Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Blood: the Last Vampire – review


Directed by: Kiroyuki Kitakubo

Release Date: 2000

Contains spoilers

Blood the Last Vampire is a bit of an enigma. Potentially one of the most beautiful animes released, it has a well crafted story – that is until it just seems to end. But, let us begin at the beginning.

The animation begins with a train in a station. As it pulls away a carriage contains a girl, Saya (Youki Kudoh) and a man. The lights on the train go out and Saya begins to run, pulling a Katana out as she does so. She chops the guy in half. The light comes back on and the train pulls into another station.

DavidShe meets David (Joe Romersa) and another man on the platform. The other man goes to check the body as David tells Saya about their next assignment, though Saya seems more interested in being given a new Katana as the blade of hers is dull. The assignment is at Yokata US air base and they believe it has been infiltrated; Saya is to go undercover at the base’s school. The other man is concerned as he believes that the kill on the train was human and not chiropteran, the vampires of the story. David says that it probably hasn’t transformed into its true form yet but the negative comments cause Saya to loose her cool and she easily lifts the other man from the floor, by the neck. As she walks away David says that she is the last original left.

I said that the chiropterans are the vampires of the piece and this is partially true. These are blood drinking demons which can take the form of humans. hiding kills as suicideThey feed by making the kill look like a suicide and, as the story starts, a suicide is found – it is the second near the base in the last month. As they hide from outside view, anyone “marked” by them is, essentially, dead meat. Other interesting things we find out about them are that, in demon form, they can transform further, into a flight form and that they hibernate. They are impervious to things such as bullets as they can only die through massive blood loss from one wound, hence Saya uses a Katana.

SayaSaya is also a vampire, though potentially of a different order – we never find out. We do see, towards the end of the film, a picture of her in 1892. The only other details we find out are that she cannot feed from humans – though we do not know what prevents it - and she reacts angrily to a cross. The way the film protrays Saya is excellent, she appears cold and inhuman at all times, perhaps arrogant as well, yet there is a sadness and lonliness lurking below the surface.

This is the big failing of the film. What exposition we hear is great and very well done but it is ultimately lacking. The entire thing comes in at 48 minutes and was meant to be the middle section of three OVAs but lack of funds prevented the other two segments being made. Sharon turnsAs such we see Saya infiltrate the school and discover that two of the school girls, Linda and Sharon (Rebecca Forstadt) are chiropterans. There is a third, disguised as a bar worker named Mama (Akira Koteyama), off base. Saya battles them but then the film is over and we are left wanting more.

The nurseWe get threads of further story appearing as the school’s nurse (Saemi Nakamura) becomes accidentally embroiled in the events but, post the battles, is not believed and everything has been cleaned up. As a character the nurse is your atypical ‘stuck in the middle of the action’ character and, to be honest, is little more than a foil for some exposition and plot – perhaps if the full story had been made she would have had a more pivotal role.

saya slays a chiropteranThe animation itself is beautiful, using a mix of 3D CGI and 2D drawing to make a beautiful, in an artistic sense, world around us. The use of light is simply stunning and, if nothing else, Blood is a how to animate showpiece. The soundtrack works well with period music, as this is set in 1966.

true formThe story itself, I believe, has been continued in an anime series entitled Blood+ and a live action film is, at the time of review, in at least pre-production with an estimated 2008 release date.

The fact that Blood feels (because it is) only a third of a story is frustrating. The writing, in what we get, is excellent with exposition subtle and yet available but just not rich enough and, as I say, you’d have to go a long way to find more beautiful animation. A flawed classic from the world of anime, the lower score reflects the frustration you are left with after watching it. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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