Genre: Shounen, Action
Length: 24 episodes
Rating: 12 for violence (perhaps very occasional 15, if you’re being strict about it)
Score: Very Good
Father Abel Nightroad works for a special branch of the Vatican which deals with vampires and other supernatural threats. On one mission he saves a young nun, Sister Esther, who accompanies him on his missions.
If the above description makes you think of something like Hellsing, throwing random religious words and images around as an excuse for a fight, think again. This series actually has a brain in its head. It’s set on a post-post-apocalyptic future Earth (meaning sufficiently long after some distant apocalypse for civilisation to have rebuilt itself), in which there are two main powers: the New Human Empire, in which humans and vampires live alongside each other peacefully; and the various countries of western Europe gathered under the Vatican, who would like nothing better than to erase vampires from the world. Human technology is overshadowed by ‘lost technology’, which is used quite widely by those who can afford it: computers, holograms and airships are common, while rockets and nanotechnology turn up more rarely. Meanwhile soldiers on the ground are running around with swords and armour.
The lead character is an archetype seen before in anime, of a badass who hides his true power and prefers to act like an amiable fool. Trigun is the closest analogy that springs to mind; the difference is that Father Nightroad actually works for the authorities, because by working through them he can have more of an effect on the world. This is perhaps best seen when he’s sent on a joint mission with a vampire, an envoy from the Empire, in which he could easily have defeated the enemies within the first few minutes but chooses to follow proper procedures and act clueless, as a way of establishing the first inkling of trust between the two powers.
The series focuses on the relationship between Father Nightroad and Sister Esther, as he helps her learns to move beyond revenge for the death of her family at the hands of vampires; and later on the relationship between Esther and Ion, a young nobleman of the Empire – and a vampire. This is where the store shines, in showing the breadth of points of view, and the need to see past first impressions. The first time Esther and Ion meet, she bursts into his room with a shotgun; they very nearly kill each other. On being forced to cooperate, and confront betrayal within the empire, their acceptance later turns into friendship and romance (of a subdued sort – she is still a nun).
The two powers are well developed in their differences. The New Human Empire is old and arrogant, with a set order of aristocracy and succession, but successfully manages to ensure peaceful co-existence between humans and vampires. The vampire empress has reigned for 800 years, and is practically worshipped. The Empire’s capital at Byzantium is the most advanced place in the world at using the lost technology – for example, using airborne nanites to reflect UV and make sunlight safe for vampires to walk about in the day.
In contrast, the Pope is a young boy being entirely controlled by his aunts and uncles, surrounded by schemes and intrigues. Though the powers of Christendom believe they are right, seeing vampires as monsters to be erased from the planet, they are unstable and divided. Meanwhile, a hidden third power seems to be operating within both powers, fostering distrust and acting toward some dangerous agenda.
This is a relatively new series, with pretty visuals (even the 3D is mostly not crap) and a plot both broad and deep, but the heart of the story is one that reaches back into old school anime: the bumbling idiot who is actually clued up, saving the world one person at a time.