Blood: The Last Vampire (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus goes to the nurse's office and gets more than he bargained for
Sent to the American Yokota Air Base to investigate strange occurrences that may be in her line of expertise (namely monster killing), Saya (alluded to as ‘the last original’ vampire) goes undercover as a schoolgirl and discovers that creatures known as Chiropterans are feeding off of the school children.
With a Halloween party at the base and an organization behind Saya who are trying to keep these horrific events quiet, Saya hits the monstrous creatures hard and fast but with a school nurse getting in the way and Saya’s lack of a decent sword, killing these Chiropterans proves to be tougher than usual.
For me, Blood: The Last Vampire was the first Production I.G. release that really made me follow their work with enthusiasm. I’d enjoyed Ghost in the Shell, though never really got with the hype for it (that came later with Stand Alone Complex), but with the results produced in Blood I was hooked on where Production I.G. were going to take animation to next.
Clocking in at just shy of fifty minutes, Blood’s visuals hit you immediately and just continue to impress as the movie progresses. The glow of the artwork here and the depth of realism the digital elements provided really made Blood stand out from the crowd back in 2000. The camera moves and digital colour grading made this feel so different to what we were used to in animation and showed the future of animation with an effortless charm.
In 2000 the look of this mini movie was staggering and I’ve got to say that it still is a very high benchmark in the history of anime as well as animation worldwide, even if the technique has been refined in the nine years since. The use of digital animation techniques working alongside traditional hand drawn animation has always seemed the best way forward for me. Disney proved it in spades with Tarzan and Blood is still a fine showcase of what delights can be achieved with the technique as far as I’m concerned.
Blood is not just good looks though, it has a great little story to tell too. Keeping its cards close to its chest rather than explaining every little thing about what Saya is and what she’s doing makes the audience use their knowledge of horror and vampire mythology to draw their own conclusions. This forces the story to come down to the basics. The beasties are a threat and the chick in the school uniform and the sword is the only one who knows how to stop them and Saya bloody rocks at it.
In a world of anime badass, Saya sits pretty close to the top for me. I love how little she has to do here in order to make an impression and love it even more when she does spring into action. The animation techniques at play with her sword fighting sell every swipe and cut with utter intensity and when she breaks the cool, calm and collected exterior for a more frantic and panicked angle, she just becomes a character who I love watching at work.
Blood was one of the best looking DVDs I’d seen from the Manga stable and I was keen to see how it looked in HD. Popping in and starting the movie, I was initially stumped as I couldn’t see any noticeable difference from my memory of the standard definition release, so much so that I made doubly sure I was actually in the HD version of the movie on the disc and not accidentally launched into the standard definition version in the extra features. Once I’d done that, I began to see the enchantments, even though they are not as drastic as I would have liked.
Having my DVD copy running alongside the Blu-ray edition, colours are a lot brighter and the image a lot sharper with blacks a hell of a lot deeper. The glow from the sunbathed surroundings definitely exceeds what was available previously, showing it off as an almost real light source as opposed to an animated effect. Watch as the sun goes down before the Halloween party and how it affects the colour palette or the scene in the burning hanger and how the fire glows off of everything, the upgrade is noticeable even if only slight.
How much of an improvement you’ll have is going to come down to how good your old DVD player is really. Upscaled, Blood always looked amazing and really all this Blu-ray does is further sharpen the image, but you’ll more than likely have to do comparisons of your own before you’ll be convinced of what enchantments you’re actually getting here.
Now here’s where the upgrade becomes a little more noticeable. The DTS-HD track is an atmospheric one, with planes flying overhead, the ominous score creeping in the rear speakers and small sound effects easily pinpointed in their allocated speakers. However when the action ramps up, the track gets a whole lot more aggressive.
By aggressive I mean noticeably louder, almost shockingly so. With the opening telephone rings filling the room and making me turn it down a bit, I immediately had to turn it up again for the dialogue. This trend continues through all of the action scenes. The reveal of the monsters in the nurses office when Saya pulls down medicine cabinets and slices at her attackers gets incredibly loud with the shattering of glass and slamming bass of heavy objects hitting the floor. The scene where the plane is taking off and the Chiropteran is trying to reach it genuinely represents how loud a plane’s engines can get at an airport and while this is all a very impressive attack on the senses it can sometimes be too much of a contrast with the quieter subtle nature of the rest of the track.
Also as a little niggle to add, the subtitles sometimes appear a few moments before someone talks, especially if it’s a voice via a speaker announcement. It doesn't happen a lot, but when it did it bugged me enough to mention it here.
The disc actually has two 1080p versions of the film—one taken from a film source and one from the digital source. The colours and details are slightly better on the digital version and it's a little sharper overall, but there's not a massive difference in the two versions.
The making of (20:52 SD) is the same one that came with the original DVD and a very brief look at what Blood achieves and lastly we get the trailer (01:36 SD), so all in all not a lot.
Blood: The Last Vampire is a still a Manga title that I love to bits. Outside of the fairly hokey voice recordings, there’s nothing I can really fault with it and I regard this short and sweet mini movie as a bit of a milestone in my personal anime favourites.
The upgrade here isn’t breathtakingly different and to many may not even be noticeable without a closer study but this is mainly down to the fact that it always looked pretty bloody good on DVD anyway and as far as I know hasn’t had a specific clean up job done on it for its HD debut. That said, there is a step up in quality and fans will probably get a kick out of.
The only real downside here is the high price point of £18 or more. Blood was always overpriced on DVD (especially considering its runtime) and that trend seems to have continued onto Blu-ray. So taking into account that this slight albeit noticeable upgrade is nothing revolutionary, you may want to hold off for the sales for this one.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 12th October 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD 5.1 English, PCM 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Alternate Version, Making of, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Cast: Youki Kudoh, Saemi Nakamura, Joe Romersa
Genre: Action, Animation and Horror
Length: 48 minutes
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