Blood: The Last Vampire

Blood: The Last Vampire (2001)

Vampire fiction often brings an erotic sub-text along with the horror but Blood: The Last Vampire focuses on the dread. Not only because here, our vampire is a fury-filled avenger, but because the creatures she hunts are more like demons, perhaps. And not handsome ones, either.

Still, whichever name these bat-like fiends have, they’re to be hunted, and it’s up to Saya to do so. She’s sent into an air base and the nearby school for her hunt, posing as a student in part for maximum costume effect, I think. (Not in a fan-service way, but more to contrast between the look of a typical victim and hunter).

(In a different vampire story, Saya would probably be a first victim and then a villain – but this is more of a Buffy approach).

Anyway, getting back to this story; I loved every minute and was disappointed that the following ‘Blood’ movies and shows are not particularly related.

But if you like the genre and you find this OVA somewhere, then I reckon what you’ll be watching is bit of a seminal work.

For me it is, anyway.

Or maybe that’s just my tendency to lift up something that I probably first saw in high school as a paragon (as can be all too easy to do)… but either way, Blood: The Last Vampire seems like a masterclass in lighting alone.

The whole thing is quite cinematic, really. The CGI too, is incredible, especially considering the release date of 2000. Now, lately I’ve been taking shots at older CGI left, right and centre, and sure, you’ll see a few moments here and there that don’t seem perfect, but the team must have worked so, so hard on those visual elements.

Like other examples of the genre, this short film is very much set in ‘night’ and the shadows reflect that, but it’s not an inky mess of low-key lighting that will have you squinting for detail; there’s plenty to see and heaps of variety in colour too, including a great, sickly green at times.

What also had me transfixed, aside from tantalising hints about Saya’s past, was the setting, both the time period and the location. I can’t say I’ve seen many anime films or series set in a US air base on Japanese soil, on the eve of the Vietnam War in 1966. During Halloween, no less!

In terms of the plot, there was at least one little twist that I didn’t see coming, and I thought it was pretty perfect. Aside from the visuals, what I remember most at this moment, is how sullen, angry and cold Saya is. And yeah, that’s a pun that I could have avoided 😀

But I bring her disposition up because I was interested to see whether (or to what extent) she’d warm to poor Amino, the school nurse who is, to some extent, as much a main character as Saya herself.

Connected to their reasonably brief time together is the realisation that Blood: The Last Vampire is definitely a prologue. It was envisioned as the first in a three-part tale, but perhaps because Sony was involved with Production I.G for the funding and production, the rest of the story is made up of sequel video games (and a manga too).

Having said that, this is a self-contained OVA with a resolution, but it very clearly sets up expectations and interesting hints, and functions as an excellent first bite of a longer story. And yeah, again – I couldn’t help myself with the silly pun!

5 Stars

(With an eye to please international audiences, this film has a lot of English audio and not a whole host of subtitles, also allowing some of the cast to show skills in both languages 😀 )

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito)

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito) 2007

I suspect some folks would have felt that Moribito was a slow series but I’m pretty comfortable dismissing that notion – character development doesn’t equal ‘slow’ for me 😀

In fact, there are plenty of fight sequences and interesting magic too, along with enough secrets and character conflict to keep things engaging all the way through. By the end, I found myself pretty disappointed that the second novel hadn’t been animated too, actually.

Should you end up hunting this one down, I think it’ll be clear that series is adapted from a story written by a novelist – as the overarching storyline, sub-plots and character development are all handled so well. Having said that, I would have loved a bit more time spent on a few characters but that’s the nature of switching mediums – some things have to be changed.

But there’s a whole lot to compensate: the beautiful colour palette used throughout, the vaguely familiar ‘historical’ setting and costuming, the music which was equally stirring and haunting, and some really sleek battles too.

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to really remember scenes that feature somewhat lesser known weapons, and here in this case, the spear fighting really caught my eye, it seemed like a perfect mix of drama and realism.

And though Moribito features a female lead don’t expect fan-service – Balsa is more like a mix between stern warrior and parent-figure, one who undergoes some soul-searching about her role in life as she strives to protect the runaway prince.

Watch this if you’re interested in a historical action/drama anime with supernatural elements and a pretty moving story – especially that ending.

5 Stars

The Napping Princess (Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari)

The Napping Princess (Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari) 2017

This film was sweet and at times exciting, with great character design and some distinctive performances too (especially from Mitsuki Takahata) but overall the split storylines introduced a bit of murkiness for me.

Perhaps related to this, the tone seemed to move in an out of ‘younger viewers’ territory.

I’m certainly not claiming that films aimed at kids are bad – at all – it’s just that The Napping Princess maybe could have done a little more to show consequences of some of the big, city-wide events.

On the other hand, no matter your age, if want something that looks great and is full of cute moments and fun characters, then I think this will satisfy. It was interesting to have a car company take centre stage here too, something I haven’t seen over and over.

It probably sounds like I didn’t enjoy The Napping Princess but that’s not so, it’s just that for me it was ‘good’ but not a ‘knock-out’ and maybe I went in with some assumptions that unfairly impacted my overall enjoyment.

3 Stars