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Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)

by on 2011/05/22

“Do you speak English?”

* * * *

I reviewed the live-action version of Blood: The Last Vampire  on this site last year. What began with such promise in Blood (2009) – Japanese school girls, Samurai swords, ancient evil – ended with the low crumple-crackle of a crappy movie monster made of garbage bags.

I shook off my disappointment and took heart in the word that the anime version kicked some serious undead ass. I bought it shortly thereafter but it took our ani-May-tion theme this month to consider this anime version of Blood carefully.

First of all, this movie has atmosphere with a capital A(aaaaa!). Blood‘s grey, black, tan world seethes with menace.

Speaking of seething, Saya, Blood‘s hero, is as supernaturally powerful as she is sullen. She (voiced by Youki Kudo) barks monosyllabic commands, slashes first and asks questions later. Wait, that’s wrong, she asks questions never, slashes first …and often.

Environments, all beautifully conceived and executed with digital animation, are rich with startlingly realistic detail. The black rotary dial telephone that sounds the alarm is so accurate you feel like you can reach out and grab it. The 1960s classroom blackboard is covered in detailed notes about Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Much of my fascination centres on Saya –  the last of her kind, an original vampire. Saya has the strength and speed necessary to kill the chiroptera – terrifying winged vampires that can assume human form.

Set in 1966 Japan, there are reports of mysterious killings on a U.S. army base. Sullen Saya is sent by her watcher David (Joe Romersa) to investigate, first furnishing her with a Japanese school girl uniform. As far as vampire slayer helpers go, David’s pretty sweaty, panicky and useless. He can’t even seem to get Saya a proper sword.

There’s not much more to this story. Saya looks for the blood-sucking fiends, finds them, and then they all play an entertaining game of hide and seek until the end credits roll.

What the film lacks in plot it more than makes up in the artistry involved in the gnarled horror of the creatures, the settings – from seedy nightclubs to school gymnasiums – and Saya. I could happily watch her frown for 5 minutes straight.

I’ve a few quibbles with this vastly superior version of Blood. The voice acting is a little uneven, there are moments where Saya delivers her dialogue like she’s got an inner ear problem, David sounds bored even while panicking and the school nurse Nurse Makiho Caroline Amano (Saemi Nakamura) sounds like a housewife who has taken one too many Valium. Directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo, this anime film is unusual for its being originally recorded almost entirely in English.

Overall, this animated feature is a sound offering that delivers on the great promise of the Blood concept. Watching the extras, I found myself even more impressed to learn that it was created as a class project, drawing on script concepts developed by new filmmakers who were part of a group called the “Oshii Jyuku” led by filmmaker Oshii Mamoru. Blood drew on several of the good ideas harvested from multiple scripts.

With a 48-minute runtime, this great concept executed with its brilliant visuals, left me wanting more. And that’s infinitely better than a bad idea overstaying its welcome any day of the week.

* * * *

48 minutes

Rated 14A for bloody violence, suspense and wall-to-wall frowning

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  1. Month in Review: May 2011 « Geek vs Goth

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