It would be a mistake to think of Virgin Night as just another typical sleazy hentai anime. Sure, the premise of some average teen wanting to lay his too-cute-for-him girlfriend for the first time doesn’t sound exceptional to standard hentai fare, but a healthy dose of subtlety and a real sense of genuine affection elevates this schlocky sounding premise into being a perfect portrait of awkward adolescent love. Seriously.
The first thing you’ll notice when starting this short OVA is, well, the boyfriend kissing his girlfriend and fondling her breasts. Stick with me though, it’s actually good! There’s not really any glorification or fetishizing to the act, it’s actually portrayed in a suitably uncomfortable light. He fumbles around uncertainly, she is visibly shaking and wears a nervous, conflicted expression, his mind is racing with whether or not he should even be doing this, she clearly doesn’t know how to respond to his advances despite loving him; all of this culminates in his doubts overtaking him and hurriedly backing off, leaving the act unfulfilled and heading out to go rent a movie.
This short scene sets the tone wonderfully for the rest of the OVA. His intentions laid bare, it drenches everything that follows in awkward contemplation. A large chunk of this OVA is simply them silently walking to go pick up a movie. It’s very slow paced and atmospheric and tense. The color palette here and throughout is typically muted and naturalistic, lending itself well to the moodier atmosphere of the anime. A lot of attention is payed to small mannerisms and body language that communicates their muddled thoughts effortlessly and through this, their silence says more than words could hope to. Something as small as her somewhat forced smile and chipper voice disrupting the stark atmosphere when suggesting that a movie might be interesting conveys a lot about her and the reassurance she’s trying to give to her boyfriend. The characterization of these two is kind of limited, as this is a very short story, but it thrives on the commonplace and these small details. The things they’re feeling are just so ordinary and both characters are very easy to relate to right off the bat because of this.
The framing of shots is similarly understated. Take the unassuming scene of them stopping to pick up snacks on the way home. A close shot of the boyfriend deep in thought, occupying himself by pretending to read a magazine, while his girlfriend lingers in the background is a great visual summation of his current mindset. A shot centered on her large breasts pushing up against her leg when browsing for food may seem like a typically lewd hentai shot, but it’s followed by a brief pillow shot, then a cut of him looking even more uncomfortable and doubtful than before, likely consumed by thoughts of whether he’s worthy of such a pretty girl at the sight of this, if someone like that can even love him enough to have sex with him. To be sure, there’s some lust mixed into his expression as well, but that’s only natural for someone of his age. It’s a very conflicted expression. Even the shot of them silently walking out of the store, which almost seemed to have served as a brief respite where they could idly distract themselves from the situation at hand, carries the weight of them heading home and having to deal with these thoughts concretely. These things aren’t expressed via monologue or anything so basely on-the-nose as that, it’s all in the body language and formal subtlety of the shots.
And even the sex is great! Not because it’s super sexy or anything because it’s really not. It’s probably the zenith of uncomfortable scenes in the OVA. But it’s also filled with genuine meaning and is brought to life with more of that amazing subtlety I mentioned earlier. There are long stretches where the two simple stare at each other, gauging each others thoughts. The pace of it is arguably just as slow as when they were slowly walking to the video store, and the tension even more severe. After he is nearly devastated by doubt to the point of backing off again, she quickly grabs his arm, plainly revealing that she was fraught with similar emotions as him the whole time. This was hinted at before in many of the moments described above, but up until now the anime made more of a marked effort to put you into the male character’s headspace; a clever way of actualizing the overwhelming uncertainty present up until this point, and of giving this small revelatory gesture the large impact it deserves. It’s just an incredibly beautiful moment, even if the grabbing of an arm is the kind of thing you see often in romance anime. What makes this instance particularly special is just how earned it feels. Every awkward moment, every slight facial expression, all of that tension reaching its breaking point to where she can’t help but express it more bluntly. This brings about a sort of mutual understanding, for them and the audience, and they scene continues as they consummate it. The whole thing is just brimming with intimacy and heart. The animation during this sex scene even uses fewer looped sequences than you may be used to seeing from hentai. There’s a great attention to detail in how each of them moves and reacts to one another. It’s all very natural and tender. Coupled with the sheer tension of the whole thing, it makes for a spellbinding viewing experience, a glimpse into a small yet significant moment in these characters’ lives as if we’re not even there. Free from the fetishistic leering you’d often find in its hentai ilk. So while it’s not really fap material, I think it stands tall as one of, if not the best sex scene I’ve seen in anime.
And the ending is simply sublime. A perfect release of all that built up tension, all in just a few lines of dialogue and some of that fantastic body language. I’ll leave that unspoiled though because I feel I may have gone into too much detail already, but it’s legitimately extremely heartwarming and I couldn’t help but smile. This OVA is a perfect snapshot into a very particular place and time of adolescence, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Universal and subtle. Watch it.