Judge Joel Pearce wasn't adopted, and he never got to battle horrible monsters. What a disappointing childhood.
Our wait is finally over, and so is hers.
Blood: The Last Vampire is one of the most glorious and frustrating anime films of all time. It features near-flawless animation, a well-told tale of horror and violence, and it sets up a truly engaging and unique mythology. And yet, at a hasty 50 minutes, fans all over the world were left wanting more—a lot more. The perplexing connection to the Vietnam War at the end is a distinct frustration, as are the tantalizing hints about Saya's past.
Well, it took a number of years, but it looks like we are finally getting our answers—at least to a certain extent. Blood+ is either a sequel or an alternate retelling of the story, offering up 50 episodes of Chiropteran-slaying goodness. This first volume (released at the same time as a box set with the first 25 episodes) feels immediately familiar to fans of the film. It opens with a genuinely gruesome bloodbath during the Vietnam War, then quickly flashes us forward into contemporary Okinawa, once again just a ways off from the US air base. Here we meet Saya, a young adopted high-school girl who has forgotten her past. Before long, however, she finds herself at the center of a dangerous world. She is attacked by a gigantic beast, and soon learns that she is the only one capable of killing them.
If the first volume of Blood+ is any indication, this series will do a fine job of continuing the mythology. While Saya was at the center of the film, we never really got a chance to know her as a person—the story was largely told through the perspective of others. She was little more than a weapon of coolness, and a vehicle for the action. To extend this story further, a more human character is needed, and the amnesia device isn't a bad way to set that up. In the series, we will learn about Saya at the same speed that she does, and she is anything but a killing machine at this stage. While her hesitation may be frustrating as the series continues, it helps in the early volume to keep things grounded. Blood+ isn't a mindless action show, and the pacing is impressive.
That said, when Blood+ does kick into action, it does so with the same level of style and gruesomeness that its predecessor exhibits. It is tough and gory and gruesome, traits far too rare in the anime industry. I was afraid that the series would wimp out to target a younger audience, but there was no reason to be scared. While the action in the first volume has been sparse, it's always worth waiting for. This is also one of the first time in my anime-watching past that has evoked genuine suspense. There are segments of this series that are truly eerie and creepy, another thing that I've longed for through quite a few mediocre anime series.
Alas, not all is perfect. Like so many shows, the opening and closing theme songs don't match the tone of the series. Since each episode ends in some tragedy or cliffhanger, the transition to cheesy J-Pop can be pretty jarring. The actual episodes feature some quite solid scoring, and that classical score would have worked far better during the credits. My other minor quibble is with the trickle of information. I realize with 50 episodes total that we are going to have to wait for some of the details about characters and back stories, but a little bit would be nice. There's a difference between keeping your audience intrigued and just keeping it in the dark completely.
These complaints are minor, though. This is a series that I've been hoping to see for a long time, and I'm thrilled that it's finally arrived. If you have also been waiting, I wouldn't recommend this initial disc—go all out and grab the first 25 episodes right away. That's what I did the day after I finished this first volume. If you're a little more hesitant about the series, this disc is a fine choice too, but you need to be aware that you will either need to wait for the second one to come out, or buy the box set and own two copies of the first five episodes. Either way, you can expect extremely high-quality production values. The video transfer is in the original Full Frame ratio, and it looks great. The sound is also solid, whether you choose the original Japanese or English dub. There aren't any extras on the disc, but the larger box set has a full disc of extras.
If you're a fan of vampires or anime, it's hard to go wrong with
Blood+. I only hope that the series can maintain this level of
awesomeness for a full 50 episodes. Not guilty!
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