Call of the Night is a really interesting mix of themes and styles. But I think a key element of why it works is that it’s pretty fearless. You don’t get the sense there’s a lot of self-censorship in the writing – that seems to go wherever it wants, with no third rails. I don’t get the feeling this is an exceptionally dark vampire story at all – as in the horror sense – or overtly graphic sexually. But it is quite messy, emotionally and otherwise. And it takes guts for a writer to go there without worrying about how it’ll be perceived.
While Nazuna has been the driving force of the narrative so far, there’s been a somewhat dark matter quality to her role until this week. We get a much deeper dive here into what makes Nazuna tick, and it’s quite a welcome turn. Yofukashi has gone out of its way to highlight a vampire trope that applies (no reflection) and one that doesn’t (sunlight). I think it’s been so obvious for a subtle reason, to get the message across not to make too many assumptions about the rules of the road. Nazuna is a vampire. She sucks blood to live. But the details of how she operates are still somewhat vague, even after this episode.
We know she likes animals (cats at least). And that she likes baths, and probably has a superhuman sense of smell. It also seems pretty obvious from her reaction to the transceiver going off that Kou has become a very important person in her life. But is that because she’s addicted to his sweet young blood, or is she falling for him while playing the role of making him fall for her? From his perspective, things are very messy indeed. He’s a 14 year-old boy, and he’s fallen into a world of stimulations far too intense than his adolescent mind to process. He’s introspective in the way kids his age often are, but that mostly just allows him to see how confused he is.
Naz straight out of the bath (well, the shower anyway) is one of those stimulations. Seeing her like this pushes his buttons in a big way, and this is also a chance for his first trip to a sento (not uncommon for this generation of Japanese young people). He notes both his own arousal and anxiety, intermixed to the point of being indistinct (just as you’d expect). And he’s also aware of how jealous he’s become at the idea Nazuna is feeding on other people. Of course she’s sampled other blood – that’s how she lives. But the experience of being fed upon is a quasi-sexual one for him (and probably her) – in fact I wondered if it had literally climaxed by the time she’d finished, though it seems not – and Kou is feeling very possessive.
The question of how Nazuna survives has suddenly become very important to Kou. She assures him that she’s sucked women too, not just men (though I don’t know if that makes him feel better). But what about financially? As it turns out she’s a “cuddle buddy” (I have no idea if this is actually a thing here, but it wouldn’t surprise me). After a quick and overstimulating “rest” at a love hotel (naive Kou had idea from the outside) they return to her apartment and she shares her professional mode with him. That includes a nurse’s outfit (“not cosplay” she insists), and a menu from which we pointedly do not see what the “add-ons” are. Though she’d “never” charge him, Nazuna offers Kou a sample – and he chooses the massage course.
Emotionally, this is as messy as it gets. Of course Kou finds this arousing – how could he not? Nazuna even offers him a demonstration of acupressure techniques, starting with the rokyu (lao gong) in the hand (for insomnia). What is her intention here? A lot of this comes back to the question of the nature of their relationship – is it predatory and if so, in what sense? He’s a child and emotionally vulnerable, she’s to some extent at least an adult – albeit alien in some sense, too. The fact that she’s clearly spent after this exercise hints at its significance, in the symbolic sense at the very least.
Gilding the lily, one of Nazuna’s regulars shows up – Hirakwa Kiyosumi (Hikasa Youko) – and Naz asks Kou to fill in for her. She tries to lure him in with the lewd angle, and even guilt him into it by noting that she’s neglected her means of financial support because she’s been exclusively spending time with him. Even assuming Kou was willing to give a massage to an adult woman, it’s hard to imagine Kiyosumi-san would be OK with that – though Nazuna has no qualms about it, that much is clear. Make no mistake, while she may be no rapacious killer in the horror film sense, Nazuna is not bound by the conventions of human normalcy. Whether this is because she’s a vampire of because she’s a creature of the night isn’t entirely clear, but that distinction may wind up being very crucial for Kou.