Vampire Princess Miyu (OVA)

Miyu is thirteen years old. She’s been thirteen for years. Although she’s a vampire with the usual need for liquid refreshment, sunlight doesn’t affect her. Nor do crucifixes, and holy water is a treat. She has a task: returning the “shinma,” powerful demons that prey on humans, back to their underworld. In this she is assisted by Larva, a shinma bound to her service. Himiko, a Tokyo spiritualist, tries to stop Miyu, but she finds herself way out of her depth. Over the course of the four episodes she gradually learns Miyu’s story, and a little bit about herself as well.
Vampire Princess Miyu, based on a manga by Narumi Kakinouchi, is quietly, slowly and very effectively creepy. Most of the standard horror movie cliches are absent: there are no rivers of blood, no dungeons, no scary organ music, no furious thunderstorms at midnight. Instead, Kakinouchi and company find horror in such things as a young man sitting quietly in the park on a pleasant day.
Miyu dates from 1988 and has aged well. The characters and settings are well-designed and well-drawn. Miyu’s asymmetrical hairstyle is subtly unsettling in the way that Lain Iwakura’s would be a decade later. There’s not much action, but the scenes in which Miyu battles the shinma are adquately animated. The music, by Kenji Kawai, is generally wistful and sad rather than blatantly creepy, but the cool timbres of FM synths keep the atmosphere chilly.
Vampire Princess Miyu requires a few reservations — a crucifix is crushed to powder at one point, and some scenes are set in what looks like a Catholic church — but given that this is a vampire story, there is little that is seriously objectionable for anyone high school age or older. I also have a few problems with logic here and there — exactly who hired Himiko in the first episode? Nevertheless, the series’ virtues outweigh the problems. The second episode, “A Banquet of Marionettes,” is particularly effective, and it belongs in any program of creepy entertainment.
There is also a Miyu television series, but it apparently isn’t as good as the OVA. I don’t plan to watch it.