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Blood: The Last Vampire

Blood: The Last Vampire is the theatrical anime installment of Production I.G. and Team Oshii's multimedia Blood franchise. The franchise spans (at the present) three novels (one written by Mamoru Oshii), two Playstation 2 games, some manga, the short feature film Blood: The Last Vampire, and an upcoming anime sequel to the first film. Unfortunately, only the Blood anime (which is only 48 minutes long) has been brought over to America, so most Western fans are left in the dust when it comes to a little thing called story and character development. The anime, released after some of the other Blood merchandise, does not spend much time telling the viewer what's going on, and the film comes across as shallow eye candy as a result. But what sweet candy it is.

The gist of the plot in a sentence: mysterious, brooding Japanese girl hunts down and kills vampires with her katana in a U.S. military base in Japan on Halloween during the Vietnam era. It sounds simple and it is, although I suspect the other Blood merchandise might add depth to the movie's more opaque scenes.

Technically, the standards for mixing 2D cel and 3D computer animation have been raised to a new level with this movie. The integration of the traditional and high-tech elements is smooth, the "camera movements" very natural, and the art nothing short of breathtaking. On the audio end, the anime takes a bold step forward by having characters speak their native language: Americans speak English, Japanese people speak Japanese, and the main character, Saya (voiced by Youki Kodou of Snow Falling on Cedars), moves from one language to the other with ease. This professional approach to language was a breath of fresh air, and is something I would like to see more often. Blood also contains a moody ambient soundtrack that does more to develop the "horror movie feeling" than the goriest of the film's visuals; composer Yoshihiro Ike clearly knows that the most effective soundtracks are subtle ones, and his score helps make Blood a shining example of horror anime.

Verdict

The movie has a very short runtime and seems rather shallow without the rest of the franchise to fill in the gaps; it is also one of the most entertaining and technically impressive horror offerings you'll find. Highly recommended if you like horror or appreciate the art and technique of animation.

Blood links