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BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (BLU-RAY)
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Hiroyuki Kitakubo

Starring:
Youki Kudoh
Saemi Nakamura
Joe Romersa
Rebecca Forstadt

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

Japan, 1966. On a subway train to Asuka, a young woman named Saya ruthlessly butchers a man in their deserted car. She did it on orders of the U.S. government. She is a vampire, the last "Original," hunting demons known as chiroptera who live amongst humans. Flash forward to the Yokota military base, where the U.S. is setting up for their fight in Vietnam. Three demons have infiltrated a school next to the base, and it's Saya's objective to weed out the demons by any means possible before they snack on the troops.

Is it good movie?

Anime hasn't exactly been a 'must-have' for me. It's just never done much for me as a genre. At the same time, though, it'd be foolish of me to not recognize some of the great anime films that I've seen, such as GHOST IN THE SHELL. BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE is another great anime that doesn't need to do much begging to get noticed. In fact, it doesn't beg at all. Instead it lets its assets grab your attention by the balls almost immediately.

Just like GHOST IN THE SHELL, BLOOD oozes copiously as a visual feast. And why not? Director Hiroyuki Kitakubo was one of the artists who worked on the CG for AKIRA. Be it the CG or hand-drawn cell animation, the film is gorgeous, as is the way both mediums are blended together. Everything from the characters to the environments is silky smooth and appropriately convincing. On top of that, the way the film captures the frenetic action with such precision smoothness at times, it's as if the animation was rotoscoped from live-action footage!

For such a brief movie (clocking in at 48 minutes), we still get a sense of what type of character we have in Saya. Not only visually, but aurally, as well. The character's stone-faced expressions and blunt dialogue help reinforce the idea of her being a tough, take-no-sh*t mofo, while at the same time underscoring her ability to dole out punishment. On the flipside of things, the character of Nurse Amano, despite being on the annoying side and doing nothing more than scream and panic, could be seen as a representation of the audience. Her being scared out of her wits and unable to comprehend what's going on could be seen as a vehicle for the audience expressing their own confusion and fear. This talk of confusion leads to the film's weakness.

In spite of carrying the story through to its conclusion, the 48 minute runtime had me frustrated at the lack of background information. The dude Saya offed at the start of the film, for example. Was he really a chiroptera? What exactly is the motive of these demons, anyway? Why is Saya working on behalf of the U.S. government? But most irritating of all, what is Saya's story, other than being the last 'original'? By all indications, there was supposed to be a sequel, but things just never got off the ground in film form.

Despite the painfully obvious need for closure, BLOOD is still a blast to watch. Short but sweet, and visually captivating both in terms of animation and action, this is one that deserves viewing by both horror and anime fans alike. While the voice-acting in spots may be a little rough, and the lack of any sort of background information on Saya and the chiroptera is frustrating, this comes across as one that you can easily jump into.

Video / Audio

Video: Presented in 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen, this transfer of BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE sparkles (sorry). The transfer boasts some great colour reproduction and great detail, as well as being sharp. The natural film grain is present but is entirely unobtrusive. There were a few spots where print damage got the best of it, but those are few and far between.

Audio: Likewise, the English/Japanese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is equally impressive. Loud, aggressive, and a lot of fun, the film certainly gives the sound system a workout. Great use of directionals (notably during the subway sequence), as well as some truly immersive ambient effects (like the classroom) make this disc a no-brainer to demonstrate your system setup's potential. Since the dialogue is a mix of English and Japanese, there are forced subtitles for the latter when it arises.

The Extras

The decision to release this film on Blu-Ray in time for a certain (inferior) vampire flick is obvious. The lack of any real new extras is also an indication.

First is the Alternate Digital Data version of the film, which boasts cleaner and more vivid visuals. Those in love with the natural film grain of the Telecine transfer will be dismayed to learn that all traces of grain have been removed, as has a bit of the cinematic feeling. Still, this is one good-looking extra.

Next up is the 20-minute Making-of Blood: The Last Vampire featurette that was on the old Manga DVD release. Presented in a Standard Definition 1.33:1 Letterboxed transfer, this isn't exactly in-depth as those who are itching for more background info on Saya would like. There's instead a focus on the conceptualization and animation process, as well as showing how they incorporated computer-generated imagery into the illustrated animation. It's still interesting, but it still feels like we're missing stuff.

Finally, there's the film's theatrical trailer, presented in 1.33:1 SD.

Last Call

Not only a great example of anime, but a great vampire film to boot, BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE hits Blu-Ray with a great transfer and excellent audio track. While having the film's Digital Data version is nice, the ported extras simply don't cut it. It'd be nice if the film finally got a definitive edition on Blu-Ray, but until that happens, this is a worthy upgrade to the old DVD version.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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