Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blood+ - review

Directed by: Junichi Fujisaku

First aired: 2005

Contains spoilers

This is a series adapted from Blood: The Last Vampire and spans a massive 50 episodes. I say adapted because as we shall see, this may have Saya as a main protagonist and she may fight Chiropterans, the core background has changed. We will explore this, as we explore the lore, and it is not clear as the series starts – for all intents and purposes it seems like a modern day follow on – and so massive spoiler warnings must be issued.

Saya is a teenage girl who lives with her adopted father George and two other orphans, Kai and Riku. As the story starts she is an almost ordinary girl who must undergo regular transfusions for anaemia and has amnesia, remembering nothing before a year earlier. Her world is shattered as a chiropteran – the name of the vampires in this – attacks her and she escapes with the aid of a mysterious man named Haji.

She discovers that she was placed with George by an organisation called Red Shield – namely by an operative called David – whose purpose is to fight chiropterans and the reason for her amnesia is that she came out of a hibernation just a year before. George becomes infected and Saya must kill him, using her blood, which crystallises the chiropterans and ends up travelling around the gobe with Red Shield. Of course Kai and Riku are drawn into this world also.

When we look at this we must look at the fact that the tag the Last Vampire has been removed. This seems sensible to me because Saya is anything but the last vampire. There is a hierarchy of vampires. There are two queens – Saya and her twin sister Diva – the knights who have fed directly from a queen – Haji is Saya’s knight – and then the rank and file chiropterans – all of which are derived from one of the queen’s bloodlines. The blood of the queen of one line is poisonous to the other line.

Saya’s amnesia through the beginning of the series and the slow realisation of what she is leads to a very different character than the one we saw in the previous incarnation of the story. As the series starts she is carefree and happy, one can say innocent – rather than the battle weary, stoic warrior from the Last Vampire. That, of course, shifts as the series develops.

The reason for Saya’s amnesia is tied into the fact that she (and Diva) must enter into a thirty-year hibernation after every few years of living amongst humans. During the Vietnam war Red Shield noticed a high concentration of chiropterans at the battlefield and woke Saya early, using Haji’s blood. She awoke enraged and without reason and slaughtered everything in her path, be they human or chiropteran, before falling back into hibernation. This utterly changes the narrative of the previous manifestation of the story.

The main enemy in this is Diva and to understand why I must spoil the story further and look at Saya’s birth in the 19th Century – don’t worry I won’t spoil the main story arc. A man named Joel created ‘the Zoo’ a place filled with examples of unusual species. He discovered a mummified female of an unknown species, humanoid but with bat characteristics, that he called chiropteran. Dissecting the mummy he found two cocoons, the creature had been pregnant. He couldn’t open the cocoons but cut his finger and the blood was absorbed by one of the cocoons, causing life to stir within. Two human looking females were born. One he named Saya and raised as a human, though he noticed her aging halted in her teens and she healed with miraculous rapidity. The other he did not name and kept locked away as an experiment. Saya heard her sister singing and released the girl, whom she named Diva, to disastrous results. She vowed to halt Diva.

In the time of her last hibernation, Diva’s knights have been busy and have taken major holdings in world business. They are creating Chiropterans and creating ways to artificially produce the creatures. One experiment resulted in the Schiff – more like standard vampires as they shun the sun or explode into green flame. The Schiff are dying and believe that either Diva or Saya’s blood is the key to gaining longevity.

This is a twisting, turning series with betrayal and loyalty at its heart. The animation looks good, though it isn’t half as good as its predecessor – however, given the amount of animation necessary to produce the series it is hardly surprising. The music through the episodes is excellent, and creates a major plot theme, and one of the credit pieces was performed by Hyde who was in Moon Child.

As an animation I wouldn’t hesitate to give this a high score, if I was only scoring for when it is at its best. However, the series is slow in places and perhaps the length of it was too long. There are plenty of moments where the series becomes too introspective; concentrating on minutia that might be claimed to be character development but in fact seems overtly filled with melodrama. This is a shame, as this had the potential to be one of the best vampire animes produced, but these moments (Kai and Saya go fishing comes to mind) slowed the whole thing to a snail’s pace in places. Perhaps some of the fault lay in the subtitling of the Asian imported set I bought, which is weak and too literal, and those issues might lessen in the version produced for the US market.

I must also say that, despite an excellent overall plot arc, some of the aspects of the lore did not have a sound logic – we do not know why the blood of one queen is poison to the line of the other, and this is passed off simply as ‘we do not know’ by the characters. We do not know why the Schiff are killed by sunlight – I have assumed it is because they are artificially created.

That said, one cannot take away the fact that it has a massive story – unlike its predecessor – that twists and turns and, when it is at its best, is a fine example of anime. 6.5 out of 10, to me balances my concerns regarding the slower aspects with the excellence of the series at its best.

The imdb page is here.

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