「よふかしのうた」 (Yofukashi no Uta)
“Call of the Night”
Made in Abyss was certainly the best series of the fall (and maybe the year, we’ll see) for me. But Yofukashi no Uta was the most personal. It connected with me in a very direct way, to the point where I felt as if it were speaking directly to me. Not literally of course, but when that feeling hits you it’s a telltale sign that your life experience and the writer’s have a lot of overlap. That’s why Hatsuka’s conversation with Kou (the key scene of the episode to be sure) was so ironically relevant for me.
Hatsuka was the last of the introduced cast to get a meaningful part in the narrative, but it certainly turned out to be a critical one. While the “Boku” at the end of last week’s episode was effectively the reveal, there were a few hints dropped from the start that he was different from the other vampires we’d met. Through Hatsuka we see yet another side to the vampire experience, and it’s perhaps one that’s closer to the preconceived idea of vampires. His apartment (where he takes Kou to hide from the cops) is full of “followers” (two women and a man) he’s turned. They seem to be in love with him, true – but in an obsessive way that speaks of something more than conventional romantic love.
Hatsuka does more than shelter Kou from the rozzers – he takes on a sort of vampire mentor role, though Kou is pretty hesitant about the situation when he sees Hatsuka get out of the shower and has his expectations (and only those) blown. This conversation begins with a gorgeous transition shot of Hatsuka having no reflection in the picture window (this may have been more than directorial grandstanding) and never lets up. When Kou tells him he’s reconsidering his future, Hatsuka reminds him of what might happen if he does – not just to him, but to Nazuna.
Hatsuka offers Kou a deal – since he’ll likely never fall for Naz, why not be turned by Hatsuka and save her from Niko’s wrath? He reveals that he’s not “nice” like the others, and can “fool Kou’s mind” into thinking he’s in love with him. His argument is a fascinating one – as a fellow bro, he’s the only one of the group that can understand how Kou feels. Kou resists – not because Hatsu is a guy (“you have a cute face”) but because he remains true to Nazuna, whether in love with her or not. Kou’s rejoinder to Hatsu’s argument is equally fascinating – it’s not a gender thing, he just doesn’t understand anybody. And neither does anyone else.
This question of whether Kou is capable of falling for anyone – and whether not being able to would mean he’s broken – cuts to the heart of Call of the Night as much as any single theme. I would argue that the series is arguing it doesn’t matter – romantic love is overrated, and friendship and loyalty are more than powerful enough to get a person through life. I’m not sure what was happening with Kou here – if you look closely his reflection in the window seems fainter at the end of his conversation with Hatsuka, and being able to jump off an overpass and escape unharmed is pretty extraordinary. I’ve argued all along that Kou accepting who he is would be a more novel approach than his learning how to be in love – but if we’re going in the latter direction, the sales job is looking pretty convincing.
From the other perspective, we do learn at least that Nazuna is loyal to Kou. She may be hooked on the taste of his sweet young blood, but this goes deeper than that. She volunteers to be the one to take whatever punishment Niko plans to dish out if it means saving Kou, though in truth Niko is all bluster (in this instance at least). Nazuna is just a lonely and bored eternal teenager, and in Kou she finds something like a kindred spirit. I think it’s fair to say at this point that she’s closer to falling in love with him than the other way around.
It was probably unavoidable that this episode would be concerned mostly with plot – it’s the finale, after all. But it manages to stay connected to what the series has been for most of its run, and in that I have to call it a successful conclusion. I think what people like Kou and Nazuna are really looking for, in the end, is someone who accepts them as they are. If that means “love”, great – but it doesn’t have to. Society is like a box that not everyone fits inside – so what of the ones who don’t? You keep looking, because somewhere that box is out there – you just have to keep searching till you find it. And when you do, it’s likely there will be others waiting for you who got there first.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – vampires are always metaphorical. It’s pretty clear what they represent here, and it’s actually a rather welcoming sort of message to send out. Yofakushi no Uta has a lot to offer anybody who loves good anime, but I think if you’re one of those people it’s speaking to, it’s especially resonant. I give a lot of credit to director Itamura Tomoyuki (who seems to have become something of a vampire specialist). Time after time he knocked it out of the park with arresting imagery, and the series did a marvelous job of making the world of the night come alive. For me Itamura’s highly stylized approach meshed better with this series than Vanitas no Carte (which was in itself more good than bad on that score).
What next? Well. we’ve certainly been down this road before. I have less sense of disappointment here than with Ao Ashi, because it always seemed unlikely we’d get an immediate sequel announcement. It still may happen – Yofukashi has seen a meaningful manga sales bump and generally been well-received by fans – but I’m hopeful rather than optimistic (especially with Urusei Yatsura and Rurouni Kenshin likely to monopolize NoitaminA for at least a year, unless it reverts to an hour-long format at some point). If this is the end of the anime, it goes out on a strong note – a declaration of what’s still to come that also manages to leave the protagonists at what feels like the end of a fully realized story, all the while staying true to itself.