Cool colors, dark vignettes, and high contrast do nothing to innovate yet are certainly appropriate and striking. But alas, the actual result is that of a frustrated high school girl’s fanfic of “dark gothic vampires” that inevitably becomes a masturbation fantasy of her repressed desires for sexy despicable devils to consume her innocent life and literally fight over her body. It would be deplorable in an anti-feminist way, despite the tell-tale trappings and obvious catering to a female-dominated audience, if it weren’t just down-right silly and sad.
Diabolik Lovers is juvenile in both spirit and soul, in a black eyeliner and nail polish kind of way. Red moons, mansions, and going to school at night (oh my). It so very much wants to be taken seriously even though it doesn’t care about your opinion, man, but at the same time is desperate to fit in with counter-culture. (Occult-culture? Occulture?) Or maybe I’m reading too much into it and this really is just an excuse to get a lot of sexy sounding male voice actors to play ridiculous biting bishonens for fifteen-ish minutes per episode. I can both understand and respect that, at least. It’s an easy quick buck to cash in on the otome game genre, though I get the feeling that the team behind it was all-in to do it well, even though the source material they were charged with adapting was utter tripe.
Diabolik Lovers follows the sad tale of little miss Yui as she arrives at a creepy mansion, at the behest of her father via a vaguely worded note, finding only handsome young men who all wear "I'm totally a vampire" signs and it still takes her multiple minutes to realize what she’s gotten herself into. Small favors that they don't drag the non-mystery out. After that it's a lot of her being stupid as we wait for the real mystery to get hinted at and eventually explored. When it does finally get going it's not terrible, though practically swiss cheese with the plot holes, but by then the series is more than half over. The whole thing is a brief single cour with half-length 11-ish minute episodes and it breezes by fairly quickly though it drags a lot for the first half while it introduces and attempts backstory on each of the brothers which sort of becomes important later but feels really deliberate and forced.
Ayato is a dick from the start and Yui is predictably quivering and useless. It’s… not especially endearing. That said, the direction is completely committed to the overly dramatic and cinematic and it shows in every scene, sound, and song. Unabashed over-the-top commitment? I can dig that, baby. I can look past a lot of lame dialogue and feeble characterization when there’s not a hint of irony or a single wink throughout the entire run. The colorful gradient hair pleases me. The otome angle… does not. At least it has a decent sense of style despite those dirty ZEXCS lines (always second-rate but always consistent, aren't they). Plus I'm always delighted to see Midorikawa in a role even if it's a bad one (be gentle with that link, he’s a beautiful voice trapped in an ugly man).
All of the brothers are despicable jerks who one by one verbally, figuratively, and eventually physically rape Yui. But she's no better being a spineless idiot who lets them trample her. It's really annoying. Despite their unforgivable behavior to her I never really rooted for Yui since she never really tries to control her life. If they are nice to her for a second you can bet they're about to be a huge dick, always. And yet, despite this transparent behavior Yui still later is not only polite and friendly but caring. Even though she gets held down and bitten by one of them every episode, sometimes multiple times. It's a wonder she has any blood left in her frail frame. She's just perpetually stupid and it's more than a little frustrating. I'm not saying she deserved the bad treatment or even that it was in any way her fault, only that her doormat personality aggravated the shit out of me. Without spoiling much of anything, the show practically proves my point near the end when she's possessed and her personality changes completely due to her mind being taken over. Without any special powers she completely dominates them verbally and with presence and action alone. It's kinda cathartic, if momentarily.
Diabolik Lovers is better titled “Sadistic Yandere Otome Game: The Animation”. It's pretty looking in that phony constantly posing way and I'm not sure that makes up for the constant asshole characters. The writing is as stiff as a corpse and the whole thing drags worse than a shambling zombie, even despite episodes being half the length of a standard broadcast. Thing is, though, I’m totally fine with riding that train. It's a whole lotta retarded but the package is surprisingly nice, with quite detailed animation if a bit stiff/static, plus a fairly decent soundtrack and voice/foley work. I can’t say it will ever appear in my top 100, but… like a good rape, it’s over before you know it even if the memories never fade.
Never stop being classy, ZEXCS.
As of this writing, you can watch Diabolik Lovers for free on Crunchyroll.