As long as I watch anime, there're two things that never cease to amaze me:
- how a team of talented and experienced people with huge budget in their hands can still produce a terrible show;
- and how drastically the public reception of a certain anime may differ from one's opinion.
Blood: The Last Vampire is a brilliant example of these paradoxes. First, let's examine some data concerning this anime:
- based on a manga by Mamoru Oshii, who hopefully doesn't need any introduction;
- made by Production I.G, one of the most prominent anime studios;
- awarded the Grand Prize at Japan Media Arts Festival by a very competent committee with an excellent taste for anime;
- finally, received very well by the audience in Japan & abroad with dozens of positive comments and reviews. Some even create a cult of this little movie and call it "the best vampire anime ever".
Hope, I haven't forgotten anything.
Now, when you know all that, imagine those multiple facepalms I had while watching this piece of "art". Believe it or not, this show is totally worthless. The reason is simple: the movie delivers nothing except for animation, which is also not as top-notch as many people claim.
As you could've already heard or read from the synopsis, the story tells about Saya - the last true vampire who works for CIA, and how she and two of her colleagues head to an American base in Japan where vampires appeared and killed several people. The story takes place on Halloween, and there's a party in the school at the base. Vampires are there, and Saya must exterminate them. That's the premise, and while it may be not particularly mind-blowing, it still sounds not bad.
Yet as the show goes on you realize that the movie doesn't deliver in any aspect it possibly could:
- it has almost no action. Saya performs 4 kills for the whole movie, and each is executed with one slash of her katana. In other words, there're no actual fights in this show: 4 slashes of katana and one unimpressive chase is all the action you get here;
- it fails as thriller because in order to thrill someone you need amazing and sudden plot twists; anime like Kaiji and Perfect Blue are great examples of that. However, the plot here is plain and straightforward as much as it could possibly be;
- it fails as horror because we see only one person getting killed by vampire for the whole movie. So, not only it's primitive & predictable when it comes to plot - even the shock factor is way too low to qualify for horror;
- it has almost no mystery like searching for those vampires or figuring out who of these people are vampires. It takes very little time and doesn't count as any sort of investigation;
- it doesn't feature any interesting ideas or thought material because the story is totally empty, shallow & predictable, as already mentioned above.
Besides, the movie feels torn out of context as it starts in the middle of nowhere and lacks any backstory to explain numerous plotholes, like why Saya works with humans, why she is the last real vampire, what the difference is between her and those vampires she annihilates, what those vampires tried to accomplish or, if they simply preyed on humans, why they had to infiltrate a military base instead of hunting in a city. Of course, one might say that the movie is a mere trailer for the Blood+ series and it doesn't have to explain everything, however: a) I can't recall a trailer getting festival prizes and a huge following; b) even the shortest story should have a proper beginning and conclusion, and not something starting and ending in the middle of nowhere.
Also, there's a totally illogical moment that occurs when the last of those vampires flies away and Saya chases it in a car: why on earth couldn't it rise at least 2 metres higher in the air to avoid getting hit by Saya?! Seriously, that moment looks so WTF and lame as if the people who scripted the action sequence had never done it before.SPOILER END
On top of everything, the show is crowned with an ending scripted by Captain Obvious himself, where the major revelation and the only plot twist awaits us: the main character... turns out to be a vampire! However, even if you didn't read the synopsis and never heard of Blood+, Saya's nature is so blatantly hinted from the very beginning that you would understand it anyway long before the ending.
Overall, the scriptwriters' logic is a complete enigma to me because I still struggle to understand how they planned to deliver anything with a story like that. What's even more enigmatic, plenty of reviewers call it "a classic action plot". In my opinion, "a classic action plot" sounds more like Ninja Scroll or Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust i.e. you get lots of exciting action and simple, comprehensible story with some drama and a bunch of crazy things thrown in for the additional effect. Here, the story is almost devoid of action, drama, mystery and other aspects that could possibly attract the viewer, and it has some major plotholes on top of that. Why do people like it? Again, that's a huge mystery to me.
No doubt, the quality of animation is great in many aspects: the camera work is incredible, the light effects and reflections are simply fantastic, and the backgrounds & surroundings are quite impressive too. However, things start literally getting ugly when it comes to characters:
- ugly faces. Seriously, even Akira characters look better than these guys. And nothing warrants that artistic decision;
- drawn character figures over 3D surroundings. That rarely looks good, and in this movie it looks plainly bad, especially when the characters move;
- and they move like robots, which is a typical problem with Production I.G anime.
Put that all together, and you get the conclusion: the quality of art and animation is awful when it comes to characters and great when it has to do with everythig else.
Also, I can't help but mention the excessive amount of colour black in this movie: everything is black, from the backgrounds and surroundings to characters' clothes and even lips. Perhaps, the creators thought the more black you use the more sinister the anime feels, yet it only turns out extremely gloomy and rather difficult to watch because sometimes you can't even tell what's going on the screen. So, the whole thing looks like another not very clever artistic decision.
The problems continue in the sound section:
- first, the soundtrack is absolutely generic. You won't remeber a single melody after watching;
- still, it could work if it created the right atmosphere and pushed your emotional buttons, but here comes the second problem: the soundtrack is muted for the most part, as if they refrain from using it. Consequently, the OST leaves no impression as it is generic and almost non-existent;
- on top of that, the movie features one of the worst examples of voice-acting I ever heard: the speech is absolutely colourless and mechanic, devoid of semantic emphasis and pauses. It totally fails at conveying emotions, especially when the characters speak English. In fact, they sound almost like some translator program when you type in a text and push "Play". So, the characters not only move like robots, but also talk like them.
Perhaps, the weakest part of the movie:
- first, we have Saya, who is a pathetic attempt at creating a strong female lead: instead, they made her a cold ugly bitch acting rudely towards the people around. The only time she acts in a more or less humane way is in the end of the movie after she kills the last vampire. Before that, she evokes no sympathy at all;
- then, we have the school nurse who is a totally generic character yet she at least makes an impression of a human being;
- and then, we have all other people including Saya's companions who make an impression of nothing but talking dummies.
All in all, no personalities, no character development and no backstory because the movie is torn out of context. Now, add the horrendous character designs, robotic movements, colourless voice acting and incredibly primitive B-movie dialogues, and you'll get an awful characterization even for a 100% action flick.
This anime is so remarkably empty and flawed in every aspect that it hardly warrants any recommendation even to those who like B-movies and mindless action. In fact, I'm still wondering how a studio like Production I.G could've made something like that. Perhaps, the animators were replaced with zombies, monkeys or some computer generating random ideas, but we'll never know the truth. What I do know, however, is that I could recommend you some shows instead of this movie:
- those of you interested in vampires should check Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Kigeki;
- those of you looking for a dark thriller should look for Kaiji and Perfect Blue;
- and those of you who want some quality horror should try Berserk and Mononoke (not to be confused with Ghibli's Princess Mononoke which is also a fantastic anime).