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From the artwork and animation, to the soundtrack and direction, Blood: The Last Vampire is flawless. The problem with Blood certainly isn't any of these. Instead, Blood's flaw is with what isn't presented.

From the vehicles which some spectators mistook for actual video recording (as opposed to animation) to the elegantly crafted features of Saya and the monstrous Teropterids which could never be mistaken for real, the artwork within Blood is absolutely astounding. Superb animation brings the artwork together, realistic movements and fluid animation are just what you would expect from I.G., and once again they have delivered.

From the first action sequence seconds into the movie to the final showdown Blood is almost all action. The movie slows down only for a few short minutes to give the viewers an idea of just what Saya is doing at the Yokota Base. But herein lies the only flaw in Blood: The Last Vampire; while we know what Saya is doing at Yokota (Hunting Teropterids), we don't know why, we don't know what the Teropterids are, we don't know why Saya works for the US Military (or even if she really does), we don't know anything about Saya or the story itself, and we never find out, not in this movie at least. Mamoru Oshii may be writing a Manga for simultaneous release and Production I.G. may be developing a Playstation 2 game, all of which may or may not explain the missing elements of the story. A feature film should not need external references to complete important aspects of its plot. Blood would have been flawless if the script had been extended somewhat in the middle to further develop the plot and the characters, Saya especially.

Traditionally, regardless of a film's setting, producers have always opted to have all major characters speak the language of the country where the film is to be released. As Blood takes place on a US military base Production I.G. decided to break with tradition, 70% of Blood's original dialogue is recorded in English. The Japanese release of Blood will feature Japanese subtitles during most of the movie. The voice actors, led by internationally renowned actress Youki Kudoh (Snow Falling on Cedars, War and Youth) who plays Saya, complete Blood's production with an excellent performance. From Saya's wrath to the nurse's dim recollection of events the voices always match the mood and the faces of the characters.

Blood is an easy movie to follow, the art, animation, and sound are all well done. The action will appeal to any action movie junkie, but the intellectual movie-goer will not have his/her appetite satisfied. Blood seems more like a filler episode in a series then a feature movie; the missing elements in the script keep this well crafted feature from being the masterpiece it could possibly have been.



In the age of digital animation, it seems anime fans are being treated to a never-ending list of visual feasts. From Ghost in the Shell to Serial Experiments Lain to Final Fantasy, the use of computer animation continues to produce some truly diverse, beautiful, and stunning visual effects. Blood: The Last Vampire continues this trend, offering up some of the best-looking animation in recent memory.

Blood takes place in 1966, shortly before the start of the Vietnam war. Opening on a Japanese subway, we are introduced to Saya, a mysterious sword-toting girl. Saya packs a dark secret, for she hunts Chiropterans, demonic creatures that survive by feasting on the blood of humans. Following a brief skirmish on the subway, her latest assignment takes her to the Yohkoto Air Base, a bustling American military installation. Posing as a student, Saya infiltrates the base and begins her search for the demonic creatures.

Visually, Blood is incredibly stunning. The entire movie was generated with computers, blending traditional cel-style animation with some 3D effects and exceptional backgrounds. Much like Perfect Blue, Blood's characters look far more realistic than in an average anime. This extends to the motion of the characters, which is quite life-like. In the opening sequence, Saya explodes into action so fluidly, I almost forgot I was watching an animated film. The visual qualities of Blood are also quite evident in the background art, which is remarkably detailed in many scenes. Careful attention is paid to light and shadow, and these qualities often generate a chilling atmosphere.

It should also be noted that Blood was originally created with a mixture of English and Japanese dialog. As a matter of fact, a good two-thirds of the dialog is spoken in English. The voice acting is of generally good quality, highlighted by Youki Kudoh, from Snow Falling on Ceders. Some of the minor characters tended to suffer a bit, but since there is only one audio track, fans will have to make due.

In some respects, however, Blood feels rather unfinished. This is evident following the opening scene, after Saya has dispatched a Chiropteran. Two suits come running to greet her, but one claims the person Saya killed was, in fact, an ordinary human. The other says this isn't so, that the creature just hasn't transformed yet. This scene is not even touched on later in the movie, and we never learn whether Saya killed a demon or innocent human, or even if it's significant. Saya later remarks that she is prevented from killing humans, but how or why is never answered. From what I could gather, Blood: The Last Vampire is meant to be the beginning of a franchise explored through sequels, video games, and other mediums. I felt a little disappointed knowing that I would have to look elsewhere for answers to some of the questions this movie posed.

Ultimately, Blood's greatest flaw is its pretentious design towards flash over substance. Character development is fairly non-existant, even for Saya herself. She may be a dark and brooding protagonist, but little is done to expand on her role. Only in the final moments does she demonstrate any variance in her demeanor and the hint that there is more to her than meets the eye. Some might blame the scant running time of 50 minutes as being the problem, hardly the length one would expect for a theatrical feature. Other anime, most notably Kite, have been restricted in this manner, yet still manage to pull off very dramatic stories. I think the real problem with Blood is it lacks any sort of final punch. The ending is lackluster, with no twist or startling revelation. Unless, of course, you count the nurse's reaction to a photo of Saya at the end, but we as an audience already know who and what Saya is. As the credits started to role, I was left with a slightly empty feeling, as though I had just dined on a gourmet feast, but left without having dessert.

In terms of action, atmosphere, and visual beauty, Blood: The Last Vampire succeeds quite admirably. But the lack of a solid plot or engaging characters keeps Blood from becoming an anime classic. Here's hoping the sequel fares a little better.

The Verdict: * * * 1/2 (above average)