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STUDIO Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME 124 Minutes
Another bland anime. Blanime?
Junichi Fujisaku, Chizu Hashii, Koji Tanaka, Mark Mancina
The battle continues in Blood+ Volume Four, more adventures as Saya Otonashi battles the evil Chiropterans! A normal high school student who suffers from amnesia, her destiny is partially revealed when a stranger presents her with a katana. Soon she finds herself fighting Chiropterans – ravenous creatures that can change their form, disguising themselves as human beings. An organization called the Red Shield has been waging a private war to wipe them out. They travel to Ekaterinburg during the continued struggle, but no one’s safe.
I fell out of love with anime TV shows about a decade ago. They all began to look alike, sound alike, and share the same tropes. They all had tie-in mangas and feature films. Eventually the sheer number of shows began to overwhelm me, and I just checked out. I still loved some of the big animated features, mostly stuff from Studio Ghibli. But I really hadn’t watched a bona fide anime series in a long time.
Blood: The Last Vampire was a 50-minute film released in 2000, and it has spawned a large multimedia franchise. There are several manga series, several novels, a live action film, and two animated TV shows. Blood+ is one of those shows.
Blood+ was successful enough to become a franchise unto itself, with several manga adaptations and couple of video games. That’s one of my complaints about anime and manga culture: most things are an adaptation of a spinoff of a remake. There’s an extreme lack of originality. I suppose we’re doing the same thing in the US with Marvel and DC franchises, but I can at least tell the difference between Iron Man and Batman.
Blood+ isn’t bad, but it really doesn’t do anything to separate itself from the hundreds of other teen-oriented anime shows. It falls prey to the same tropes that have already beaten to death. Saya is an amnesiac with a violent past (like Vash from Trigun), who is attempting to deal with her inherently violent nature (similar to Rurouni Kenshin). A monster shows up in nearly every episode for our heroes to vanquish (like in Bubblegum Crisis). There’s a character who always has a coffin on his back (like in Gungrave).
One thing that Blood+ has going for it is the quality of its animation. This series looks pretty nice, with a slightly desaturated color palette and soft, atmospheric lighting. The character designs are pretty traditional, but it’s easy enough to tell the characters apart. The most unique designs are the horse-faced vampiric monsters, which vaguely remind me of Zuul from Ghostbusters.
Another good thing about Blood+ is the soundtrack. Composed by Mark Mancina and produced by Hans Zimmer, the music is very string-heavy, and well composed.
The weirdest thing about Blood+ is the show’s tone. Even with all the blood and monsters, it never feels like horror. It’s not terribly dramatic, so it never feels like a drama. It’s not terribly funny, so I don’t think it’s comedy. Blood+ is never enough of one thing, and it doesn’t ever feel like it has a thematic statement to make. It’s just another anime series in a crowd of thousands just like it.
Volume 4 of Blood+ contains episodes 16-20, which center around a plot arc that mostly takes place in Russia. The first episode on the disc ends with a nice, bloody action beat on a train in Siberia, but is otherwise pretty quiet. The second episode is intriguing, but ends up being a confusing flashback.
The next two episodes are pretty strong, featuring a trip to Chernobyl and a big reveal about Saya’s true nature. There are some snowy showdowns in these episodes that look great.The last episode on the disc is a misfire, since it’s not Saya-centric, and takes place mostly in France.
I can’t say that anime has changed much over the past decade. There’s more CGI, so animators can move the camera more freely, and that can be nice. The animation is certainly cleaner, and will most likely age well. Unfortunately, it’s still rare that a series will have a truly unique visual style.
The five episodes are presented in full screen, and the image quality is really soft. The softness I think is a conscious choice, but I think the mid-tone contrast could’ve been increased to improve sharpness. The disc has two stereo audio tracks: Japanese and an English dub. I prefer to stick with the original Japanese audio track, and I’m pleased to report that it sounds fine. There are no special features to speak of.