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BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Youki Kudoh
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo 
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dol
by Surround (English)
Video:  1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Subtitles:  English 
Studio:  Manga
Features:  See Review
Length:  44 minutes
Release Date:  August 28, 2001

“Don’t you ever piss her off again!” 
“But…”
“No buts!  As far as we know, she’s the only remaining original!

“Original…?”
 

Film ***1/2

Blood: The Last Vampire is a hard movie to rate.  Should it be judged for the enjoyment it provides as a blood soaked anime that keeps the viewer wide eyed for the duration, in the same company as films like From Dusk ‘Till Dawn?  Or rather, should it be criticized for raising more questions than answers before its short forty-three minutes are up?

With its short running time, its often violent nature (well, what would anyone expect out of a film with “blood” in the title? Obviously some is going to spill before the credits roll), and finally its confusing and unapologetically Kubrick-like conclusion, this film will easily find its detractors. 

It is October 1966 in Vietnam.  Even though a conflict is soon to begin that will rage into a full-scale war, a secret US organization’s biggest worry in the area is not the V.C. who will soon overrun them, but rather the demons that walk within their base.  Their only weapon is Saya, a world-weary girl of mysterious origins, who mercilessly hunts the “triopterates” down with an old samurai sword. 

True, the film is not for everyone, but that didn’t stop me from sitting wide-eyed through every moment of it.  Would I have liked it to be longer?  Sure, but only because I enjoyed the world and characters that are quickly revealed and withdrawn, like a magician showing you a trick, only to pull it away before it loses its charm. 

In all fairness, the film is merely a glimpse into its world, nothing more, nothing less.  As such, its material should be studied more for its art and style than for a thorough plot development.  In those terms, the film was a knockout.

Video ****

As advertised, Blood: The Last Vampire’s claim to fame is its mixing of digital backgrounds and images among animation.  Needless to say, this is a transfer that might have gone horribly wrong.  Thankfully, Manga has not let their fans down.  This is a state of the art transfer that performs well throughout. 

The blending of the computer and animation worlds have come a long way since Disney’s Beauty and The Beast and Aladdin brought the pairing of the two formats to the forefront.  As most of the film takes place in the night, the blacks are usually deep and rich, colors are bright and crisp throughout; especially the…you guessed it, blood, which deep red hue seems to splatter everywhere during the course of the film.  All in all, this is quite the respectable transfer, bravo!

Audio ****

I just can’t say enough about this track from Manga.  This is a reference quality track, to say the least.  From the first moments to the last, the viewer is assaulted with a barrage of sound that I would have only expected from a full throttle action extravaganza.  Sounds pan side-to-side, back to front, and envelop the room through a blending of music, screams, explosions, and swords slicing through the air. 

This is especially noticeable in the opening, where a subway car careens loudly over the tracks, sending sound throughout all the speakers and dousing the room with deep bass.  This is arguably one of the most engrossing tracks I’ve ever heard (next to the DTS version of U-571), especially for an anime. 

Supplements ***

A quite detailed “Making of Blood: The Last Vampire,” is included.  It offers an extensive amount of information about the project and how certain problems are overcome and implemented (like the film’s incredible mixing of digital effects and traditional animation).  Included as well are the film’s trailer, a small photo gallery, and the typical Manga trailers and catalogue info.   

Summary:

While certainly not for everyone, this somewhat gory film is definitely worth checking out (to buy or rent) if you’re a fan of anime.  With a reference quality transfer and audio mix, and an in depth documentary, Blood: The Last Vampire, is hard not to recommend.