Judge Brett Cullum likes teenage vampire slayers!
Saya the vampire slayer!
Back in 2000, a feature-length stand-alone anime was produced called Blood: The Last Vampire. Taking place in 1966, at the time of the Vietnam War, it was about a mysterious girl named Saya who takes out brutal vampire demons because it is her destiny. The anime was praised for blending 2D and 3D elements seamlessly, representing an artistic leap forward that garnered many Western fans. Yet the film was a scant 48 minutes due to budget constraints and promised more things to come since it was only the middle chapter of a planned trilogy. Inevitably, in 2005 a series was produced by Production I.G. (the people behind Ghost in the Shell) from the source material called Blood +, which continued Saya's story long after the events in the movie. It ran on Sony networks in Japan and even made an appearance on the cable channel Cartoon Network's Adult Swim here in the United State Blood+: Volume Three contains chapters 11-15 of the anime series, and the nice thing is this is where the pace picks up and the ass kicking begins. The show was inspired by Blood: The Last Vampire, but the story is a reimagining of that work in addition to a continuation. You don't need to be familiar with the cinematic source material, but knowledge of the first 10 episodes in the series is crucial. In Blood+ we see Saya Otonashi who is an anemic amnesiac who otherwise lives the life of a normal girl. One day she is attacked by a demonic beast named a Chiropteran, and she unleashes her destiny. Saya is the only one who can take these vampires on and defeat them. Her special purpose means she must travel the globe ridding the world of the bad guys with the help of her family and her chevalier named Hagi. For this collection of episodes, Saya must travel to Vietnam where she uncovers a breeding farm for the Chiropterans.
Blood+ is a slick series that showcases the same strong 2D and 3D animation the feature it was based on originated, and offers all the visual thrills you would expect out of a vampire anime. It has a lot of style, and since Japanese animation seems to be in shorter supply these days here in the U.S., it impresses handily. Composer Mark Mancina (Speed) supplies a remarkable score with help from Hans Zimmer which adds to the visuals quite well. Technically this is everything you want an anime to be—violent, well drawn, dramatically scored, and visually stunning. It is designed to be a traditional action story of the Seinen variety. This means it is aimed primarily at men ages 18 to 30 and contains some graphic violence that may make it not suitable for young viewers. Most of the fighting is done with swords, so limbs fly fast and furiously when the action kicks in. Most of the carnage is aimed at the demonic beasts, but certainly some humans become victims of their vicious attacks. There's no questionable sexual content, but it is a very gory ride with some dark disturbing imagery.
This DVD release follows three separate releases, and you will want to make sure it continues the story where you left off. Viewers who bought or rented Blood+: Volume One and Blood+: Volume Two will find this the next one to grab. But anybody who got the big box set called Blood +: Part One will find they have these episodes and ten more beyond them. Sony is releasing these volumes in smaller chunks, but did release a 25 episode box set for those who knew they wanted the first half of the series right away. There are no extras in this disc, so no need to buy or rent it if you sprang for the bigger collection initially. And for those who caught this series on Adult Swim, the episodes are the same as what you saw there without any added sequences or supplemental features.
The aspect ratio is the original television format of fullscreen, and the audio is a choice between English or Japanese stereo. 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. I wish the audio was full five channel affair, but we have to settle for stereo which is distortion free and clear. Blood+ looks and sounds decidedly like what it is, a very strong television series. The DVDs show this to be the case, and eschews any cinematic ratios or sound designs.
Blood + is grand, beautifully done anime that hits the right notes, feeling fresh and familiar all at once. The artwork looks great, the voice acting is well done, the music soars, and the pace moves like lightning where it needs to, then slows when it is called to do so. The series seems traditional in structure and theme, but it is so well done that you get wrapped up easily in its characters and mythology. This third volume is designed for those that are collecting the five episode discs as they come along, while the box set buyers wait impatiently for the last half of the series to surface. You will want more immediately, just like a bloodthirsty vampire.
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