In an era where most anime are trying to emulate One Piece and run for hundreds of episodes, it’s nice to see one that dares to tell its story quickly and get out while the getting is good.
I admit I went into Vampire in the Garden blind, unaware the series was only five episodes in total. It soon became apparent, however, that the series was not slowing down for anything, and racing toward its melancholic, but not hopeless, conclusion.
In a bleak future, humans and vampires are locked in a bloody, pointless war that both sides seem destined to lose. Humanity has created a joyless and brutal dictatorship, even going so far as to outlaw art and music, to survive. Meanwhile, the aristocratic vampires live decadent lives of luxury, all while ignoring the fact that their blood supplies are running low and even many of their own kind starve. In the midst of this conflict, a young soldier named Momo decides she’s had enough of the fighting and just wants to leave. Around the same time, Fine, the indolent queen of the vampires who has quit drinking blood, makes a similar decision. The two become entangled with one another and soon find themselves on the run from their respective peoples, in search of a legendary Eden where humans and vampires coexist.
It’s a gorgeous series, with animation and action sequences that are top notch, and the world-building, while economic, manages to show the good and bad sides of human and vampire societies, and even some of what the world is like outside them. Most of the character focus is on the relationship between Momo and Fine, as they are both learning to reject the indoctrination of their respective cultures in order to understand each other. Momo is much more naïve, while Fine has had more experience with humanity and loss, but this leaves them both in a complicated state of push and pull with each other throughout the story.
While the brevity of Vampire in the Garden is in many ways to its credit, the series does feel at times like it could stand a little more room to breathe. We are treated momentarily to fascinating places and people that I would have enjoyed seeing more of, only to see them immediately destroyed by inevitable battle. Giving the protagonists and supporting characters more room to grow would also have helped some of the emotional beats hit harder. None of this is to say the series was bad, but I think giving it something in the neighborhood of ten to twelve episodes might have been ideal.
Still, for what it was, I enjoyed Vampire in the Garden. It’s a fast-paced, heart-wrenching ride, where you find yourself enjoying every peaceful moment, all while waiting for the other shoe to drop. The series also stays true to its guns in regards to pacifism in a way that most stories about war don’t. Sometimes you can’t just punch the lights out of the right person and make the problem go away, and you can’t always convince everyone to just be friends either. Perhaps it’s a little bleak to say that sometimes the best you can do is hold onto the people you love and escape, but there is something honorable about searching for a better way to live instead of being trapped in the old ones.