Old Review: Blood: The Last Vampire

Blood: The Last VampireIn the year of 1966, a secret American government organisation known as the Red Shield has gotten word that there are blood thirsty bat like creatures who disguise themselves as humans (known as Ciropterans) located near the Yokata Air Base in Japan. Since America is in preparations for war, they want the Ciropterans to be wiped out before they spread. To achieve this mission, they hire Saya, young-looking Japanese with a great use of swords and is believed to be the last original vampire. Saya disguises herself as a high school student to locate the Ciropterans, accidentally getting an innocent school nurse involved, who witnesses a battle probably more fearing then the war that has yet to begin.

Mamoru Oshii, most well known for the Ghost in the Shell franchise, was asked by Production IG to come up with an original storyline for their next film in 1999. Oshii then went to Oshii Jyuku, his personal film-making school, and asked his students to submit ideas. Oshii selected the screenplay written by Kenji Kamiyama, but the idea for Saya’s character came from Junichi Fujisaki. Hiroyuki Kitakubo was selected as the director, and he used Dracula and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as minor influences to the film. While it was unsure what the original length of the film was planned to be, Production IG deliberately put the film length to be 45 minutes long, with the intention to expand the story in light novel and video game series. It premiered in Canada on July 29th 2000, and Australia in August before having its theatrical release in Japan on November 16th 2000.

The animation has flaws. It is highly detailed and smooth, and a great example of Digital animation, but in some areas the animation isn’t as clear or lifelike. I don’t feel like the animation process was rushed, but it lacks effort when it shouldn’t. The worst case appears in this scene at a Halloween party, and when the view fully moves back to see the entire crowed, you can clearly spot several groups of dancers copied in a different area, at a different time frame and played in loop. The effort into this scene is so lazy it was actually fun for me to spot it out, and you need to actually watch it to believe it. (Or you can go here where I have a visual explanation of it: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.230223-Clones-in-Blood-The-Last-Vampire#8013847) Facial expressions are the most detail in animation, and it does help add to the fear overall.

The art style on the other hand is brilliant, especially for this kind of film. It’s dark and somewhat gritty, even in the scenes which take place in daylight or brightly lit rooms, and since this is an action-horror film, it definitely fits the mood of the film.

Sadly there isn’t a lot of music, but the music the film has is brilliant for the film, it’s dark, tense, and in the action heavy scenes very fast paced and thrilling. It’s so brilliant that I’m amazed that the composer, Yoshihiro Ike, hasn’t done much horror stuff before or since. This is the guy that did music for SD Gundam and the Japanese version of Sonic X, action filled but not really dark and tense stuff.

This is actually the only film where I tilted my head at the voice acting; this is because the film does the strangest thing and combines English and Japanese dialogue. In some ways, this makes sense, since the agents of the Red Shield are American, so they would speak English, and members of the Yokota Air Base are American, so they would also speak English. But for some odd reason, students and the staff of the nearby school speak both fluent English and Japanese, and one of the students asks if Saya is a Japanese girl, something kind of stupid to ask when you live in West Tokyo.

Despite this odd script choice, the actors are really good, Youki Kudou (Saya) is mysterious and somewhat intimidating, Saemi Nakamura (the Nurse) is concerning and caring, a perfect opposite to Saya. Not only are they good leads but they can speak proper English. I’m not joking; Kudou and Nakamura are so good in both English and Japanese that I thought they had two voice actors for each role. The other roles are also decent, but they don’t give a good impression when comparison.

The worst thing about this film is obviously the length, and because its 45 minutes long, characters aren’t really well developed, most of them don’t even have names and the epilogue doesn’t really go past a character monologue, it is one of those films which are short but would work if it was twice as long. However, the plot moves at a steady pace, it’s very gripping and even though it’s hard to believe, it feels like the film is longer than the actual length, and I don’t know why.

Despite it being a horror, it is not scary, and since I hate getting scared then it’s OK with me. It is however a tense and nervous experience, with the musical score and dark settings adding to the emotions of the scene, the demons are very threatening and monstrous (especially their transformation sequences), and you really connect with the thoughts going on in the Nurse’s mind, as she walks around the school and air base, trying to defend herself and put all the pieces together of what she has seen.

So overall, Blood: The Last Vampire is a great little horror film that has a great plot, musical score and art, but it isn’t long enough to make a film viewer fully satisfied.

Blood: The Last Vampire is available from Manga Entertainment, a manga adaptation written by Benkyo Tamaoki of the same name is available from Viz Media. Three light-novel adaptations, two by Junichi Fujisaku and one by Mamoru Oshii were all published by Kadokawa, but Oshii’s is the only one released Stateside by Dark Horse Press. A live-action film adaptation released in 2009, directed by Chris Nahon, is available from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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