Monday, September 12, 2011

Bloody Good: "Blood: The Last Vampire"

Despite a climax that fails to deliver the goods, this fifty minute anime saga has plenty to recommend to both Japanese animation and horror fans.

Saya (voiced by Youki Kudoh) is a young vampire who hunts down creatures that are called demons and are in fact mutated blood suckers. They appear normal until injured or killed, when they turn into some pretty freaky monsters.

The setting is Japan in the late 1960's. Saya slays a seemingly innocent man on a subway car in the opening minutes, and requests a new sword from her boss David (voiced by Joe Romersa). There have been a series of vampire murders in the area, disguised as suicides. Saya is assigned to Yokota Air Base, a U.S. military installation, as a Japanese schoolgirl sent to observe the American classrooms. Decked out in her uniform, she is the vision of innocence. Sharon (voiced by Rebecca Forstadt) and anemic Linda try to befriend her, as does the school nurse (voiced by Saemi Nakamura).

The rest of the film is nonstop action, as Sharon and Linda turn out to be demons, as does a local male prostitute. With one more demon out there than originally thought, David tries to rescue Saya, the school nurse, and Saya's new fake sword before the two women are killed. To complicate matters, the demons are popping up on the night of the school's Halloween party.

You may know now that I spent four years in Okinawa, Japan when my father was in the Air Force, so Japanese animation is nothing new to me. "Blood: The Last Vampire" is different than most anime out there. While the story does not wait for the viewer to catch up to it, the animation is fantastic. The director seamlessly mixes computer imaging and regular animation with 3D CGI, giving the film a whole new look that is constantly amazing. Yorihiro Ike's musical score is also excellent, leaving plenty of room for the sound effects without overwhelming them.

Since the film takes place on an American base, there is plenty of English dialogue. The Japanese bits are subtitled. The film does let the viewer down at the climax. After some incredible action set pieces in the subway, the nurse's office, and a locked burning garage, the chase down the base's tarmac seems slow by comparison and a little easy. There is plenty of room for a sequel, with the film makers teasing the audience about the then current Vietnam war.

Also on the video from Manga, there is a (for once) interesting "making of" documentary, and a very violent music video called "Pulse" by the Mad Capsule Markets (which is just a nonsensical punk group with a nonsensical song).

With plenty of gore, language, and a hot animated Asian chick in a schoolgirl's uniform kicking some major monster ass, "Blood: The Last Vampire" is not the worst thing you could watch tonight. (* * * *) out of five stars.