Blood should have been made in Hollywood. It is the perfect example of what the film industry has degraded to. While visually stunning and scored with striking and emotional music, it lacks any character development at all. None. Zilch. Nada. There is, literally, more character and setting info at the movie's website than there is in the film itself.

Blood is a champion of the Japanese art form of animated film making. It's touted as the first all digital animation product, and the quality of the artistic team shows. The 2D animation is seamlessly blended with the CGI objects that comprise the majority of backgrounds and foreground objects. The sets are wonderfully lit and the use of warm exterior colors exquisitely blanket the surroundings in the soft blanket of a setting Japanese sun. The lip-synching is exceptionally accurate for an animated film produced in a country where, more often than not, the voice track is recorded after the animation is produced. I can't say enough good things about the artistic direction of this film.

None of that makes up for the films appalling lack of story. Even Jerry Bruckheimer would have included more character development. The main character, Saya, is a sultry little number who kills demons with a single blow of her well-crafted sword and refuses to socialize with anyone. She never duels with her opponents and clearly outmatches them in virtually every confrontation. She is particularly agitated by the mention of god. Why? Who knows? Her violent aversion to Christianity is never explained. We are told that she is the "last of the originals." Last of the original what? Who knows? Once again it's never explained. The website would have you believe that she is mixed up somehow with a failed "eternal life" experiment. Something to do with cross-breeding vampires and demons, although the word 'vampire' is never uttered on screen nor is any mention made of this experiment or the nature of vampires in this pretend universe. Unfortunately we are never told if she is the product of this experiment or its genesis.

And what of the setting? It's clear that the story is set on Yokota air base in Japan, but no indication of a time frame is given other than the vehicles used by the characters and seen in the background. Despite the websites claim that the Vietnam conflict is an important background event for the story, it isn't until the very last scene that any mention of Vietnam is made, and even then only in passing. I was left feeling that the setting was relatively unimportant and only existed to provide an excuse for a katana-swinging teenage hottie in a Japanese schoolgirl outfit.

I'm sure very little of this is the fault of the script writer. I'm convinced that whoever came up with the brilliantly original and not at all clichéd idea of a teenage vampire fighting other vampires at the behest of a concerned American government agency had many more brilliant ideas under his/her/demon hat. The film clocked in at 48 minutes and that was simply too long to hold the attention of a generation of Nintendo-buzzed otaku and teenage vampire freaks itching to paint their nails and write poetry about 'darkness.' 48 minutes was just enough time to include all the really important action scenes.

It isn't until the very end of the film that we glimpse a smidgen, nay a dash even, of back story. During a debriefing interview, a witness is asked to identify Saya in a photograph that is labeled '1892' and 'vampire.' Duh-duh duhhh! That's the cliffhanger folks. And then it's over. I was left sifting through the DVD menus believing that, like some other anime I had received, this was simply the first in a series of episodes included on this or another disc. No such luck I'm afraid; this was it, and I felt cheated.

It looked like such a cool flick, and I wanted to like it so much, but I just couldn't. I've gotten more cathartic satisfaction out of a rerun of ALF. I'm not usually one to trash movies. I like just about anything. Hell, I count Hudson Hawk as one of my favorite films. Blood is really bad though, and wouldn't have even made it to video if it hadn't been animated in Japan.

My review, as published on AnimeFu:

I went to the store to pick up a copy of the Akira DVD, and a copy of Blood: The Last Vampire was next to it. I'm not a Vampire-genre fan, but the storyline sounded interesting, and since it was an Oshii film, I figured it would be worth a look.

The first thing I thought when the movie was over was, "Ummm, where's the rest?"

The packaging said it was an 83 minute run-time. Blood ended just after 45 minutes. Digging around the menus and the scene access screens showed nothing to indicate that this was just the first part of the story.

Hopefully, this is not an indication of a shift in the industry. When I see that it's 83 minutes, I expect to see 83 minutes, including credits. If they want to just lump the extras (like the included 21-minute Making Of video) into the running time, this would be a bad trend. Besides, 45 minutes + 21 minutes = 66 minutes, which still does not add up, unless you include the video ads for other Manga titles.

Forty-five minutes does not allow the storyline to develop. The story has merits, but they never come to fruition. It's like coming into a theatre 15 minutes into the movie and leaving 15 minutes before it ends; you can sense that something important is missing, but you can't put your finger on it.

The only reason to buy this DVD is the visuals. The female lead (Saya) is particularly well-done, and the other "hidden" stars of this short are the background images. The CGI was helped by an impressive texture artist. Some of the shots were easy to spot as CGI, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the other shots were not hand-drawn. It can be very difficult to blend traditional with computer, and having a gratuitous CGI scene is as obnoxious as a gratuitous sex or breast scene. The Team did an exceptional job with the blending and the visuals, and this short will be the one remembered in the future as the trend-setter. The bar on visuals have certainly been raised.

Sound-wise, the short was very punchy and clear. The addition of a real score instead of the "J-Pop" tunes really helped to separate Blood from the crowd. The music helped create the moods, and they were non-intrusive. Some other folks didn't like the shifting between Japanese and English; I personally enjoyed it. Since it was a Japanese girl on an American base in Japan, it made sense not to have everyone magically speaking the same language.

The packaging has a picture of Saya on the cover, and it's a bad shot at that. I almost didn't purchase this DVD because I thought it was going to be second-rate animation. Luckily I read the back before putting it down. The menus are OK, but I didn't like the distorted scene access windows. Manga added their typical list of spam to the disc, which may round out the rest of the missing time on the DVD.

This is one of those animes that people will be talking about in the future. You should at least rent it to see the short once. If you're a fan of fine anime visuals, you'll probably want to buy it.

Equipment used when writing this review:
Toshiba DVD, Proscan projection TV, Pioneer sound, Yamaha speakers. Oh, and half a bowl of popcorn (the other half was thrown at the TV when it ended at 45 minutes).

Actually, I think that in the entire movie, everything Roninspoon bemoans, was actually created this way intentionally, IMHO. We see a horror story, with vampires, heavy fighting and horrendous transmutations, with next to no character development, but visually compelling. This all just serves to underline the real horror, which Roninspoon's writeup omits, unveiled only in the last scene, when the credits start rolling, and that is the horror of war:

Let's look closer: We see an US B-52 bomber taking off of Yokota Air Force Base in Japan, it is the Halloween night of 1966. With these visuals, an anchorman is heard talking about an airstrike on Don Hoi in Vietnam in retaliation for an attack on a US base by the Liberation Front. These are the last lines spoken in the film. They can't be there just for fun, so there must be a meaning. What do they mean?

The National Liberation Army was the name the Viet Cong used for themselves. And the bombings described are the escalation point of the Vietnam war, even though Mamoru Oshii took a little liberty with the timing and the location from which these attacks were launched, probably for dramatic reasons. The beginning of the deployment of massive reinforcements and Operation Rolling Thunder. So Oshii suddenly puts the entire anime into a real-life context, a fight between ancient mystical enemies into perspective of one of the most horrible wars in recent history. We just saw slightly more than half an hour of blood and gore, and then, in one minute, memories or stories of the same suffering and pain increased thousandfold, perpetrated not by monsters or mythical creatures, but inflicted by humans upon themselves.

The effect in my eyes is creating a strong, visually compelling image, and then making it all seem irrelevant in the blink of an eye, by hinting at something much worse. Oshii is and always was a great storyteller, and this movie is once more a masterpiece, for he tells one story, compelling and horrifying, by telling another one. I think this is also why the movie is so short: Making it much longer would only pull the viewer further from accepting the fact that the first part is just make-believe. It does not matter whether she is a vampire herself. We do not need monsters, for we are them; The end was no end, it was a beginning...


And for those who still need a proper ending, disliking the choice of the director to put the message above the story, well, you can be happy, as the manga by Benkyo Tamaoki, soon to be published by Viz Comics will indeed continue the story and provide answers for the loose ends left at the end of the movie. Actually set decades after the anime, the ancient race of vampires has faded further into the shadows — while the normal world only seems to become more vicious and inhuman every year. Saya is once again sent out by the shady U.S. governmental organization to track down and eliminate Chiropterans stalking teenage prey. On the way, she will uncover the truth about herself, about the Chiropterans and humanity itself, while a new and horrible danger begins to manifest itself. Good stuff...

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