Put your fangs away and start munching on some garlic, because your halcyon nights of vampiric vibing are officially over. Call of the Night‘s harbinger of doom is here, and she has one hell of a nicotine addiction. As a fan of the manga, I was most excited to see how the anime would approach this part. While narrative ambitions had already been intruding on the series’ easygoing atmosphere and slice of night hijinks, Anko’s introduction demarcates the boldest shift in Call of the Night‘s priorities yet. So even though I’ve found this adaptation quite successful so far, there was no guarantee it’d be able to handle this descent into drama and horror. Thankfully, however, I can report that the anime goddamned nailed this episode.
Additionally, I need to come clean that Anko is my favorite character in this series, so I must cop to some innate giddiness at finally seeing her in color and motion. However, that bias goes both ways, as I also definitely assessed this episode with a more acute critical eye than usual. They had to do right by my gloomy detective girl, after all. And the tonal shift of her introduction alone was enough to assuage most of my worries. The usual saturated palette immediately gives way to a dull coating of sepia. Gone are the twinkles of stars and the glows of windows, replaced by a blank sky and harsh silhouettes. The overpass looms overhead, hanging like a piece of diegetic and claustrophobic film matting, burying Anko’s hunched figure deeper in the shadows. Only cigarette embers illuminate her face, and as she stands, with the pronounced exertion of a grown human adult, she gently warps the space around her and Ko. In other words, it’s a cool as hell scene, deliberately ditching the show’s familiar aesthetic to instill a sense of unease. Because if there’s one thing that a Monogatari Series pedigree teaches you, it’s how to properly introduce a terrifying woman.
Anko’s diner date with Ko is similarly suffused with mood. An air of danger and mystery wafts over their conversation like cigarette smoke. In fact, let me get on my highly cancelable soapbox for a paragraph and argue that we need more smoking in our contemporary fiction. I have little affection for the actual habit, but as an aesthetic enhancement in visual media, it has underappreciated versatility. First, there’s an inherent eroticism in the act of smoking a cigarette—the oral fixation, the emphasis on hands and delicate finger movements, the intimacy of lighting one for yourself or for someone else—and the people who made this episode understood that, thank goodness. Anko is hot because she’s tired and smokes a lot, not in spite of that. Second, smoking is rife with cultural significance and symbolism; here, most obviously, it demarcates the border between the grown-up (Anko) and the middle-schooler (Ko). And my third point is just how it’s a great piece of visual accoutrement that naturally makes any scene more interesting to look at. The smoke anchors the tenor of their discussion. Early on, when it’s playful, Anko puffs some smoke rings, but as she starts prying into Ko’s behavior, it drifts toward the ceiling in an uneasy spiral. So yes, you should write and draw more characters with cigarettes. I’m deadly serious. Just because the habit kills people in real life doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t be able to enjoy the sight of a sexy chainsmoking gumshoe.
After Anko’s intimidation play, it feels kind of weird to switch gears back to goofy school trespassing antics. Call of the Night, however, is cognizant of this, and in fact that’s Mahiru’s whole motivation. Almost as if he’s read ahead in the manga, he can feel their idle youthful days slipping away from them, and he wants to create some memories with his friends while he can. It’s genuinely very sweet, and it makes the scary punchline all the more horrific. Despite centering on vampires, Call of the Night hasn’t been a “horror” series up to this point. It’s dabbled in the genre’s aesthetics when appropriate, but the missing teacher is our first example of an actual monster, albeit a tragic and pitiable one. The anime, again, changes up its style to accommodate this tonal 180, drawing the teacher with an exaggerated scratchiness that pops out from the rest of the scenery. The effect isn’t always as desired—the episode’s B-half takes some rough animation shortcuts that stick out in a bad way—but overall the show does a good job creating life-or-death tension for a story that had previously been allergic to doing so.
Anko’s reappearance caps off Call of the Night‘s sea change with debonair flair and a distinct taste of melancholy (and cigarette-tainted blood). One of the series’ strengths is the way it eschews vampire tradition for its own lore that better suits its characters and thematic aims. Here, it means that, instead of a wooden stake, Anko fells her prey with an embrace and the promise that he can die as a human. The precise mechanics of it are less important than the feelings and images this evokes. Anko behaves more like a counselor than a slayer, but there’s a firm grip behind her gentleness all the same. And her final comments to Ko betray that she has a much more personally vested interest in tracking down these vampires than her usual nonchalance suggests. In her sepia-tinged world, blood’s crimson sheen stands out all the more.
Also, that closeup shot of her just barely visible jugular might be the horniest embellishment the anime has made so far, and that’s saying something.
Anyway, I don’t think I could have asked for Anko’s anime debut to go any better. The adaptation understands everything that makes her cool, compelling, and chilling, and it complements those qualities with a buffet of rich visual and tonal accents. Plus, Miyuki Sawashiro is absolutely perfect casting. There’s a pleasantly exhausted drawl to the way she almost slurs Anko’s casual speech, but she pinpoints her inner iciness at the precisely correct moments too. With a flick of her lighter and a swish of her coat, Anko enters Ko’s orbit as a powerful and deadly addition to Call of the Night motley crew of insomniacs. The vampires have finally met their slayer, and this episode leaves the audience thirsting for more details about both parties.
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