Blood: The Last Vampire
Set just before the Vietnam War, an American agency working out of a military installation in Japan is hunting strange abnormal creatures that feed off of human blood. At the head of the hunt is a mysterious young woman named Saya, who even her American supporters seem to fear. Using only a sword, Saya, with the help of a pair of US secret agents, tracks down and attempts to kill the last few of the monsters before they can escape or go into hiding once again. But what is her connection to the beasts she hunts?
Along the lines of US action films like Blade and From Dusk Till Dawn, this is Japan's animated contribution to the vampire-action-flick genre that has been popular in recent years. And it is a fine contribution to say the least. Smooth animation, well-planned and executed (no pun intended) action scenes, expertly rendered CG effects (you barely notice them!), and tons of dark brooding atmosphere make Blood an instant action hit.
From the very beginning, the production quality of the film is top notch. The sound quality and musical score alone set it apart from the pack. As with a lot of the more recent anime, the inking and shading has been done with computers, and many of the backgrounds and environments the characters move through and interact with are actually CG models that have been flawlessly composited into the animation. The small TV I was forced to watch this on, even with its stereo speakers simply did not do this film justice.
Although short for a full-length film at only an hour and a half, the pacing and plot are guided smoothly from scene to scene in a way that makes sense and keeps you interested even though many of the main players are never fully described. It's an action movie, in concept and pacing, pure and simple, and thankfully doesn't suffer from "Akira Compression Syndrome" where 800+ pages of manga get smashed into an incomprehensible two and a half hours.
The most prominent character, of course, is Saya, the "vampire" hunter. Attractive in a grim, gothic kind of way, Saya is the perfect portrayal of a cold-blooded single-minded mercenary. What her actual aims and goals are are never really revealed by the film, but once again, this doesn't matter all that much since the primary focus of the story is on the hunt for the creatures themselves. The other characters are mostly marginalized in favor of Saya, but are done very well, nonetheless, especially the hapless school nurse who gets inadvertently wrapped up in the hunt while Saya pursues a pair of her students who are vampires in disguise.
Voice acting ... this is a sore spot with me for most anime because, except for a few titles, I find English dubs to be totally sub par in both inflection and personality compared to the Japanese dialogue the characters were created for. So when I first tried to set up my DVD for Japanese with subtitles, I was dismayed to find only two English tracks available (One Dolby surround, and one 5 channel digital surround). I even considered returning the DVD without watching it, but after fifteen minutes into the film realized something astonishing, the American characters were being voiced (In English!) by both Japanese and western voice actors (the seiyuu for both Saya and the nurse are bilingual in fact). The voice tones and characterization for some of the gaijin characters was rather slow and lame-sounding sometimes, but really no worse than we do ourselves, and all of the Japanese characters speak Japanese and are normally subtitled. It's a credit to the creators of this film that the dialogue was done this way and that it actually worked (anyone remember the American thugs in the Kimagure Orange Road OAVs?). Hats off to the excellent voice directors!
Another interesting point is that even though the cover of the DVD states that the creators of Ghost In The Shell were responsible for this film, Production IG and Oshii Mamoru actually only oversaw the production. The scripts, animation and even most of the directing was done by new emerging anime directors and screenwriters, supported by a new program sponsored by Production IG to educate them in the industry. If this is their first "student" work as it were, I can't wait to see what they will deliver to us in the future!
Finally, Blood, being an action film about vampires is understandably very violent and messy, so people who are grossed out by the sight of large amounts of animated gore are better off watching something a little more on the lighter side.
Blood is an outstanding achievement in animation and action-movie story-telling and is a must see for those who like their anime fast paced and action packed, or anyone else for that matter who enjoys superb animation for its own sake. Highly recommended.
Go rent this movie! — Jason Bustard
Recommended Audience: Definitely NOT for the little ones. From beginning to end this film is violent, bloody and suspenseful, which would quite possibly frighten children or even some more squeamish adults. Also brief nudity of a "suicide" victim in one short scene. Recommended for older teens or adults only.
Version(s) Viewed: Bilingual DVD
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Blood: The Last Vampire © 2000 Production I.G / ANX SCEI IPA
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