Story Pile: Call of The Night

This is the anime of a song. It doesn’t follow the plot of the song. It follows the vibe of a song, and that song inspired the manga, and then, the manga got made into an anime and that anime got to have the ending theme be the song that inspired it, and the same band made the opening theme, because they had already, in their music, defined this anime.

And damn if it don’t feel like a hell of a song.

Call of the Night is a 2022 anime, which means that, it seems, it has a higher than normal chance of being completely gonzo good, and while I wouldn’t necessarily think this is one of the best of its year, I liked it a lot and I can imagine a situation where if it wasn’t competing with say, Summer Time Rendering or Bocchi The Rock or Do It Yourself or Chainsaw Man or Spy Family or My Dress Up Darling or Birdie Wing or oh no I am committed to this bit and there’s a lot more to go, or Lycoris Recoil or Witch From Mercury or Akiba Maid War or My Master Has No Tail or The Executioner And Her Way Of Life then chances are it’d be one of the best anime of the whole year.

Call of the Night is a story about an insomniac guy called Kou, who is apparently fourteen years old, who starts missing school because he’d rather roam around at night, on his own, in the privacy of the vast dark of a dull city, an impulse that makes sense to me as someone who was also fourteen but I lived at the time, in places with population density like seawater, and where going out at night meant not seeing anyone, as opposed to this guy who lives in Tokyo. While out, he meets Nazuna, a vampire.

Yeah, a vampire.

Nazuna is the intersection of ‘fanservice sex-bomb’ and ‘extremely stupid gremlin,’ and her impression on Kou leaves him wanting to become a vampire too, something that she asserts can only happen if he falls in love with her. He thinks that seems reasonable, and what ensues is a mix of workplace drama, chill hangout vibes, oddly wholesome relationship building as a boy learns what it means to love someone, and then it takes a hard sweve into vampire drama, that you’d probably have expected to show up earlier.

The manga Call of The Night replicates is very long, compared to the short twelve episodes of the anime, and I wouldn’t really recommend watching the anime if what you want is that long haul. Consider it a sort of tasting platter for the manga, which I understand goes longer and involves more expansion into the vampire politics-as-romance-metaphor space. I didn’t read it, but I did chat with some friends to double check some themes in the anime in case I misread something.

And I liked it!

Here, just in the same way I used Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie to talk about social transition timelines (or did I), I figure that Call of the Night is a really interesting avenue to talk about demisexuality.

Here’s the basics of the theory: Asexuality is not a simple ‘on off’ switch for people, it’s a gray spectrum with a lot of different modes and means. Allosexuals (people who aren’t asexual), as observed by asexuals (you know, people outside of our behaviour, who aren’t necessarily interpreting confusing signals, and just observing our behaviour), demonstrate primary sexual attractions, then secondary sexual attractions. Allosexuals definitely have things that they can visually notice and react to that demonstrate a sexual attraction, but they also have things that aren’t related to that kind of observation or experience that can in turn, provoke sexual excitement.

Following this, first, in that ‘primary’ mode, there’s things like being attracted to tall people or green people or redheads and I am trying to be very careful about this because we get into some complex ways people interact with perception and persona and jerking off here. Then there’s the ‘secondary’ stuff where you can be sexually attracted to someone because they have a preference for eating apples or they like you looking at hockey games or knowing they also say the word maize like it’s three syllables long. And these examples are all chosen to be deliberately odd so nobody feels selfconscious about their specific kinks (though, know that they’re all based on real kinks I’ve really encountered), but they’re just examples made to make you laugh. Most often, secondary sexual attraction is a byproduct of emotional engagement, and kinks are just ways to signify that emotional engagement – I will not judge you or hate you for this specific complicated ritual you and I need to engage in. I accept you. I may even be excited to accept this part of you.

A conventional, simple vision of asexuality is that neither of these things is available. There’s a pair of gates that potential partners need to pass through to activate the Wants To Do Things part of the brain, and for the simplest explanation of asexuality, they do not have those gates. Not ‘nobody can pass through them,’ the gates are not there. This is nothing that’s going to pass through and set the flags or tip the linedefs or whatever.

Demisexuality, however, is the idea that while there’s no primary gate, there is a secondary gate; that a demisexual person does have a sexuality that can be engaged, it can only be engaged after the development of a deep emotional connection. And given the way a lot of allosexual relationships can start out as a crush where you want to get to hang out with the person in case you can wind up having sex with them, then realise you just like hanging out with them and now you have a great new friend you like, demisexuality can go in the exact opposite way where you get someone into your friend zone, which rules, because friends are cool and having friends is great and then after a long period of emotional establishment you realise that to your surprise you also wanna do sexy things with them.

This is obviously confusing and complicated and it can be part of the eternal whirling dance of people wanting to do sexual things with one another, and it’s just a simplified example of the sexuality, which is where the terminology started. But there’s the idea: Demisexuality is the idea of a sexual interest that is only activated after the establishment of an intense emotional attachment. Besties To Besties Who Also Have Sex. And when you’re aware of demisexuality, it’s only a hop skip and a jump to demiromantic relationships – ones where characters aren’t capable of engaging romantically until after they’ve established an emotional connection.

This may strike you as being ‘just normal’ in which case, may I suggest you go check out the ace forums and see if maybe they’re talking to you.

Kou’s sexuality or romantic attraction are literally part of the narrative of the story, and that means examining them is something the show actually does. Kou wants to fall in love with Nazuna, which is a weird thing to say like that because falling in love isn’t a thing most people tend to assign themselves like a project. It indicates to me that Kou isn’t very connected to what ‘being in love’ means, and that could mean that he’s a fourteen year old, that’s pretty reasonable, people are working themselves out. Later in the series we get a pretty bold declaration that he doesn’t see attraction in terms of gender, either to Nazuna or a boy hitting on him, so, based panromantic prince I guess.

I don’t think this series is trying to be about a demiromantic boy trying to work out what it means to love an extremely horny girl for the first time. I think this is a series about hot and horny vampires doing cool things and the boy bouncing around with them in stories that are goofy and fun and funny. I still think though, that if you want to point to a character in media who describes being demiromantic without ever knowing the word existed, this is one of the best examples I’ve seen.

Call of the Night is a pretty cool anime with some chill vibes and a few different genre ideas going on under the hood, and it is very horny, so I can understand that being a turnoff to watching it. Me, I find Nazuna, the character, too much of a likeable idiot to really dislike the anime. I mean who doesn’t have a bestie who loves lewd jokes and falls to pieces at the idea of being emotionally honest with you and also likes to suck the blood out of your fingertips?

Surely it’s not just me.