Blood: The Last Vampire was one the big anime movies of the late-nineties anime boom alongside other films such as Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll and Akira. Since then, it has had a live action remake, a 52-episode anime series (Blood+), three games (four if you count Heroes Phantasia), and several manga adaptations. This weekend will mark the debut of its second anime feature film, Blood-C: The Last Dark.
This film is not a sequel to the first movie, however, but rather the conclusion to the story arc started in last year's Blood-C -- the second and most recent TV anime. So in preparation for the movie, let's take a look back at this 12-episode series.
Good -- CLAMP Designs Are Always So Pretty
The first thing you notice about Blood-C is how downright pretty it is. This is due to the involvement of CLAMP, a group of female artist and writers known for works such as Card Captor Sakura, xxxHolic, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, Chobits, and many others. Even the heroine, Saya, has been remade from the ground up -- now sporting long hair, glasses and the most awesome-looking school uniform ever devised. Simply put, everything looks great -- from the characters and locations, to the attacking monsters.
Good -- Yokai Attack
While past Blood stories all deal with Saya fighting vampires, Blood-C pits her against a slew of monsters ranging from humanoid to eldritch abominations. What many Western viewers might miss, though, is the origin of these creatures. While the series itself gives only the briefest explanation for where they come from, it is apparent that they are based on Yokai -- the monsters of traditional Japanese fairy tales. While not generally known outside of Japan, Yokai are as well known in Japan as Brothers' Grimm fairy tales are to Americans. The inclusion of these re-imagined Yokai not only gives a bit of insight into the Japanese cultural consciousness but also builds upon the Blood world as well. There are more than vampires out there going bump in the night, kiddies.
Good -- Questions To Ponder
At face value, none of the characters -- especially Saya -- feel like they belong in the Blood series. Everyone seems like they are existing in the child-friendly world of Card Captor Sakura, and not one of vampires and monsters. However, this does raise a few questions. As Blood-C is in many ways more CLAMP than Blood, how does it fit into the world of the Blood series -- if at all? And if it is an alternate universe from the other Blood stories, is it part of CLAMP's established multiverse? Trying to figure out these meta-mysteries is almost more fun than deciphering the mysteries Blood-C sets before you in the plot.
Mixed -- A False Sense Of Security
Blood-C starts out slowly. Overly innocent schoolgirl Saya wakes up, says goodbye to her father, sings a song about the weather, eats breakfast at a cafe, and heads off to school -- rinse and repeat. Her friends all seem normal: a protective big sister type, a pair of fun-loving twins, an emo guy who's too cool for school, and a class representative whose attempts at hitting on Saya always pass way over her head. Sure, at night she fights monsters in the forests surrounding the town, but her two lives seems to barely connect. This duality of her lives seem far more suited to an innocent magical girl anime than Blood -- and that's the trap. The first few episodes follow this formula to lure the unsuspecting viewer into a false sense of security; but just when the viewer starts to feel sure about what kind of show this is, Saya's two lives collide in the only way they could: a shower of bloody ultra-violence.
Mixed -- A Little Of The Good Old Ultra-Violence
When I say ultra-violence, I want to be clear. This is far more violent and graphic than any other story in the Blood franchise. This is Madoka Magica levels of violence. Blood-C is so graphic that the show had numerous scenes where over half of the screen was censored (shadowed out) in the original broadcast. The show's climax is so gory it almost becomes laughable.
The entire show is built around the juxtaposition of normal, boring life and horrendous, massive violence. Tension is the name of the game here, because every time there is a calm, peaceful moment in Saya's life, you know it's only a matter of time before the ultra-violence returns -- bigger and badder than ever before.
Mixed -- The Ending
By the end of the story, all the mysteries (both meta and otherwise) are resolved, but that's not to say everything is all tied up neatly in a bow. From its inception, Blood-C was intended to be a series and a movie. So while the story of Blood-C is wrapped up quite nicely, several plot threads are left hanging so as to be resolved in Blood-C: The Last Dark. If you go in expecting closure, you may be disappointed at having to wait for the movie.
Blood-C could not be more different from either Blood: The Last Vampire or Blood+ in tone. One was an action movie and the other was a long epic filled with mysteries, adventure, and even a little romance. Blood-C, on the other hand, is either boringly mundane or violent beyond belief -- and nothing in between. Simply put, if you have a weak stomach, Blood-C is not for you. If, however, the violence doesn't bother you, you are in for a beautifully drawn show with excellent action and a legitimately compelling mystery.