Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)
By: Trist Jones on March 3, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Madman (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 46 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Starring: Youki Kudoh, Saemi Nakamura, Joe Romersa
Screenplay: Kenji Kamiyama
Music: Yoshihiro Ike
Country: Japan
Blood: The Last Vampire, an animated film from the creators of the masterpiece Ghost in the Shell, is one of the best animes, and one of the best vampire films, I've seen in a long time. Set at the Yokota Air Force base in Japan, amidst pre-Vietnam War Americans, something foul is afoot. Suicides at the school and a frequented brothel on the outskirts of the city surrounding the base have military officials on edge. A secret force of military operatives have discovered that an unknown number of Terapterids; vampiric demons have hidden themselves in the base, and that these reported suicides are actually the works of these demons in disguise. To combat the Terapterids, the operatives dispatch a mysterious young girl named Saya, the last original vampire.

Blood, as most animes attempt to, takes a fairly unique look at vampires. There is no sucking of blood, no frying in the sunlight, no capes, no three inch incisors, the real vampire itself goes against every stereotype imaginable and the creatures themselves are more like the aliens in Men in Black than vampires as well, trying to pass themselves off as humans as long as possible, only attacking those who see them in their true forms or those who are 'marked'. Even in their true forms, the creatures are as far from bats as you can imagine, presenting us with grotesque creatures more akin to third world werewolves. The demons are also near invulnerable, and can only die if enough blood is lost from a single attack, meaning swords are in, crosses, holy water, garlic and whatever else is traditionally thrown at the monsters isn't going to do a damn thing. Blood's portrayal of vampires/vampiric creatures stands out above every other anime, which tend to rely on the sexual, indulgent stereotypes that followed in the wake of Dracula. The character design and creature design is flawless, only once or twice do you come across a character that visually epitomizes the anime styling.

Having been produced by the people behind Ghost in the Shell, and most recently Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, the animation is by far the most impressive animation to come out of Japan in a long time (with the exclusion of the to be released Ghost in the Shell 2). Never once does the film take the shortcuts so prevalent in anime, wherein frames are looped or skipped, making the animation feel erratic. The visuals flow like water, and are reinforced by the subtle but extremely impressive use of CGI animation. There are motions in the camera that make it seem as though it were being filmed handheld, and there are a vast amount of particularly impressive shots and sequences throughout the film. The opening sequence aboard a subway train is fantastically animated, consistent and fluid animation matched with impressive CGI work that blends perfectly with the hand painted backgrounds. The animation, and the same can be said about the film in general, never goes too far either, remaining very down to earth, without overplaying the visuals for the sake of having something cool to look at. Violence and gore is realistically portrayed, and while the film is saturated in blood, it never once goes into the anime clichés where blood spurts like a pressure hose on wide spray, or does those two second pauses before someone attacked with a sword splits in two. Here the violence is all made to look as real as possible, and never distracts from the film itself.

The horror of this film is played out equally as well, never going too far with it's monsters or moments. All the subtle moments of horror perfectly balance the reveals of the Terapterids later in the film. There are some great little moments that build the tension perfectly, such as the eyes of one student as she walks with another to the infirmary, which between blinks go from having normal rounded pupils, to serpentine slits, along with another moment where a sick girl suddenly rises from the infirmary bed while the nurse isn't looking and the two girls begin speaking silently in a truly unnerving scene.

The scoring, by Yoshihiro Ike, is fantastic. It's one of the best film scores I've heard, and though a little underplayed, really does work extremely well with the visuals and action.

What is also interesting to note about Blood is that the film is bilingual. All the American characters speak with English voices, and the Japanese characters will either speak entirely in Japanese, or depending on the character, both Japanese and English. The bilingual characters all use the same voice talent too, and the girl that plays the protagonist, Saya, has appeared in Japanese, American and Australian films as well as being a popular stage actress and singer. This makes the broken English easy to digest for anyone when it comes about.

Still in spite of all its fantastic technical achievements, Blood feels incomplete. Being only a 42 minute film, it feels as though we only really get the last half of the film, or an extremely (and perhaps overly) condensed full film. Little to no backstory is given in regards to anyone but the situation at hand, and even then information is sparse. We aren't even told that Saya is a vampire until the very end, even though it's boldly presented in the title of the film. When I first sat down and watched this, there was a feeling of being at a loss as there was so little information and character development. We're never quite sure why certain things happen, why Saya gets pissed off at certain things, how long this special forces unit has been hunting demons and other various important morsels are withheld from the audience. While this doesn't necessarily detract from the viewing experience, Blood could have gone down in history as being a truly revolutionary animated film had it been even twenty to twenty five minutes longer (though from what we have here, I would kill to see Blood be twice as long as this). There was word a few years back that a sequel was in the works, but nothing since has surfaced unfortunately.

Video
Clean as a whistle. Given that this is the first digitally produced anime, there is not a single blemish to be seen on any of the footage. The film itself was shot straight into a computer (ala Revenge of the Sith) and Blood is all the better for it. If digital assistance is the way anime is going (and it seems to be, judging by Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell 2) then I really look forward to what is ahead, because it really does look absolutely fantastic.
Audio
The sound is fantastic. Dolby Digital 5.1 is utilized to it's maximum potential, and with the volume cranking it's awesome to hear. You also have the opportunity to listen to a 5.1 FX only track, which is interesting to hear (though doesn't necessarily enhance the viewing experience). There's also a Dolby Digital 2.0 track if you don't have the surround sound set up.
Extra Features

Extras include the trailers for Blood, along with trailers from Manga Films, an FX only 5.1 Soundtrack, an image gallery, a text based History of Blood and a featurette chronicling the making of the film. The extras are ho-hum, being neither fantastic nor terrible. The History of Blood is a little confusing, not really revealing any new information about the film, just dot points vaguely detailing certain things about Saya and her involvement with the special forces and where she goes after the film. The featurette is predominantly the same as any other anime Making of, loosely filling us in on the key players, how they wanted it to look, sound and how they went about it.

The Verdict
Blood is a fantastic film, short as it is. Any fan of vampires who hasn't seen this yet is really doing themselves a disservice as it truly is a standout film in that particular subgenre. Any anime fan who hasn't seen this (and I doubt there would be many) is living under a rock. It's a film that truly deserves it's spot on any horror fans DVD shelves, regardless of how you feel about anime, as it really does go against everything else before it, both in terms of being an anime and a vampire film.
Movie Score
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