A re-visitation—shilling for “reboot”—of Blood: The Last Vampire, with some of the same basic characters and situations in a radically different setting, courtesy of CLAMP (xxxHOLiC, X, Cardcaptor Sakura, et al). Monster-hunting schoolgirl Saya wields a wicked sword by night to destroy the beasts that threaten her bucolic little mountain town, but there’s far more to her hunt—and her town, and her, period—than anyone is letting on.
The first two-thirds of the show do a brilliant and stylish job of building suspense and deploying jarring (and unbelievably bloody) violence, but the big reveal and climax are an infuriating mix of contrivance and mean-spirited sadism. It’s all setup for the feature film that follows—Blood-C: The Last Dark—but the show by itself shouldn’t have been handled so clumsily.
- Lush, eye-catching character design courtesy of CLAMP.
- Striking animation courtesy of Production I.G.
- Intriguing premise that connects back to the Blood: The Last Vampire mythos.
- Disappointing climax, which makes the whole show little more than a lead-in to the forthcoming movie.
- Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
- Animation Studio: Production I.G
- Released By: Aniplex
- Released Domestically By: FUNimation Entertainment
- Audio: English / Japanese w/English subtitles
- Age Rating: TV-MA (extremely gory violence)
- List Price: $69.98 (DVD/Blu-ray combo)
- Blood: The Last Vampire
- Blood +
A fresh drop of Blood
Since its original release, Production I.G’s eye-filling short film Blood: The Last Vampire has spawned a whole miniature media empire: a live-action spinoff, a two-season TV series (Blood +), and now Blood-C, a TV series executed in creative collaboration with the manga (and sometimes anime) all-woman troupe CLAMP. Each successive variation took the basic formula and spun some variety of change on it—in essence, making each one a parallel retelling, without requiring much knowledge of the original. This version may be the best-looking of the bunch short of the original film, but suffers from a story that stumbles over its own complications.
Blood-C is set in a bucolic little village somewhere in Japan’s backwaters, the sort of place that is inevitably either a dead boring place to live (see: FLCL) or a breeding ground for great evil (see: Shiki). There lives Saya Kisaragi, a girl of maybe sixteen, who serves as the maiden for her father’s shrine and has a generally sweet and unpretentious air about her. Come nightfall, though, she dons the ceremonial sword kept hidden in the shrine and goes out to hunt the monstrous beasts, the Furukimono, that lurk in the town’s shadows.
No one else in town apart from her father knows about this dual life—not her friends, certainly. Not the smiling young man who runs the café where she sometimes stops off after school. Not her teachers. At least, none of them let on that they know anything—although the café fellow, Fumito, does seem to take an unusually protective interest in her which seems to hint at a deeper understanding of her peculiar position.
Pay no attention to that plot device behind the curtain
Then something strange begins to happen. The Furukimono—shapeshifting, flesh-eating creatures who never show up in the same form twice—chastise Saya for breaking “the covenant”, shortly before she dispatches them. What are they talking about? Why has this started happening now, right when more and more of the people she knows are going missing (read: being killed) and she’s unable to protect them? It isn’t long before we learn that the “covenant” in question is that of one made between the Furukimono and the rest of mankind, and which Saya’s very existence is a violation of.
Discussing the rest of the story, which includes its massive lapses in logic, requires me to go into spoiler territory, so I will tread lightly from here on. There is indeed a massive revelation, and a set of explanations for everything that has been going on, as well as a more detailed examination of Saya’s origins. (It connects with and expands nicely on the original story without forcing you to know about it beforehand.)
But the more that comes out, the more ludicrous and implausible it becomes. Characters that were believed to be dead, aren’t, and the explanation we get for that is a real stretch. The fine cloak of mystery woven around the story is rather clumsily torn off, and the conclusion is both so stupid and so mean-spiritedly cruel that it stops just short of killing our enthusiasm for the whole project. It’s one thing to have people die—Basilisk had a body count to be reckoned with—but another thing entirely to make us feel like chumps for caring.
It's all little more than prelude
It’s sad that the storytelling is so lacking, given how skillful CLAMP usually is at exactly that. What isn’t to be faulted is the look of the show, with bold character designs that stand out all the more thanks to their red-and-black dress uniforms. (There’s even a hilarious line or two near the end about why they look that flashy, which is, I regret, only funny in context.) Plus, the show’s creators were given a lavish animation budget: the action scenes between Saya and her quarry are never less than spectacular, and there’s a climactic swordfight that has some of the best animation of its kind I’ve seen in a TV show in ages. Be warned that the violence is extreme: there’s more blood (and guts, and flesh) spilled (and sliced, and dumped on the ground) than in any three other shows that come readily to mind.
What hurts most, again, is how so much of this is in the service of a story that seems to be working hard to make itself unworthy of the effort. The final scenes are a nasty orgy of violence, which goes from macabre to downright revolting and then flat-out idiotic, and which even in the context of the show is jarring. I suspect at least part of the problem overall was the story construction: the TV series was clearly put together as a lead-in for a forthcoming feature film, Blood-C: The Last Dark, and for that reason it ends on what I take to be a deliberately unsatisfying note.
Then again, there are ways to do this sort of thing without bilking the audience. Heck, even a show as over-the-top as Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings was able to pull it off halfway elegantly. What we’re given here is a big buildup to a series of revelations that by themselves are fascinating, but are deployed with all the subtlety and finesse of a frying pan to the back of the skull. There had to be a better way. But the good parts of Blood-C—the first two-thirds, and the splendid atmosphere conjured up therein—are worth savoring.