Blood: The Last Vampire is my second Japanimation in as many days. Blood is a cinematic feature that runs just over 45 minutes long. In Japan, this would be akin to a movie-of-the-week, since animation is considered a movie art form there, not just another weekend morning cartoon show as it is here in America.
Using a combination of matte painting, CGI animation, and traditional cell animation, Blood tells the story of Saya, a vampire that, as the title states, is the last of her kind. Saya is permanently trapped in the body of a 16-year old girl, but has the soulful eyes of a 100-year old vampire. She’s tough, she’s hell on wheels with a sword, and she’s been killing demons for the United States Government for a while now, as evidenced by her partnership with a human, David, and David’s human partner. The whys, hows, and whens of this partnership is never told or explained, and perhaps this is because the movie is laying the ground works for sequels, or in this case, a prequel. Or maybe the filmmakers just didn’t think it was important.
Whatever the case, the movie goes into very little detail about Saya’s life previous to her becoming a vampire, or even explains why she’s hunting demons or why she “can’t kill humans.”
Blood is a treat for the eyes. The animation is spectacular and well-done. The human figures are drawn with sparse detail, so much so that they make the heavily detailed backgrounds even more inspiring. Like a lot of Japanimation that has come out recently, Blood showcases a new form of animation that relies on traditional cell drawings and new possibilities brought forth by innovations in CGI (computer-generated imagery). I can remember another Japanimation called BioHazard that uses the same style.
Blood is a slow-paced movie, and with a short running time, nothing much really happens. Saya is sent to a U.S. military base in Japan where 3 demons are preparing for something big. What that “something” is is never explained or even talked about.
Again, like the animation itself, the movie is very sparse with its details. Things progress as if the Blood we’re watching is just one segment of a larger movie, perhaps a single Act out of a movie with 3 Acts. Not knowing the full background of the movie, I can’t say for sure if there are other sequels or prequels that I have not seen, so I will go with the assumption that Blood is the first of a continuing story.
I’ve only seen 3 Japanese horror films, and two (Blood and Ring 2) rely heavily on slow-pacing ala The Sixth Sense to establish mood and atmosphere. In the case of Ring 2, the technique didn’t work, but I blame that on an uninteresting leading lady. With Blood, the mood works because there’s so much more to see besides the actual story. The background animation is so nicely detailed that one wonders why American animation can’t do the same thing, especially when movies like Monsters, Inc. and Shrek takes years to make.
Besides a lack of explanation for the going-ons, Blood also lacks personality. There is simply very little going on with the story and with the characters. The American David is Saya’s boss and lackey; Saya is a walking tombstone with brooding eyes in a 16-year old girl’s school uniform. The demons appear, don’t do much, and are killed off by Saya.
In 45 minutes, the movie has given us great animation, nice background, and little else. In that way, Blood fails. In others, it succeeds. Unfortunately, I don’t think many people go to see animated movies just for the animation; we do want some meat with our story. I feel that a lot more attention could have been given to the story, and perhaps a lot more explanation could have been established, thereby giving the audience some clue as to what the heck is happening and why.
As it stands, not much happens, and the audience has no idea why nothing much is happening.
Hiroyuki Kitakubo (director) / Kenji Kamiyama (screenplay)
CAST: Youki Kudoh …. Saya
Saemi Nakamura …. Infirmary Doctor (voice)
Joe Romersa …. David (voice)
Rebecca Forstadt …. Sharon