Diabolik Lovers & the Poisonous Provocation of Rape Culture – Anime Review

Diabolik Lovers (ディアボリックラヴァーズ) season one is the 2013 anime adaptation of the Japanese visual novel of the same name. It’s a shōjo, reverse harem, supernatural, horror series. The video game was developed by Rejet and published by Idea Factory. The anime was produced by Zexcs with direction from Shinobu Tagashira. There are twelve total episodes, each one spanning approximately twelve to thirteen minutes in length.

I originally watched the show while it was simulcasting during the Autumn 2013 anime season. The series must have been pretty humdrum because I didn’t recall much of it all. In September, I decided to re-watch the series with the intention of doing episodic reviews. I figured since the episodes were small, it would be a good way for me to acquaint myself with this specific type of anime reviewing. Unfortunately, I ended up choosing something that is by far one of the absolute worst fucking things I have ever seen in my life. Suffice to say… those episode musings did not survive until the end.

Diabolik Lovers follows a young girl named Yui who moves into a gloomy castle while her priestly father goes overseas for work. Upon arriving, she is immediately assaulted by one of the adolescent male occupants of the castle. Shortly afterwards another five guys or so arrive, all of them brothers, who turn out to be vampires. The longer that Yui stays at the castle, the more she uncovers about these boys and the real reasons behind why she was essentially dumped in such a place.

DL Title 01

** Please note that this review will be discussing the topic of sexual and physical abuse and rape. If any of these things are sensitive subject matters for you, you may want to avoid reading this article. Please, read at your own discretion. Thank you. **

I can be the first one to admit that I love vampires. With the exception of Twilight and True Blood, which I loathe passionately, I tend to really enjoy dark, twisted stories about these supernatural monsters. While I prefer ones that inherently more horrific, depicting vamps for the vile and dangerous beings that they are (The Strain, I Am Legend, etc.), I can appreciate some fluffy and smutty nonsense very once in a while. However, things that I will never tolerate include the exploitation of rape, which is pretty much everything that Diabolik Lovers entails.

Within the first few moments of the pilot episode, we see Yui get pinned down onto a couch and molested by some random teenage boy with hot pink ombre hair. It isn’t sexy to see her struggle, or to see the intensity of the discomfort and fear that she’s feeling as he places his mouth all over her neck whilst tightly pinning her wrists down. It’s disturbing and disquieting.

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This entire scene sets the mood and tone for everything that shall follow suit. Every episode is laced with Yui getting felt up, physically abused, or worse, which is all further exacerbated by the sheer sexiness that the show is trying to pull off when these horrid acts happen. Raping someone is not sexy. Hitting them to make them do whatever you want them to do is not sexy. Bullying them when they disobey you is not sexy. It does not feel sexy and it sure as hell doesn’t look sexy. I can be the first person to admit that I didn’t care for Yui because her damsel-in-distress complex is turned all the way up, which can be sensationally aggravating to watch in a continuous flow.  But after a while, my heart began to ache for her and all I wanted to watch was her to find a way to escape her environment.

Diabolik Lovers is the epitome of what rape culture looks like, regardless of where you reside in the world. When society depicts women being as feeble trash who are good for nothing except being sex objects for their horny little boys. When it shows young girls (target audience for the series) that a boy likes you if he’s hitting you or forcefully kissing you because he’s “too shy” to just tell you he likes you. If a girl chooses to wear a skirt—no matter the length or style—and a cute blouse that makes her look beautiful, then she is labelled as “inviting inappropriate behaviour,” or it is used as justification for her to get assaulted. All of these things, and anything that has complete disregard for women as being human beings and strong-willed, intelligent individuals, are the ridiculous types of notions that perpetuate harmful rape culture. Garbage like Diabolik Lovers is what makes women afraid to speak up about being raped because instead of being shown as the victim, they are shown as the instigators of abuse. Fuck that noise.

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I was raped in my marriage. I can tell you right now that whenever it happened to me, I didn’t walk away feeling like the most beautiful person in the world. I walked away feeling ashamed, dirty, humiliated, and completely broken as a person. I never walked away feeling wanted or loved, just used, abused, and violated. I remember that right up until the moment that my marriage fell apart, I had always felt on some level that this was how a natural and healthy relationship was supposed to be. It didn’t matter if one person wanted to have sex or not. Sex was mandatory for a happy and healthy relationship. Everyone around me always taught me these things. It was in the advice I received from some of my friends and family. It was in every single piece of media I ever consumed growing up (TV shows, books, comics, video games, magazines, etc. no matter the region they stemmed from). Hell, even a lot of rape cases that my brother and my cousins had usually showed the women as being the ones who in one form or another had initiated sexual behaviour and were thus liable for being raped. Most of these cases revolved around the clothes she had worn or the some of the things she enjoyed sexually (fetishes and kinks) or flirtatious conversations. Films would show how a woman would be begging a man to stop touching her, yet by the end she had fallen in love with him and came to view his unwanted advances as a sign of affection. The assault had become endearing. It wasn’t I left the environment that I began to realise what had happened to me, and I finally understood why I felt guilt and ashamed when I had no reason to feel this way.

Diabolik Lovers fetishizes abuse exactly the same way as all of the media I mentioned. In one episode, Yui has a significant lack of appetite brought on by the stress and trauma of being attacked at every corner, not to mention the significant amount of blood loss she has undergone from the vampires constantly feeding on her. When people tell her to eat, she says “no” because she physically is unable to. The same thing happens when people want to touch her or drink her blood. Her saying “no” gets her smacked around or bullied relentlessly, or worse. The fear she felt initially mutates into a sort of numbness. It’s her way of checking out of this tragic reality as a coping method.

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I underwent multiple eating disorders during my period of abuse that spanned ten years. Most of it was from feeling sick, but a lot of it also had to do with making myself less appealing. Then when it became too much, I would pretend to be anywhere else within the confines of my mind as the abuse was occurring because I knew that “living” in the moment would destroy me. Yui is exactly the same. She wants to live, she wants to escape, but knows all too well that the option to do so is utterly impossible for her, so her mind conjures up ways for her to seek her escape in other means.

The men who abuse her are all individuals who have some sort of inferiority complex within themselves that makes them feel like the only way they can be validated is by inflicting pain on another person. It’s the literal control they have over Yui to make them feel self-important, which is a common characteristic in abusers.

Ayato has a significant complex of needing to be the best and the first at everything. Having a bunch of older brothers who may be better than him at doing various things probably made him feel so useless. Shū is always told that he’s a lazy good-for-nothing even though that may not be the case. He’s an anti-social introvert who is extremely apathetic about life. But these misconceptions and verbal abuse he endures from his family has made him create a toxic perspective of himself. Reiji is one who craves a severely disciplined routine and his desire for control seems to be the worst.

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In future episodes, as Yui comes to understand more about the individual boys and the demonic burdens (metaphorically) that they each carry around, she develops a sort of sympathy for their plight. Honestly, it made me further sick to my stomach. These scenes when combined with all of the traumatic experiences she has with this family, is teaching girls that it’s okay to be a victim because A) it means they’re “special,” B) saying “no” means you’re playing hard to get, and C) even though they’re being abused, on some mental level “the boys didn’t mean to do it, they were just upset” or “they had a difficult childhood” so it’s okay in the end.

Where do we draw the line from indulgent, fantastical fiction into unacceptable sexualisation of problematic societal practises? Where do we stop and say: “This is has gone too far” and is promoting an environment that coddles predators while silencing victims and their ability to get justice for crimes committed? When you have shows like Diabolik Lovers, constantly telling us that rapists are just disturbed people with “mental health” problems, particularly when that is not true at all, how the fuck do we hold ourselves accountable for disseminating harmful and poisonous constructs like rape culture and victim-blaming?

It’s simple. When we create thing like this show right here, we fucking don’t. We put on a blind-fold and ignore the ways that we have nurtured a world where forcefully having sex with an individual who doesn’t want it and then claiming “love” or “insanity” or “provocation,” as a defence. We moulded world where such terrible, blatant excuses are not only accepted, but welcomed. And that, my friends, is the fucking problem.

Diabolik Lovers is an offensive, harmful, and severely problematic series—video game, anime, or anything else—that should not be seen by anyone, but particularly young people. People who will watch it and believe that it’s okay for a boy, girl, or non-gendered person to touch them inappropriately, even if its completely unwarranted. A show that will teach them that when they say “no” they’re actually saying “yes, please.” A show that associates mental health illnesses with abusers, rapists, and criminals, thus further spreading a whole different sort of negative stigma and culture. I hated this series with a passion and I cannot and will not ever recommend it to anyone.

0 outta 10.

Episodic Reviews:

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4

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