Moon Child

Japan (2003), 120 minutes
Starring: Hyde (Hideto Takarai), Gackt Camui, Wang Lee Hom, Zeny Kwok, Taro Yamamoto, Susumu Terajima , Anne Suzuki, Ryo Ishibashi, Etsushi Toyokawa
Reviewer: Teri Tom
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Rating: 4

Don’t let the DVD jacket summary fool you; Moon Child is no vampire story. In fact, I’d like to argue that it’s a coming-of-age gangster movie that just happens to have a vampire in it. Like many of our favorite gangster films, Moon Child traces the history of its characters from childhood and/or adolescence through their descent into the real world, sometimes over a span of several generations. If you must, though, here is the jacket summary:In a chaotic, strife-filled city where everything is up for grabs, fate brings four orphans into the life of Kei (Hyde), a man with eternal life – a vampire. The five tough and vulnerable characters struggle to find love and friendship in a world of conflict and horror. Caught in a web of violent times, they end up at war with one another in a bittersweet mix of love, hate, and gun life.

Didn’t sound too appealing when I first read this. And the first third of Moon Child looks like a bit like an Asian Dawson’s Creek with all that blonde-streaked hair, those meandering folky tunes, and the promise of budding romance. Then the kids pull out the guns and it looks like this is going to be a big messy shoot ‘em up. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
If you stick it out through the first part of this film, you’ll be rewarded. The vampire themes that Moon Child addresses are not necessarily new – the gift or curse of immortality, the dilemma of the vampire with a conscience, what it means to be immortal and how painful it is to watch the mortals around you confront their, well, mortality. These have been addressed in many a vampire flick, but it’s all done quite well here. There’s a minimum of feeding frenzy. Again, it’s more of a gangster story seen over a number of years through the eyes of a vampire.
I only wish that Moon Child had been stretched out to epic length in time – maybe to 2 1/2 or even 3 hours. At times, it seems to suffer from second-half-of-Gone-With-The-Wind Syndrome, when characters drop like flies. The story occurs over such a sprawling time period, and the ending carries so much weight (with a few surprises), a little more time could have strengthened that impact. Still, even with all the decade hopping, Moon Child gives us more to think about than the average vampire story.