Vanilla Series: Dark (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, September 29, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, May 27, 2003



What They Say
In the tradition of COOL DEVICES comes the latest thriller to join the ranks of the hardcore hentai set: the Vanilla Series! From SHIYUUTA BIWAJIMA and CHIKARA NIKI, the producers of GIRL NEXT DOOR / MEIKING, and EIJI UTAKATA, Art Director of CAMPUS / MEIKING, comes a show that will shock the adult anime world to its core!

Shinji Yagami had always heard the rumors about female students being raped on campus – everyone did. Of course he never believed them until the day he stumbled across a website showing detailed pictures of female students being assaulted in the classrooms. Shocked to find himself turned on by what he sees, Shinji begins his descent into a world of voyeurism, S&M, and rape guided by fellow sadist Satoshi Kojima.

When Shinji’s childhood friend Miku Iino begins to suspect that he may be involved with the string of campus rapes, she decides to confront him. Torn between his own dark desires and the horror of his crimes, will Shinji continue to hide his secret from Miku, or will she become the next target of his vicious desires?

The Review!
The Vanilla Series returns with yet another foray into the dark ways of hentai.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese, and because hentai is meant to be listened to that way. The show has a decent stereo mix but the majority of it is dialogue that’s through the center channel. The incidental music makes use of the stereo channels, but overall it’s fairly unobtrusive.

Video:
Originally released in 2002, this is a smooth clean transfer that really looks good. Colors are fresh and vibrant, cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is very minimal, showing only during some of the panning sequences. The print used contains the original opening credits and closing credits as well, with a translated scrolling list playing after each individual episode.

Packaging:
Using some of the incidental artwork that’s not reflective of an actual scene in the show, we get a nice looking cover of several of the women who will not be enjoying this show. You can tell quickly from the image what kind of show it’s going to be, so that’s a big plus in my book. The back cover provides a few screenshots and a plot summary done up as a webpage as well as more artwork from the show itself. As with all TRSI releases, there is no insert with this release.

Menu:
The menu is pretty simple with a few seconds of footage and music from the show playing across the entire screen with an overlaid list of selections and the title along the left. The menu definitely lets you know quickly what the animation for the show is like. Access times are nice and fast, but language retention is an issue. Selecting Japanese w/English subtitles causes the subtitles to come on but for the show to default to English. Even upon changing to Japanese, it reverted to English when the second episode started up.

Extras:
There’s a brief minute long slideshow gallery of shots from the show plus some promotional artwork pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ah, the Vanilla Series returns with another look into the more, well, dark side of hentai. I certainly wasn’t expecting anything light and fluffy with this release.

The show revolves around two young men, Shinji and Satoshi, who have ended up being involved in a rather unusual series of events. Shinji starts off by talking about the rumor of a website that has pictures of girls from his school that are being raped. Not only that, but the pictures indicate that it’s happening within the school itself. But it’s just a rumor, so he doesn’t particularly believe it.

That changes though when Satoshi from another class gives him a homepage link, and it reveals slightly blurred pictures of girls he knows. When Shinji goes to find out what it’s all about, Satoshi just tells him to go to the doctors office. Shinji ends up going, only to find a schoolgirl there. Without any real incentive or push, he ends up tying her down and having his way with her. And this starts off a long chain of events where Shinji and Satoshi make their way through various schoolgirls and teachers, videotaping and photographing the whole way.

As it progresses, Shinji starts to have his doubts about Satoshi’s sanity, as Satoshi continues to bring in more and more bizarre ideas and toys, but Shinji continues to go along with it all. The only thing that may possibly save him is his childhood friend Miku, a young woman who notices the strange changes in Shinji since he started hanging around with Satoshi.

And that’s really the bulk of the two episodes. There’s practically no real plot, which isn’t surprising. The animation is really nice looking and the character designs are very attractive. There’s just little in the way of a real hook to make it more than a series of bondages and non-consensual encounters. Your mileage may vary depending upon your tastes for content, but technical wise this disc pleases for the most part.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Critical Mass Video
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 65
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Vanilla Series Collection