, where she says something goofy or outright dumb.
There’s another that portrays her like this; a predatorial-in-the-animal-sense midnight stalker. She’s a vampire. Let her bite you.
Now, while danger can certainly be scary, it can also be salacious, and unsurprisingly that’s the angle that most of Call of the Night‘s more intense scenes take. Even less surprisingly, the attempts to play up Nazuna’s conventional sex appeal don’t work nearly as well as those that focus her vampiric features. The former are simply too clean. There’s a shot in here where the camera rotates around her body in an attempt to show off her midriff and it just looks absurd. (What is she, a sports car?) This is without mentioning what looks a lot like airbrushing on parts of her body, it just all looks too silly to take seriously.
The latter though? Well, there’s an old joke in some circles about how you can tell when they get someone who’s “into feet” (or into whatever) to animate a given scene. I think Call of the Night‘s team has someone who’s into teeth.
If they could only nail one, though, it’s actually better for it to be the latter. Ko, after all, is not so much attracted to Nazuna yet as he’s attracted to the idea of becoming a vampire, as is established not long after Nazuna reveals that she is one. We need to see this stuff through his eyes for that desire to make sense on a literal level (and on a less literal one, depicting some kind of temptation only works in any context if you can successfully convey said tempting). Fill in your own vice or vices here; is “vampirism” code for sex? Drugs? Booze? Just the general nightlife experience? There’s no reason it can’t be all of the above, and by keeping the metaphor fairly broad and open to finer interpretation, Call of the Night‘s first episode mostly succeeds in its aims of making Ko’s attraction to Nazuna—or perhaps more, what Nazuna offers—understandable, in spite of some minor flaws.
Call of the Night does also zero in on one particular thing. Nazuna, at one point, asks Ko why he thinks people stay up late in the first place. It’s a rhetorical question, and she provides her own answer.
This is an interesting notion, and certainly one that maps to why a lot of say, millennials like myself stay up too late, but the way Nazuna plays it is even more interesting. Later in the episode, Ko expresses that he knows he shouldn’t be doing “something like this”—that is to say, this whole skipping school and staying out at night bit—in the first place. Nazuna, who seems to have taken an interest in him despite herself, responds to that thought by hovering above the ground, and asking him this.
The question pierces the thematic heart of Call of the Night in general. How does Ko feel about all this? He says to himself, remembering back to the incident at school, that he tried to do the right thing. Nazuna cuts in—literally invading the flashback—to ask why he even cares.
It’s clear that Nazuna, for whatever reason or reasons, wants to bring him over to the very literal dark side. He can be a creature of the night too, if he wants to be. And that is, abstractly, what the show says for anyone; the only requirement for being an outcast, after all, is that you are cast out. Ko, at least in his own mind, already has been. The freaks come out at night, the question for Ko—and more broadly for anyone—is simply whether they feel they fit in more with them, or with the normal folks who thrive while the Sun’s up.
On another level; the extent to which Nazuna is a shamelessly bad influence adds further knots to the already twisty question of how “okay” any of this is. But personally, I’m less interested in the question of if Nazuna’s actions are in some way moral and more in the question of if this resonates both with its intended audience and more generally.
That’s a question that it will take the rest of Call of the Night’s thirteen episodes to answer, so for now, it’s an open one. But! I think this first showing is promising. Toward the end of “Night Flight”, the episode earns its title, as Nazuna gives Ko the thrill of his life whether he wants it or not.
She kicks him off of a roof, and lets him panic mid-freefall for a moment. Of course, she swoops down to save him, picking him up and carrying him away as ED theme kicks in.1 In that moment, Call of the Night is pure black magic. If it keeps figuring out how to do that, it has nothing to worry about; the night is still young.
1: Also called “Call of the Night”, and after which the manga was originally named. I did not know this when I wrote the article and have updated the phrasing here and added this footnote to reflect the reality of the situation.
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5 thoughts on “Let’s Watch CALL OF THE NIGHT Episode 1 – Night Flight”
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First show in… She’s the vampire girl of my teenage dreams.
I got the sense that her age was vaguely adult-ish but undetermined. Played around with a bit of innuendo but nothing actually happened. I imagine they’ll do that all season. Creating the potential and the tension without really fulfilling it. Regardless of canonical age, she’s being written just like a teenage girl and he’s the generic “put yourself in his place” protagonist. I don’t pay any attention to canonical age in anime and this is not an adult fantasy about having a child lover.
I kind of got “Auntie Mame” vibes from her. “Let me show you how amazing the world really is!” The flying scene reminds me of the scene with Lois and Superman in the 1978 movie.
There are people out there who spend their free time getting upset over other people’s entertainment choices. I guess it is a hobby.
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@Fred (Au Natural) Enjoy!
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Now I have to watch this show. Off-beat and dark, just how I like it.
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