Review by: Edward Zacharias
Publisher: Sony Studios
Running Time: 124 minutes
Release Date: March 4, 2008
Having been a big fan of the 2000 action/horror anime film Blood: The Last Vampire, it has come as a pleasant surprise to receive the first volume of Blood + in the mail. You see, the film (which came first, of course) introduced anime fans to Saya … a very unique girl who was contracted by a secret organization to rid the world of vampire-like creatures known as Chiroptera. It was a tale filled with mystery (Saya’s past plays a big role) and good old-fashioned bloody violence and so it was no surprise that the movie inspired Junichi Fujisaku (best known for the novelization of The Last Vampire as well as masterminding the entire Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series) to direct the anime series brought to us by Sony Studios, Production I.G. and Aniplex.
For those who have seen The Last Vampire, Blood + takes the familiar theme, the same monsters and even a few of the characters yet rearranges them to fit the series. The first volume contains the first five episodes from the series and basically introduces the major players in what will be a much bigger picture later on in the series. The first episode, called “First Kiss” finds Saya Otonashi living in present day Okinawa with her adopted father George Miyagusuku and his sons Kai and Riku. The problem is that Saya has no recollection of her past or who she really is and for reasons she’s not sure of she also receives blood transfusions as an anemic.
While living in Okinawa, though, Saya can’t help but feel as though she doesn’t belong. Even when her slightly older brother Kai tells her that Saya is part of them and a major component of their little family, she just doesn’t feel like she fits in at all. These feelings soon become a realization when Saya heads to her high school in the late evening to pick up her gym shoes she forgot and encounters the vampiric creature known as a Chiroptera. To make matters worst, the unusual fellow that was playing the cello comes to her aid with a katana he insists is hers to use against the monster. Revealing himself as Haji, he feeds her his own unique blood that awakens the inner vampire slayer in Saya.
The events seen in the first episode, however, don’t really propel the main story much further because Saya still can’t make heads or tails of what just happened. We simply learn that Haji is what is known as a chevalier – a sort of protector. He’s also clearly not of the human persuasion … or at least he was up until a certain point. Having witnessed the death of the Chiroptera by the hands of his sister, Kai still doesn’t let a confused Saya feel like an outsider in the second episode “Magic Words.”
In the meantime, however, George is confronted by a man simply known as David (who is a younger and more dashing-looking version of the David in The Last Vampire). David, it seems, is a member of the secret organization known as the Red Shield, and has been keeping a close eye on Saya for quite awhile. Sensing that his time for caring for Saya is almost over (in the third episode), George takes Saya to a family grave where he drops a huge bomb on poor Saya. I won’t spoil the secret for those who didn’t see The Last Vampire and know it already but it’s huge enough that Saya is left mentally devastated.
Then things change for the small family in the fourth episode that finally pushes the story forward. An old friend of George has been turned into a Chiroptera and attacks him to the point that George is mortally wounded. Unfortunately, Saya doesn’t react despite Haji presence and the result is the hot-blooded Kai search to put a bullet into the creature. Really, it is in this episode that we finally get a sense of who the major characters (like Mao who, incidentally, we’ll be seeing again many episodes later) are as well as meet David’s partners Lewis and Doctor Julia Silverstein.
In the fifth and final episode of this first volume, an episode titled “Beyond the Dark Forest,” Saya comes to trust the members of Red Shield and she, along with Kai and their younger brother Riku attempt to rescue their father from a government facility that is keeping him under observation. I won’t spoil the ending but it is here were Saya and her two brothers’ lives will change. It is here where the story really takes off and despite its rather slow and bumpy start it’s an indication of the epic battle that will unfold in later episodes. Where do the Chiroptera come from and who is Van Argiano? What does a company called Cinq Fleches Group have to do with the American military? These are all questions the last few episodes introduce and will no doubt have viewers salivating for more.
The disc itself isn’t chock full of extra, in fact, there aren’t any. Still, the video transfer is simply Ok and the sound quality very decent. There’s also an excellent English dub cast that includes great performances by Kari Wahlgren as Saya and Crispin Freeman as Haji. The Japanese voice acting for the series is my personal favorite since Eri Kitamura really stood out in the role of Saya so you really can’t go wrong with both versions. Even the soundtrack is amazing. My biggest gripe has to be the video quality that could have been a tad better seeing as this series has some really beautiful animation.
In the end, Blood +: Volume One will surely be a welcome addition to your anime collection. It’s a mature-minded show to be sure and it’s appropriately bloody even in the first few episodes of the show. While these first five episodes are a bit slow side and there’s too much setup in the first three episodes, you will find yourself deeply involved with its mystery and characterization. It’s a series that not only gets better and better but it’s also a truly epic tale that will sure to please fans of the movie or anyone who loves a good vampire tale.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
The series doesn’t pick up until the fourth and fifth episodes and there’s a slow build up as Saya comes to realize who she is and why she doesn’t feel at home with her adopted family. Still, the series has some gorgeous animation that really stands out.
VIDEO QUALITY: 8/10
It’s crisp and it looks good but you can’t help but feel that it could have been better. The 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio fills the screen nicely enough.
AUDIO QUALITY: 9/10
The sound comes out wonderfully in this volume and you’ll be thankful for that seeing as the voice acting in both the Japanese and English dub are really good. The music is also superb with a great opening and closing theme song.
There’s no extras to speak of besides the option to pick Japanese or English audio. A small featurette about the differences between the movie and the series would have been nice. Wouldn’t you like to know how a fit American black man named Lewis (The Last Vampire) became a fat and bald Jamaican named Lewis in Blood +? I know I would.
Blood+: Volume One is an amazing and original series and the first five episodes in this first volume clearly demonstrate that completely. While it’s slow in building up the main story, there’s just a lot to love about these episodes that you will definitely find yourself happily awaiting the arrival of the next five episode to see what happens next. It’s a mature, action-packed series and one that will not fail to make a fan out of you as well.