Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Bloodhound: the Vampire Gigolo Vol. 1 – 3 – review

vol 1 dvdDirectors: Hitoshe One, Michizo Kito & Seiya Nishikawa

First aired: 2004

Contains spoilers

Bloodhound – also known as Vampire Host – started life as a manga by Kaori Yuki. Rather than become an anime it became a live action series comprising 6 stories (2 short episodes per story) and released in the US over 3 separate volumes.

Now when I say that this was a manga made into live action, it is an anime in live action form, it has all the elements that would make an anime – including (low level) fan service and ridiculous comedic violence and this is something I will mention later.

Komukai Minako as RionThe first story – the Vampiric Serial Killer – sets the scene for the entire series. Rion (Komukai Minako) is a high school girl – we later discover she is seventeen years old – and her friend Shiho (Kojima Yurie) has gone missing. The only clues that Rion has is a voice mail that states “Help me… a real vampire…” and a card that Shiho had to a club called Kranken Haus. Kranken Haus is a host club – a gigolo bar essentially – and the host mentioned on the card is Suou (Matsuda Satoshi).

When Rion goes to the club she discovers that it is vampire themed. Also there, just leaving as she arrives, is an older woman who calls herself Diana (Nobukawa Seijun) and who is obsessed with Suou. We soon discover that her real identity is Tomoda Tomoyo – a police detective. She is a recurring comedy character who tries to hide her real identity in the club to avoid embarrassment.

cosplay... it seems a little ropeySuou denies any involvement in Shiho’s disappearance but Rion is suspicious and breaks a bottle of Dom Pérignon so that they are forced to hire her part time as a cleaner (and general dogsbody) to pay the cost off. Here we get the fan service as the club owner, Tenran (Sano Shiro), insists that she has to wear a series of cosplay outfits – starting with French Maid and including nurse and stewardess amongst others – whilst she works. The cost of the Dom Pérignon was equivalent to 30 panties – and through the series the tally she owes reduces. This is in reference to the amount of money a young girl could make selling her underwear in Tokyo for dispensing through vending machines – a phenomena called burusera. This may have been referenced as, in the year this aired, it was made illegal to sell such underwear that belonged to an under 18 year old – as Rion was meant to be.

the real thingRion is heading home when she is attacked by a man. We discover later that he has kidnapped several school girls (but not Shiho, nor another unnamed girl who is found drained of blood). He is dragging her away at knife point when Suou comes to the rescue and is stabbed for his trouble. He removes a pendant on a chain from his neck and the wound heals. It soon becomes abundantly clear that far from being a fantasy vampire Suou is the real thing.

part of the transformationThe removal of the pendant is very anime, and is reminiscent of a device later used in Rosario + Vampire. As in that the pendant is designed to hold back the vampire’s power. The transformation in this is a comedy device, it causes the eyes to swim in different colours before settling on blue, the hair becomes backcombed and the fangs get longer. In fairness healing is quicker once transformed and the vampire moves with incredible speed, but the joke is that, quite often, Suou is so busy transforming he misses the action.

paid in bloodThey do eventually find Shiho – who is held by a blood fetishist rather than a real vampire and – indeed – more often than not the enemies they face through the series are only humans hiding behind the mask of a monster. Only vampires seem to be the real thing. Suou works the bar for shelter and payment – which seems to be in the form of blood packs provided by Tenran.

crosses don't workLore wise we know that garlic and crosses do not affect vampires. Whilst Suou sleeps through the day, in a coffin, he can go out in the sun – though sun block is mentioned. Suou does like to give a speech about the curse of vampirism when tackling the enemy, to which Rion accuses him of acting cool, the baddie always makes a run for it or gets a low blow in whilst he makes his speech.

speedy vampireThe vampires are fast moving and very strong. Suou can jump incredibly high distances and sustain a lot of damage, including having his arm chopped off – the arm reattaches when pushed against the stub. Nevertheless Rion thinks him a useless vampire who cannot transform into a bat. He does cast a reflection.

We only discover one way to kill a vampire and that is for another vampire to bite and drain him or her. The dead vampire turns a rotten shade of green (or at least a badly makeup’d shade for it did look poor). A bite will turn a victim but the transformation takes a little amount of time and killing the vampire who bit the victim will stop the transformation and turn them back to human.

hiding on a wallThe comedy element is strong and rather cartoon like – making the whole thing feel a little juvenile to be fair, despite some very dark themes at times, as we can accept it with a cartoon more than with real people. The constant kicking of Suou by Rion was an example of this (and is the comedic violence I mentioned). We see exaggerated emotional faces, at times, that was almost like a live action version of chibi styled anime.

chopped armI mentioned the dark themes and I was staggered by how dark, and (from my perspective) unconventional, the ending of the series was. Each episode also had a recipe for a ‘half rock drink’ recommended by one of the hosts – the half rock being whiskey it seems. Whilst the humour may have seemed juvenial, the film quality seemed low due to the cam nature of the filming and the effects were often awful (the chopped arm and remaining stub were ridiculously fake) this was ultimately watchable. Perhaps the short episode lengths helped.

6 out of 10 for the series as a whole.

At the time of review I could not locate an imdb page, however I do have a cautionary tale I'd like to share. I am well aware of the fact that if I import a DVD over a certain value I will be stung for import duties. The three DVDs volumes that make up this series, which were a present from my wife, were all individually under that value. She bought them from a trader called All_Your_Music on Amazon marketplace and, as per the rules of marketplace, paid for three sets of p&p. Whether the p&p is adequate is really none of my concern, Amazon set the rate and All_Your_Music choose to trade on Amazon, but this company chose to pocket the extra money and place all three in one package – I was subsequently stung for import duty… their attitude when I contacted All_Your_Music was that it was my problem and simply quoted Amazon guidelines… but neither I nor my wife asked them to put them in one package and she paid for three separate lots of postage. I actually contacted them not for the monies back but to alert them to the results of their actions so no one else gets stung similarly in the future but, given their snotty reply, I felt that a name and shame was in order.


J.R. said...

I have watched this series and found it much more enjoyable than I expected. Of course, repeating the same shtick (Rion kicking Suou in the groin may have been amusing the first time but less so by the fifth) was a drawback, but overall the plot and action were kept quite taut. Indeed, the purely dramatic moments were often so intense that the comedic elements really did serve the purpose of relief; it's a fine balance that I daresay some English-speaking TV producers could learn from (Buffy is perhaps the closest mix of horror and comedy, but the latter usually consisted of a sarcastic remark from Buffy while the Angel character remained brooding throughout).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

JR - it was highly watchable, perhaps more than I expected also.

I wasn't opposed to the comedic elements but found they were very cartoon like, which didn't work quite as well as it would in anime and made it feel that bit more juvenial as a result...

A good example of a fine balance of comedy and drama was the pilot of Being Human (the series was perhaps not as well balanced as the pilot, though it had its good comedy moments)...

that said the dramatic moments were quite intense in this but no more so than the actual culmination of the series which, as I indicated in the review, was quite shocking.