"Venus Versus Virus" Boxset: A Virus That's Okay To Catch
Venus Versus Virus is undoubtedly a product of its recently concluded era. From the dichromatic eyes to the immortal loli-character, from the cold tsundere action heroine to the butler/jack-of-all-trades character, it’s stacked with clichés from this last decade of anime. Even the stories feature clichés: There’s the possessed-best-friend episode, the “I don’t want this power anymore” episode, the hikikomori-referencing episode, and so on. One could probably summarize it as Madlax + Maria Watches Over Us + xxxHolic + Bleach. Oh, with a bit of Persona 3 too. It even suffers from the same scattershot animation that a lot of short TV series from this decade have.
In this series, the world is filled with Viruses: beings that were formerly human but whose souls were stolen by other Viruses. It’s a vicious cycle if ever there was one. Sumiere was an ordinary girl in a vanilla boarding school when one day a chance encounter with a Virus Hunter by the name of Lucia results in Sumiere’s own terribly unique Virus-hunting abilities being awakened. It turns out Sumiere is the only person who can fight the Viruses with her bare hands when she’s injected or shot (literally, from a gun, oftentimes self-inflicted, in the head) with the anti-virus compound. However, she goes into a berzerker mode where she’ll pretty much kill anything in her path, so Lucia often ends up having to fight Sumiere until she calms down. Lucia herself has a special eye that allows her to see into the thoughts of others, making Sumiere and Lucia a very powerful duo. Together they work and live with their fellow Virus hunters Laura and Soichiro behind a front shop (named Venus Vanguard) set up to look like a fashion store.
If balancing school life and monster hunting wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse when the true villains of the series begin to introduce themselves. It turns out that the increase in Virus activity is tied to Lucia’s estranged father Lucif (like Lucifer, get it?), who after becoming part Virus himself has been creating Viruses while recovering fragments from souls so as to open the True World (some ill-explained utopia). Obviously this must be stopped, and it eventually comes down to one last big show down. If this doesn’t sound familiar to long anime fans, well, I don’t know what would.
However, it’s not past its expiration date; clichés and borrowed trends aside, it’s not a bad show. Mediocre? Yeah. After all, it’s annoying to watch a show that joins some jarringly bad compositing with some pretty smooth animation and storyboarding. The music seems dated and plain, and both the Japanese and English casts require a bit of warming up to. Somehow though, once you get into it, it’s a decent watch, and the technical shortcomings manage to never ruin that. The fact that you can sort of push through it in one shot, since the whole series is now in a boxset, is also a huge benefit. Watching Venus Versus Virus disc by disc every couple months or an episode at a time every week wouldn’t be as compelling, especially in the second half of the series, where the action calms down a bit in favor of some additional character development. (Though I will note the plot twists nicely, and the developments are almost shocking by the end of the series.) Further, it does juggle its clichés pretty convincingly, probably because even though the characterization and story aren’t necessarily unique, they take precedence over pandering or fanservice. It sticks to its narrative, and it sells its story and characters by the end of the day, if even it is technically a patchwork quilt.
So, if you can get it at discount and love the last decade of anime, well, Venus Versus Virus feels like the past decade of anime rolled up into one series. Take that as you will. It isn’t the cure for cliché-itis, but it’s no anime swine flu either. I enjoyed catching it.