Jun 26, 2022
“Tezuka Osamu no Don Dracula” is somewhat of an anime oddity. It’s known as the anime series that got canceled with the least amount of episodes broadcast. They had scripts for 21 episodes already made, and may have intended to make even more, but since “Don Dracula”’s sponsoring company went bankrupt and an alternate sponsor couldn’t be found, they could no longer afford to pay the TV stations to air it. Thus, only the first four episodes were aired in Tokyo, and some of the regional stations managed to get to episode 8, which became the last episode.
As its production history suggests, “Don Dracula” is
a messy show. The plots are repetitive, sloppily put together, and full of both logical and tonal discrepancies. The show’s target demographics are unclear. It was aired in primetime, so you’d think it would be for families, and it has fun opening and ending themes that would appeal to kids. But it’s also got scantily-clad women, blatant nudity, gross-out humor, cute baby animals getting murdered, and a whole host of other potentially problematic issues. It’s all over the place.
The characters don’t receive any development, and key background facts about some of them (most notably Chocola) are left out of the anime, resulting in the show making even less sense. Most of the characters are unlikable and difficult to sympathize with, perhaps with the exception of Igor. There’s a bat that appears in every episode who talks to the audience and essentially narrates what’s going on, and he’s particularly annoying.
Each episode has a self-contained story (or two), and most feature Dracula ogling and chasing women and trying to suck their blood, but something usually goes wrong, and hijinks ensue. Sometimes Dracula tries to help his daughter with something, but inadvertently ends up causing trouble for everyone. Dracula is frequently stalked by Blonda, an obsessive woman who wants him to suck her blood, but he can’t stand the taste of it (probably because she’s fat and ugly). Chocola attends a night school, and she’s a member of the school’s sci-fi club, which includes her boyfriend, Nobuhiko (Nobuhiko has no idea that Chocola is a vampire, and says he doesn’t believe in vampires, by the way). Dracula, Chocula and their servant, Igor, live in their Transylvania mansion, which has been for some reason relocated to suburban Tokyo. They are often threatened by Hellsing, a vampire hunter from the Netherlands who has a hemorrhoid problem, and a trigger-happy policeman named Murai.
The animation is passable, but it’s certainly not the best. Some of the frames look hastily drawn, and a lot of times the lip movements don't match the voices. The designs of the main characters, particularly Dracula and Chocola, are okay, but the other characters are rather bland, especially Hellsing, Murai and Nobuhiko. There are a couple of odd choices with regard to character design: Chocola’s hair is light blue-gray in the anime, even though it would make sense plot-wise for her hair to be reddish-brown, as it is in the manga. Also, Nobuhiko’s hair is reddish-brown in the opening and in the fourth episode, but in a later episode, it’s black.
The voice acting is decent, but some of the dialogue is frustratingly corny and can be rather difficult to understand, with lots of unfunny puns and references to Japanese movies and other late ‘70s to early ‘80s pop culture.
The opening and ending are really catchy, and probably the best part of this anime. The ending, in particular, with its “don dora don dora” chorus, is an earworm.
There is quite a lot of explicit content in this anime, despite its kid-friendly appearance. There are two episodes with blatant nudity (one episode features naked blow-up dolls in a significant and surreal role), frequent gross humor with regard to Hellsing (he defecates uncontrollably due to his hemorrhoid problem, and also moons people to show the mole on his butt which proves his identity). There are a few instances of scantily-clad women, most notably in the opening. Chocola, who is supposed to be a middle schooler, is shown in her underwear in one episode, since her clothes got stripped off by an antagonist. As for violence, there’s an episode where two cute baby animals get shot to death, and there are a few other scenes of people getting killed. All of this is juxtaposed with goofy gag humor, which makes the series feel awkward.
Overall, “Don Dracula” is a strange show which is thematically all over the place, and doesn’t have a clear target audience. It’s easy to see why this got canceled after airing only 8 episodes. Still, as an anime oddity, it’s an interesting show to watch, so I recommend it if you want to see something unusual (although not necessarily good).
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