Among the lesser works of the legendary manga creator Tezuka Osamu (Astro Boy) was Don Dorakyura (Don Dracula), serialised in Weekly Shonen Champion in 1979. It was adapted into an animated TV series in 1982, but only eight episodes (of a projected 26) were made due to the production company’s bankruptcy.
It’s a light comedy, but with a streak of ruthlessness (carried over from the manga) that might be a deal-breaker for some audiences and a tendency to overdo a certain grossness. Dracula’s nemeses here are pint-sized Rip Van Helsing, whose vampire killing crusade is derailed by agonising haemorrhoids (at one point, he fouls Dracula’s coffin), and Blonda, a stereotype ugly woman Dracula once bit and whose embraces he now flees (she turns out to have a tragic backstory, involving a version of Dorian Gray, but that doesn’t earn her any sympathy). This Dracula is a sit-com single Dad, and daughter Chocola attends night school where she wants to be a normal girl and has a crush on the president of the science fiction club (who believes in UFOs but not vampires). Also in the household is minion-of-all-work Igor.
Episodes veer between cheer (upbeat musical opening and closing songs), cruelty, slapstick, straight-ahead horror (an ogre-like Dorian crawls out of his portrait and chases Chocola), and a weird grappling with moral issues that’s sometimes surprisingly downbeat … one episode features refugee fish people who seem to be related to the Creature From the Black Lagoon (this establishes that Dracula is also an illegal immigrant in Japan) and another about escaped wild animals (‘A Panda’s Life is Worth as Much as a Tiger’s’) has Chocola adopt a cute tiger cub and a panda who get riddled with hunters’ bullets in a finish no American cartoon would let pass. The most oddly specific episode is ‘Success? The Cribbing Plan’, which hinges on a previously unexplored aspect of Dracula’s evil – his skill at creating cribs for cheating in exams, which gets good student Chocola in trouble and earns him a rebuke and a business proposition from teacher Van Helsing.