Release Date(s)2000 (November 24, 2009)
Studio(s)Production I.G./Manga (Starz/Anchor Bay)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
[The film portion of this review is by Todd Doogan, the disc portion by Bill Hunt.]
Like so many wickedly cool anime films, we can hardly tell you exactly what the hell’s going on story-wise with Blood: The Last Vampire. We gather that the cantankerous and no-nonsense Saya, who appears to be an everyday Japanese schoolgirl, is really the last “original” living in the world (we can assume that to mean she’s an original vampire now that there’s a fleshed-out live-action movie version, anime series on [adult swim] and manga from Viz). But story really isn’t the point of this iteration of Blood. The real point is to be awesome. And in that regard, it’s quite successful.
What we know: Saya the Original has been contracted by the American government to hunt down bloodthirsty demons/vampires/spawns of Satan on a U.S. Air Force base in Japan, and kill them with a high quality samurai sword that may – or may not – be specially made for the job. (Considering that she uses a shovel to attack a monster later in the film – commenting that these creatures “have to lose a lot of blood in one strike or they won’t die,” – it would seem that the sword isn’t necessary, but it does the one strike job most of the time.) Saya’s latest mission is reentering high school so she can flush out a recently discovered demon there. But when she arrives, she learns that these “demons” are getting even more powerful than the government guessed – and there may actually be more than one on the base. What follows is an epic battle that will leave you scratching your head, while your mouth hangs wide open at the eyeball-popping animation.
Blood: The Last Vampire is awfully cool eye candy. It’s also awfully vague and awfully short. The run time is a measly 48 minutes and 15 seconds. But there’s enough here for a full-length film; or maybe it’s better to say, there’s enough missing here (proven by the fact that there’s a live action film version that soooo misses the mark with the stuff it fills in. But that is a review for another day). The brevity doesn’t take away from your enjoyment, however. It’s actually safe to say that this anime is so good in this abbreviated state that we were upset there wasn’t more of it to gravitate to. Is that a sign of success or failure? It certainly makes for repeated viewings and a good anime to recommend.
A good reason for the “wow factor” in Blood has to be the fact that Blood was conceived by Mamoru Oshii, the man who gave us Ghost in the Shell... though it doesn’t appear that he had anything to do with the overall project creatively other than putting together a wonderful team of traditional animators and computer technicians. The packaging proclaims Blood to be “a breakthrough in digital filmmaking,” but it’s not really – at least not in this day and age. Still, this is definitely state-of-the-art stuff. There are shots in this film that are so photo-real you’ll jump back to see the image again looking for faults. And the character animation, although poorly-synched, features some of the coolest looking characters I’ve seen in anime. Saya herself is pretty badass and the demon creatures will send a nice willie down your spine.
Video Ratings (telecine/digital): B+/A
Manga and Anchor Bay’s new Blu-ray release offers the film in two 1080p high-definition versions – a normal film telecine and also an “all-digital” version mastered directly from the original digital animation files. Both look very good, but it’s the digital version that really shines. The film version offers good color, contrast and fine detail, with a slightly softer look. The digital version offers slight improvements in color (a bit more vibrant) and contrast (somewhat deeper blacks), but a significant increase in fine detail. The image is just tighter and more refined looking. Either way, both do justice to the imagery itself. The audio is also outstanding, presented in English (technically mixed English and Japanese, per the original Japanese presentation) DTS-HD 5.1 lossless. Overall clarity and imaging are excellent, with highly active surround play. Panning is smooth and natural, and there’s substantial bass reinforcement in the LFE. English subs are included where necessary.
In terms of extra, the good news is that everything from the previous DVD release carries over, including the film’s trailer and a decent Japanese documentary about the making of the film (both in SD). A lot of work and pride went into this film, and you get see exactly what was involved in the process. The best “extra” if you want to call it that, is obviously the second, all-digital version of the film. Yes, the extras are light, but then you don’t really need more than this either.
Blood: The Last Vampire isn’t a breakthrough, but it sure is cool. Every animation fan should pop this sucker into their player. The film has never looked and sounded better than it does on Blu-ray, and the cheap price makes it worth a look even given the brief run time. Blood will suck you dry and you’ll love every moment... as short as those moments may be.
- Todd Doogan and Bill Hunt