Voice Cast – Nana Mizuki, Kenji Nojima, Ai Hashimoto
Directed by Naoyoshi Shiotani
Back in 2000 a company called Production I.G. was looking for an original concept and a chance to use completely digital animation. The result was a brisk 45-min feature called Blood: The Last Vampire. Production I.G. is now a household name amongst anime fans, having created such works as Ghost in the Shell, FLCL, Blood+, and The End of Evangelion. However, the Blood franchise seems to have a life of its own. Up until 2012 there have been feature films (animated and live action), an animated TV series called Blood+, another called Blood-C, video games, and probably other incarnations of the sword wielding schoolgirl named Saya that I’m forgetting about. With CLAMP, an all-female manga/anime company, in charge of the characters and story, Blood-C: The Last Dark was one of my most anticipated films of Fantasia 2012. Saya is back on the big screen, but this time for a whopping 106 minutes, surely enough time to flesh out an exciting story without skimping on the bloody action that the franchise is known for.
I have a little problem with Blood that I should disclose. For some reason it seems that many popular anime franchises constantly reboot or re-imagine the series, often keeping many of the elements and characters the same, but changing others in the process. I have personally seen Blood: The Last Vampire, and Blood+, the 50 episode TV series. I absolutely adored both of those versions of Blood, but I have not seen the Blood-C television Series. As a result, I have a very hard time keeping the stories and characters straight in my head. I’m sure it’s easy for hardcore Blood fans, but personally it just makes my brain do somersaults.
Riding home on the subway late at night, a young woman named Mana is abducted by the ultimate crazy subway passenger, a blood thirsty creature called an Elder Bairn. Forunately for Mana, a strange girl with a deadly sword named Saya follows the creature and Mana to the top of a skyscraper where Saya displays some serious skills with her blade, dispatching the Elder Bairn in effortless and bloody fashion. However, Mana and Saya don’t even have time for introductions as humans from an organization called Tower pursue them with far from friendly intentions. After a furious car chase, Saya and Mana find themselves at the home of a wealthy man who is the head of a secret organization combating Tower. We learn that Mana is already a part of this small group of young hackers, and that the members of the secret group share a common goal with Saya, the destruction of the man in charge of Tower. Saya is quickly enlisted as their ultimate weapon.
From the suspense, horror, and action of the opening abduction scene in the movie, I thought I was in for something very special. I think that the familiar subway scene may have played out in Blood+ or one of the Blood video games, so it may not have been totally original, but the fluidity of the animation was incredibly impressive. Also the edge of your seat action which starts inside the subway cars and ends high in the sky was exactly why anime is made for the big-screen. Other action scenes throughout the film are also exciting, but they are too few and far between and never again reach the near-perfection of the opening scene.
Like many anime projects these days, Blood-C appears to be a combination of hand-drawn and computer animation. The computer animation looks like a high quality cut-scene from a video game and is mainly used to render vehicles, from cars to a helicopter. I think I may be a purist in that I prefer my anime to be drawn by a hand, but the computer animation was tolerable more often than it was not. However, the last action sequence of the movie was largely computer animation and really cheapened the finale when it could have been so much more. Another issue that seems to be plaguing all kinds of genre films, not only Blood-C, was the uninspired creature design. I realize that not everyone can have the imagination of a Miyazaki or Katsuhito Ishii (Redline’s writer), but many creature designs these days seem so ho-hum that it is becoming embarrassing.
Despite some great animation and action scenes, Blood-C: The Last Dark really became a huge let down for me. Perhaps I was expecting too much, but I think so much more could have been done in those 106 minutes. I’ll always be a fan of Saya, this movie has not deterred me. Maybe fans of the Blood-C television series will have a more rewarding time with this one than I did.
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