#1 Stagnant storytelling
Nightwalker is a horror mystery story that follows the exploits of the young vampire Shido Tatsuhiko. He runs a private detective agency that specializes in paranormal crime. There he is assisted by the beautiful government agent Yayoi, the urban fairy Guni, and high school student Riho Yamazaki.
Nightwalker uses an episodic format that is used to tell an assortment of disconnected stories, most of which quickly begin to feel alike. “Troubled person falls victim to demonic possession” is really the only kind of tale Nightwalker can tell. The specifics of how it happens changes, but for a mystery story it’s hardly ideal that the plot twist is always a foregone conclusion.
There is something that resembles an overarching plot, relating to Shido’s ambiguous past and the man who turned him into a vampire. However, this plot is resolved almost as soon as it is introduced. Afterwards it’s right back to episodic filler stories for the entire rest of the anime. There’s no build up or pay off to it at all, rendering the entire arc (and Shido’s backstory) absurd.
The anime’s finale briefly feels like it might get exciting, but then falls back on a cop out ending and a sequel hook that would never see a follow-up. All in all, it’s a tragically underwhelming attempt at storytelling.
#2 Braindead characters
Not helping this already-mediocre story is that the characters in it are often preposterously stupid. That goes both for the demonic possession victims of the week, as well as for some of the main cast.
One episode deals with a woman who confidently faces down a demon and barters her soul away to it, only to then be absolutely flabbergasted when she finds out that she has, in fact, sold her soul. Another character agrees to become a vampire and proudly vows that they’ll never regret it, only to become overcome with regret in the very next episode. These sound like bits from a comedy series, but in Nightwalker these plot developments are played 100% seriously.
Even Shido isn’t exempt from this, though his mental deficiencies are usually for the convenience of the author. He frequently makes baffling decisions like letting possessed people walk free—knowing damn well it’ll backfire—just because the episode would be too short otherwise. He also has a habit of forgetting to use amazing powers he was shown to have previously, like how he could just effortlessly extract demons from people or turn into a shadow to bypass obstacles. That last one would have come in handy that one time he got dramatically stuck behind a pitiful little fence.
#3 Visual degradation
I would love to know the story of how Nightwalker was produced, because it is pathetic how inconsistent this show looks. The only conclusion I can draw is that they literally could not make up their mind about what this anime should look like or what kind of tone it was supposed to convey. Even as they were making it.
The first 4-or-so episodes almost feel like an edgy OVA from the early-90s. Blood, gore, nudity, and violence aplenty, with a thin layer of comedic levity over it. It’s not amazing by any means, but the appeal it’s going for is clear. Then there is a sudden shift. The show transitions into comedy and mystery stories, with significantly toned down violence. And when I say “toned down”, I mean they go all the way. The gore doesn’t just disappear, they start censoring blood altogether. Blood is censored… in an anime about vampires.
You get this disgusting purple-with-glitter effect on all the blood, which includes Shido’s blood-sword that he uses constantly. It’s an eyesore to say the least, yet far from the only downgrade that you’ll have to deal with. By the midway point of the series, Nightwalker was just plain ugly to look at. Hair colors are inexplicably changed, there’s animation mistakes aplenty, and strange visual effects all over.
More anime & manga like this
Daughters of Mnemosyne: An immortal detective solves supernatural mysteries.
Momo, the Girl God of Death: Themes of coming to grips with death.
Vampire Hunter D: Cool vampires, now with uncensored blood