Diabolik Lovers Episode 10: “Stop smelling like that.”

Valentine’s Day may have long come and gone, BUT THE LOVING NEVER STOPS IN THE SAKAMAKI HOUSEHOLD.

CUE BLOOD RED MOON.

Screenshot 2014-02-10 17.38.17LET’S GO.

To recap quickly, Yui has turned into Cordelia after touching the bloodstained dress that Richter has secretly kept stored somewhere in the house. Cordelia, now in control, starts off the episode by chatting it up with Richter.

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We also learn about their deep, dark past.

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Oh god! What wincestuous plot is this?! Although I might’ve guessed, considering the fact that Richter was supposedly the Sakamaki brothers’ uncle…

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Ok. We have now firmly established this fact.

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Right. Okay. Now that we have firmly established the HORRIFYING TRUE NATURE of their relationship, let’s move on.

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I’m a little bit confused on the timeline here now. So, in the flashbacks, we have several scenes where we see little kid Ayato and the rest of the siblings. In the same scenes, we observe Richter romancing Cordelia. If this is correct, then that must have happened quite a while back, and all these events that everyone is so pissed about is HUNDREDS OF YEARS IN THE PAST. I’m not fully positive how the timeframe for all these events in the past could work out though, given the fact that all the vampires are immortal and Cordelia was killed when they were adults. There could be some time gaps there.

Regardless of narrative consistency though, we know fully know that their relationship is 9000% TRAGIC.

Anyways, continuing on. Cordelia tries to soothe his broken vampire heart.

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LOLOLOL HER HUSBAND’S NAME IS KARL HEINZ. THIS EXPLAINS WHY KETCHUP LOOKS LIKE BLOOD IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

After some more back-and-forth remarks, Ayato barges in.

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Too hot. Also, I just realized he has piercings.

Ayato demands an explanation. Cordelia, who is way too troubled by his presence, asks Richter to explain it to him while she walks off. The show then cuts back to the flashback of Cordelia’s death, except now from Richter’s point of view.

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Ok. So the plan was to remove her heart and implant it in another body. Given the current state of things, that body is Yui. All the siblings love her blood because they all have intense mommy issues. Now, I have absolutely NO idea how any of this occurred at any point either during or before the story. But okay.

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I like the dramatic use of roses during the stabbing scene. Adds a nice touch. Not sure if the anime was intentionally using the rose to symbolize anything other than just dramatic effect, but if you looked at that scene under a Freudian lens (always the best lens), then you got some thrusting, stabbed, deflowering, bloody bedsheets…

CLEARLY, THIS WAS CORDELIA’S FIRST.

After the flashback, we skip forward a bit. Cordelia is standing out on the dock (there was a lake here?!), and Ayato has come to confront her.

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I also just realized he’s always had one pants leg up. Is this the new “in” thing?

To ring in her rebirth, Cordelia takes this opportunity to taunt Ayato.

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Ayato, of course, rises to the bait.

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CHALLENGE FUCKING ACCEPTED CORDELIA.

Cordelia remains unfazed.

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Not that it really helps her, since it turns out she forgot one important thing…

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So, aside from the fact that Cordelia has complete motor control over Yui’s body and therefore this shouldn’t be a problem, Cordelia starts drowning. Somehow, Yui then takes over, and manages to find the dock (so she CAN swim?!) and pulls herself up, gasping for air.

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The rose just has zero fucks to give.

After she recovers, Yui asks Ayato the most logical question:

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This is his response.

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I’m not sure if he answered Yui’s question, but I’m so hot and bothered now I couldn’t care less. And in need of a new pair of pants.

Luckily, Laito and Kanato arrive on the scene to clear things up.

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Thank goodness they arrived to help explain things to her.

Ayato, however, is slightly less than pleased at the prospect of having to share Yui with his brothers.

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Yui — quite understandably — flees the scene.

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After sprinting back to her room, she grabs up the knife Subaru gave her to protect herself (she’s absolutely terrified, as I’m sure you can imagine) from the Sakamaki brothers who are now absolutely rabid for her blood. AND WHO’S THERE TO GREET HER?! SUBARU HIMSELF! Although any hope of having him on her “side” quickly evaporates…

Screenshot 2014-02-10 18.12.28

Also, how many times has the privacy/sanctity of Yui’s bedroom been violated? It seems like no one treats her with a single ounce of respect, regardless of any of the passionate “lovemaking” they engage in or the “kind words” they spout to her.

Subaru, like Ayato, then gives her a proper greeting.

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SUBARU, FORGET YUI — SUCK ME DRY INSTEAD!

After this passionate display of love and affection, Subaru notices the knife in Yui’s hand. In a mocking tone, he asks Yui if she is now afraid of them.

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This scene is meant to be ironic because Subaru asked Yui a similar question when he gave her the knife in the first place. The absurdity of the timing kills this though.

Once again, the response in this episode is an absolute non-sequitur.

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I think we’ve now set the record for answers to questions (or just sequences of actions) that make absolutely no sense in a single episode.

After her impassioned response (very reminiscent of her response to Laito a while back), Subaru takes his leave. However, Yui is not left alone for long — Richter then pops in for a friendly little chat.

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Leave it to Richter to tell it like a boss.

After this revelation, Yui’s heart is reeling. She doesn’t want to be the source of strife in the household! Whatever will she do?! Luckily, the show has this covered.

CUE BLOOD MOON.

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CUE CORDELIA RE-APPEARANCE.

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CUE DRAMATIC NARRATION.

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ALL HAIL CORDELIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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Notes:

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, from the beginning of my run blogging Diabolik Lovers until now the style of my posts have been changing. In the beginning, lots of it was filled with marked revulsion of many of the things Yui was put through. Many of the “blood-drinking” scenes make me legitimately uncomfortable. As a consequence, I wrote them up as ridiculously as possible, in an attempt to lampoon and distance myself from the show — enjoying it sort of as this horrifically so-terrible-it’s-enjoyable type of show.

While this is fine and all (my roommate is actually a bad movie connoisseur, and does similar things all the time), as time has gone on, my feelings have shifted somewhat. I no longer am filled with the same sense of revulsion during the scenes where Cordelia is essentially raped (although they still are not my thing), and consequently I’ve started seeing it less and less in that type of light. As a result, my commentary has shifted more to cynical observations in an attempt to keep some of the humor in these posts alive (because the show is still is pretty crazy), while becoming a little bit more “matter-of-fact” in each episode’s synopsis. I also have found myself taking different parts of the premise (like facts about the timeline, character relationships, world consistency) quite a bit more seriously. Probably by the end of the series, I’ll be sufficiently used to the tropes used in these types of shows that I could probably go on to watch something similar without too much hassle. It’s also led to some interest in getting back into BL, and I’m currently considering trying to watch and blog Junjou Romantica in the coming month or so.

To me, all these are positive things, rather than a sort of “disenfranchisement” (e.g., no longer taking pleasure in watching Samurai Flamenco because the plots twists and such become stale and boring). When I started this project, the intent was to become sufficiently “exposed” to the…should we call it “rape fantasy and/or abuse”? SM?…genre so that I could judge it on it’s own terms rather than on my (very biased) ones. In other words, to be a good cultural relativist (although not an ethical one). Considering the progress I’ve made on this so far, I’d say watching and blogging about Diabolik Lovers has been a big success. I also think that I’ve reached a point where I can say that Diabolik Lovers is not really that good no matter how you really look at it — from a literary perspective to an “otaku” one. But I’ll probably get to that when I finally finish up the show.

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9 responses to “Diabolik Lovers Episode 10: “Stop smelling like that.”

  1. Truly, the amount of tragedy in this series is over 9000%. BE STILL, MY BEATING HEART.

    In a more serious vein, do you mind if I ask about your BL interests? More specifically, you said that blogging this show has led you to regain some of your interest in the genre; what BL titles did you like in the past, and what made you take a break from BL between then and now? (If this isn’t something you want to talk about, or if you’d rather address these kinds of points in a later post, that’s totally understandable.)

    • CALM YOURSELF.

      Ah, my BL interests – guess I might have phrased that badly. It’s not that I really “liked” BL in the past, but that I’ve wanted to explore the genre for quite some time in order to get a better appreciation for all the different things anime has to offer, as well as to better understand different portions of the female otaku/fujoshi portion of anime fandom. I started at the tail end of high school with Princess Princess and some casual browsing through manga/doujinshi, but stalled out after I got to college, where I was taxed just to keep up with the slew of currently airing shows. So my project here has inspired me to get back into exploring other major works, such as Junjou Romantica, Loveless, and/or Gravitation.

      • I see. I had to research the genre myself quite thoroughly back at university, but have only ever written one blog post on it (5 Decent Yaoi Anime), so I’ll be interested in anything you have to say on the subject.

  2. What a rapid acclimatisation you put yourself through in watching Diabolik Lovers. Ideally, when getting into the otoge/BL fandom, you’d start off by playing entry-level visual novels. (Drammatical Murder is a really good example of one of these.) And then you’d slowly move up the spectrum of hardcore. From my observation, fans of DL are people who have gotten too used to the sappy, cheesy otoges like Uta no Prince-sama and desire a bit more “thrill” in their stories, so to speak. Until you’re that immersed in the culture, it’s really difficult to see the appeal in the game.

    The poor reception of Diabolik Lovers is due in part to the anime being a visual novel adaptation (and we all know how VN adaptations are pretty bottom-of-the-barrel in terms of their standalone merit), and it’s also due to how the vast majority of anime viewers just aren’t into the otoge subculture. I think female otaku subculture has increasingly taken on elements of male otaku subculture in terms of how it fetishises its characters and how it has its own “database” of character tropes which are seen as unique to its form.

    But where male otaku subculture is at least partially understood by most veteran viewers of anime because it’s just so widely pervasive, female otaku subculture is still very niche, and quickly gaining a terrible reputation among mainstream viewers. Adaptations of hardcore titles like Diabolik Lovers are really counterproductive in getting viewers to understand what the appeal of otoge is. Although I do interpret the rape-y aspects to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, it’s still horribly offensive no matter how you look at it. And that’s likely to turn viewers off the genre entirely, rather than inviting them to question how those representations came to be.

    Basically, while I think you’re right in saying that Diabolik Lovers isn’t good no matter how you look at it, you really did jump into the deep end too early with it, and that tends to negatively cloud your judgment. (Imagine watching, say, Imocho without any knowledge of the otaku subculture!) But I’m glad you’ve built up a tolerance for this sort of thing and I look forward to seeing where your next foray into Fujoshiland takes you!

    • This is actually a pretty good point I should keep in mind, since the appeal of “yandere” or “imouto” characters tend to be play out pretty similarly (I know that’s how I got into them anyways). I wasn’t trying to judge fans/consumers of this type of game to begin with because that goes against my general style, but it’s definitely important to understand how they got from something like UtaPri. So in that respect I can easily see how something like DL came to be (the same way I can see how something like 50 Shades is a thing).

      The point about DL not being good no matter how you look at it wasn’t really aiming from a question of values (although I know this isn’t what you were suggesting). I mainly because I think it’s not that great of a real story and not that great of an adaptation. Which by extension means it fails not only in a literary sense but also in a “otaku”-esque one, since it fails to utilize its trope-base very effectively.

      • When you say that it fails in the “otaku” sense, are you trying to say that the appeal of the characters isn’t properly conveyed in this adaptation, because it’s rushed, poorly presented etc.? Bear in mind I haven’t actually seen the anime, but from your coverage it seems that all the characters play similar roles and have similar lines to each other, which fails to make them stand out as fetish objects (as opposed to the game, where each character’s subplot was fully fleshed out in their own route).

        I think it’s very difficult to critique from the “otaku” perspective when you don’t consider yourself otaku, and I’m curious to know how you came to your conclusions, since you’ve made it pretty clear that you don’t connect (viscerally, at least) to female otaku culture. Just what kind of critical framework are you working with when you make your judgments?

        Just an honest question, because I’m very interested in working out a consistent “otaku” framework that can stand up on its own alongside the classical literary framework. My impression is that for now it’s too fragmentary and disjointed (at least as we’ve defined it here) to draw empirical observations from, but hopefully you can help me come to a better understanding of this.

      • Ultimately, I think it comes down to the first point, which goes something like this (in more standard reviewer logic):
        – The show is ultimately centered around having me emotionally invested (or at least, be able to tell that emotional investment is possible) in the characters in a romantic sense.
        – In order to do this, I need to have some idea that the characters are something more than just fetishized objects. I have to believe (at least falsely) that they are people, even if it’s unrealistic (e.g., female characters in harems that follow cookie-cutter personality types).
        – In DL, there is zero backstory to any of the characters except the flashback scenes to their childhood. Any other characterization happens almost entirely secondhand, during each of their blood-drinking scenes. There appearances are also inconsistent, with many of them playing the exact same roles every time with little/no variation.
        – Because of this, I am not to grasp the appeal of the characters beyond just fetishized objects or a mass of tropes – and that’s it. It’s not a mass of tropes contained within a character, but simply just tropes. Which isn’t enough for me.
        – Plus the story itself is kind of crappily done from a literary standpoint – which comes up (somewhat) later.

        This last point is the most relevant, so here I’ll start going off into a slightly more theoretical “otaku” framework here:
        – As otaku, we enjoy seeing tropes used, recycled, etc. Or, more precisely, I should say these tropes derive in us a sense of pleasure. If we’re talking about it from the trope’s point of view, it’s less like personal “feelings” and more like nonpersonal “affects” – free-floating emotions that we imbibe when we consume them.
        – Thus, tropes are really two things: the physical action(s) that make the up (e.g., tsundere personality) and the affects they are attached to (e.g., kawaii, moe).
        – Due to the way DL is structured, almost no characterization takes place in the anime. This means several things: 1) The series was only meant for people who played the game, much like Eva 3.0 was really intended for past NGE audiences. The personalities then need to be imported from outside the show. 2) The personalities are actually entirely connected to the tropes themselves. Thus, the small dialogue and physical actions of the characters (e.g., Ayato’s possessive abuse vs. Reiji’s SM play) bring in entire personality complexes. Both of these can substitute for – or just simply replace, as both you and I have argued – actual characterization. In both cases, however, it’s important that the physical trope-y actions become associated with the intended affects. Otherwise, it’s simply “going through the motions” and will ultimately fail.
        – In the hypothetical case of 1), the series fails in an otaku sense because the best it can do is far inferior to the original work. Unlike Eva 3.0, where past personalities were utilized and employed in the narrative, in DL they are simply used in the same context. Given the fact that the original game has many scenes where the tropes are tied to narratives, personalities, etc., the tropes can inspire much stronger affects. If you wanted to be really cynical/abstract, you could actually say that a whole mass of tropes have been associated with each other, and each time you view one you are exposed to the others. As the anime doesn’t do this, opting instead for isolated scenes that are remakes of scenes in game, you’re simply re-grafting associations. And, as the story kinda sucks, this type of thing is all you have to go on in the anime. Thus, you end up with something than can at best only be a conduit for alternate enjoyment from the original. Because it’s not well-done, I don’t think this line of reasoning ends up holding.
        – The second is more interesting, because it raises the question of how much is “enough” to get the physical acts on screen to inspire affects and thus become “proper”/”effective” tropes. Essentially, we have two things going on: tropes as personality-types and tropes as actions. In most shows, both are utilized – or, it might be better to say a smattering of the latter build into the former, which then is associated the proper affects (but then each of the smaller tropes can be associated with affects because they’re related to the larger one. Agh slightly too self-referential. I’ll try and shore up this framework in the future – sorry!). Tropes combining to make other tropes. The problem I think DL has is that at not point does this “combination” take place. That is, all the acts end up being disparate both physically (each of the characters and scenes happen separately in location and time throughout the show) and metaphorically (they essentially function as one-shots, and are never brought up again, with the exception of Ayato, who is the only character I think actually gets some characterization). This latter point I think is most telling, because I think it prevents the tropes that make up the narrative from really being associated with any aspect of the narrative itself.
        – As both of us have argued, the actual narrative in a show is unimportant – it’s really how well the tropes are utilized. But I think the weirdness of postmodernism (or at least, anime, because technically you don’t need this) is that the utilization of tropes requires connecting it to some sort of constructed narrative. Even when everyone involved is aware that such a narrative is constructed and false, the absence of such a structure leads to a fundamental failure to associate trope-as-action with trope-as-affect.
        – Thus we arrive at a possible way to judge something as otaku without being one: by 1) figuring out what the tropes-as-actions are (e.g., yandere, abuse), 2) figuring out what the associated tropes-as-affects are (i.e. what types of emotions they are associated with – e.g., desire, lust; i.e. the “animalization” process) , and 3) figuring out how they relate to each other within a show’s given context. The first two points are more investigative work (although obviously the generation of affects is pretty interesting), while the third would be a spin on typical literary criticism (although I’m not sure in what way). Obviously the first two points are made much easier by being members of the fandom, but it’s not necessary. For example, it’s not necessary for someone to be an Old Western “otaku” to understand “Wild West”-style cowboy tropes (US-centric – sorry!) as long as they can figure out what the tropes-as-actions are (usually pretty easy when observed in modern films, since they’re usually telegraphed) and what the associated tropes-as-affects are (which can be done either by immersion or investigation). Then it just comes down to how well the two can be linked and in what ways (or, to put it another way, how the two elements combine to form the “true” tropes), and it’s here where I think a proper interpretative theory can actually be developed.
        – With this criteria in mind (which I’ve just come up with now, so apologies if this is really shoddy), I can say (even though I’m not a fujoushi) that: DL has 1) in spades – there’s no doubt it doesn’t heavily utilize tropes. At the same time, I can also take a decent stabs at what 2) should be from my experience as a male otaku (by analogy) plus my exposure to BDSM-style narratives through a variety of media. I then point the main problem to 3), which is that 1) and 2) remain isolated throughout the narrative (for reasons mentioned above) and thus never combine to inspire the “intended” affect, even though I can tell what the intended affect is. It then gains the quality of “just going through the motions”.

        Anyways, that was long and needs to be much further fleshed out. What do you think of this idea?

      • This is a pretty great framework for something you just made up on the spot! I think the main ambiguity here is whether an “otaku framework” should read otaku tropes primarily as elements of genre or whether they should be read as form. The former reading makes it easy to pin down what constitutes an effective use of tropes – it’s not so different, as you say, from critiquing Wild West fiction. The latter reading makes things a lot more complex and you seem to lean more towards this angle in your analysis. I think you’re right – anime tropes don’t represent narrative elements so much as emotive elements (“free-floating motions” as you put it), so reading Diabolik Lovers as a “BDSM genre work” would miss the point of its tropes.

        I’m interested in seeing you flesh out this framework of yours in a later post at some stage, because the difference between what makes a good “otaku” anime and a bad one isn’t a question that should be decided purely by otaku. It definitely isn’t a case of “if you accept the otaku culture, you will like every single anime aimed at otaku”, nor is it a case of “if you dislike the otaku culture, you will dislike every single anime aimed at otaku”.

        It’s clear (to me at least) that an effective “otaku” narrative does succeed from a standard literary angle, so the “otaku” and “literary” framework aren’t necessarily at odds and in fact have a dialogic relationship with each other. But this is just a tentative reading and I need to think this through some more before I get back to you on it. And in any case, this thread has gone on long enough (lolol).

        I enjoyed this! Thanks!

  3. The story is originally about 6 twisted , and sadistic vampire brothers who will make the heroine Yui Komori in to a complete masochist , with torturing and blood sucking, until she starts enjoying it -becoming either their “Sacrificial bride”(a human that live forever for the sole purpose to feed the vampire clan leader) or join them as a vampire bride.
    Yet torture and pain will never end.
    Diabolik lovers episodes are short because its a otome game that became so popular it was adapted in to an anime and the targeted audience are female masochist and girls who have masochist fantasies

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