Sony // 2005 // 124 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // January 28th, 2009
There will be blood...plus more!
Saya Otonashi is no ordinary high school student. The Japanese girl is locked in a battle against an evil race of lycanthropic vampires called Chiropterans, and she's the only one who can save us from their evil. Technically, you can see this series as a spin-off or continuation of Hiroyuki Kitakubo's 2000 anime Blood: The Last Vampire, yet it stands on its own without any need to see the feature that kicked this franchise off. Of course this being Blood+: Volume Four, you're remiss unless you've followed the story so far. The series is a slow burn for the most part, sprinkled with an equal measure of action and character development to keep viewers engaged. Blood+ merges both hand drawn and CGI animation seamlessly, and the result is a sophisticated visual palette fans of the genre will find pleasing. The drawing seems supple, and the characters are more expressive than what you might usually find in anime. Also of note is a haunting score which adds much to the dramatic mix, all supervised by Hans Zimmer (Gladiator).
This set of episodes includes 16 through 20 of the entire 50 show run. Saya and the Red Shield agents travel to Russia where they meet up with Elizabeta. We find out more about the research done during the Vietnam War (a period the first movie covered). Revelations continue in the cast of characters as the mission in Russia wears on during train rides and wandering through frozen landscapes. Look for a basset hound who makes an appearance in episode 17, it is director Mamoru Oshii's trademark. Fans who previously bought Blood+: Part One will immediately recognize this takes the show up to episode 20, which is still five behind what the collectors set offered. No need to buy this one unless you are collecting the single volumes. Adult Swim is still airing episodes as well, and they are ahead of everyone. Catching the right episode where you left off on broadcast television might be tricky, so DVD is the way to go if you love this project.
As usual, the DVD contains only episodes with no extras. Still, about the only gripe I can come up with for Blood+ are two aspects of the technical presentation. First up is the choice to produce it in full screen rather than wide. The series begs to be cinematic, and this screen ratio makes it look more like television (In all fairness that is what it was made for). The visual presentation is executed extremely well, with bright colors that pop and no compression artifacts to be found. The series is dark, and some strategic grain seems to seep in rather purposefully to create murk. Second on my technical list of gripes is that sound is a simple stereo track for both the Japanese and English versions. This is surprising since the series has so much action that it could easily be mixed in surround. We lose some of the immersion that a five-speaker treatment could offer. Again, it's a case of the series seeming to demand cinematic value but being stripped down to television level.
I definitely see Blood+: Volume Four as the continuation of one of the most satisfying recent animes, maybe even the most addictive in years. It ranks right up there with the best of them, and that's no surprise when you consider it was produced by the same team that brought us the equally majestic Ghost in the Shell. You can't go wrong with this one! Saya and the Chiropterans are engaging enough to keep you hanging on for 50 episodes.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site