Tokyo Vampire Hotel

The problem with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is that it removes complicity from those who dwell within the cave and believe its lies.

It assumes that those who look at the shadows of truth and proclaim them to be reality are being duped by the illusions– that if only they were told the truth, and saw the perfected ideal being reflected, they would leave the cave and bask in truth. But that’s based on the assumption that we humans were born in this darkness, and that while we as individuals may never “know better,” there was never really a moment before the lie was told. If the lie was all we ever knew, then is it really a freeing experience to be released from that cave? Without longing for something different– something more “real,” is truth really truth? Would those in the cave react as Plato claims– that in seeing the sun they’ll have their eyes opened to something greater?

I think an acceptance of “difference” implies that said difference existed at one point. Even if the individual was born in “darkness,” the desire or acceptance of “the light” must already exist for anything other than absolute, existential terror to occur when “freed.”

Some in the cave may truly be prisoners– brought there against their will at some point or birthed there without knowing better. Others may be there willingly, accepting a lie in exchange for the comfort and protection it gives. Others may be there because they created the lie in the first place, and in order for others to believe or accept it, they must “play along” to ensure the illusion takes. Only when those “in the know” are gone can the illusion of permanence exist– and even then, the seed of “the outside” will exist in some way. Concepts don’t die, they simply mutate into legends and religion.

So the Platonic ideal of Plato’s Cave is as much an illusion as the illusions it rails against, which is kinda appropriate. Maybe even intentional.

That turnabout of the Allegory is also exactly what’s going down in Tokyo Vampire Hotel.

Some vampires gather a bunch of single, lonely, largely forgotten/orphaned/unwanted young adults to have a party at a hotel. They’re promised cash for attending, and more if they couple up by the end of the night. The goal is to create a self-perpetuating blood supply, where these human couples have children and live in relative luxury within the hotel, and in exchange they must give regular blood donations so that the vampires can live without hunting.

The catch is that this sort of set-up requires willing prisoners. These humans won’t be allowed to leave the hotel, because if one decides to not return, all sorts of problems will arise. Reacquiring them costs resources and may cost lives. Knowledge of the hotel’s existence may be disclosed, and who knows what’d happen. Even if this world seems to have some sort of open knowledge about vampires and their existence (the first couple of episodes are vague enough to suggest this), this is a top secret project, and its existence has to remain hidden. But who will willingly become livestock for vampire overlords?

Someone who thinks the rest of the world has ended.

The party-goers are told that nuclear war has destroyed the outside world, and that only this hotel remains. It’s well-fortified, underground, and has enough food for the humans to live and prosper for 100 years. That’s the lie the master vampires create in order to create willing prisoners, and they play along with it. Even most of their subordinates and henchmen aren’t in on the lie– the only vampires who seem aware are those in power or directly below those in power, and even they must live this lie to some extent in order for the experiment to potentially flourish.

So we have the lie that allows the cave to exist. We have individuals blinded to the truth. We have leadership that is largely blind as well, with only a select few aware that the outside world is perfectly fine. We also have individuals who will not be missed by most people on the outside, as the vampires intentionally selected these “loners,” assuming that not only would they not be missed, but that they would be comforted by “guaranteed” companionship and sex.

The vampires neglected to take into consideration that such “loners” aren’t always compliant, meek souls looking for connection at any costs. They’re often iconoclastic and rebellious as well– the very sorts of souls looking to smash perceived illusions and injustice. They also neglect the fact that other vampires would be such individuals as well, even those seemingly in positions of leadership.

And that’s when the killing starts. This is a nasty story. The violence is often relentless and exhausting, going well past the point of exhilaration and visceral thrill and more towards numbingly banal and ritualized. And it makes sense, as that is one of the natural reactions to this sort of oppressive action. You’re taken against your will, placed in a hopeless situation, and are told that you have no power to change things. The only thing you can change is who lives and who dies, and the middle half of this series is a litany of death. Uprisings occur. People rebel. People and vampires die. People give in, only to be given new reason to rise up. It’s almost tedious in how things go back and forth, as characters who seemed to be rising to the forefront to become central figures get cut down by blades or mowed down by machine gun fire.

And in the end, only a handful of individuals live. All of the vampire leadership is dead, with the ranking survivors being two henchwomen who are just as blinded to the truth as the half dozen surviving humans. Those who survived are the ones who hid and fled during the carnage– the ones who valued existence over freedom– those who would rather live a guaranteed lie than potentially die trying to find the truth.

And that’s how you get your Cave. All of those who knew the truth have to die, and those that remain have to know that something else existed before, but that it’s no longer there. You can’t have the potential for returning to Eden if Eden still exists. It has to be a distant memory– something you were cast from and can never return to. You have to have that existential longing for something you can never have, but the hope that this new reality is just as good, because the only other “option” is death.

The final three episodes of this series take place 15 years after the initial bloodbath. Thee surviving vampires and humans live in harmony. They all believe the outside world is gone– destroyed in a wave of fire and radiation. They believe they have decades worth of food and blood to subsist on. And while only one child has been born in that decade and a half, they have hope that life will continue on in this hotel.

If that were the case, then their new reality would be OK. It may be a lie, but it wouldn’t be a lie to them. Objectively they may be prisoners, but the only thing that really matters is that they know nothing else, and are unwilling to push boundaries to find out otherwise. “Freedom” is death to them, and that isn’t an option.

The catch is that not everyone is blind. One vampire knew the food supply was far more finite than they initially believed, and he eventually discovered the truth. He’s been supplying the humans with food from the outside world while pretending its from storage. Another vampire is being held captive, her blood sustaining the biological parts of the hotel that are necessary for it to exist (long story). She wasn’t in on the scheme, and knows full well that the outside world still exists, so her imprisonment doesn’t just maintain the hotel, but also maintains the lie. And then the child who was born is curious. She’s never seen the outside world, but she isn’t content with hearing stories. Once she finds a flower pedal that shouldn’t exist, as no flowers are grown in the hotel, she’s convinced there’s something on the outside, and her curiosity leads her to finding the truth as well.

And that’s where everything comes crashing down. Prisoners are released. Those that know the truth have no desire to maintain the lie, but those who are content are so bound to that reality that they simply can’t allow them to leave. Naturally, the truth is revealed…

And those bound to the lie cease to exist.

That’s the truth behind this concept. Those who are devoted to a lie are a part of that lie. It is their reality. They have made a choice, and there’s little you can do if there’s no innate curiosity or rebellion in their souls. If they wanted something more, they would push for it in some way, and they’d find the truth to be freeing in some way. But they didn’t end up in the cave finding amusement in shadows without that inherent complicity.

They were likely already “dead” long before any of this happened. They just needed the light to shine on them to realize that. And light is often the best disinfectant.

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