Blood : The Last Vampire (2000)

Written by Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) and Katsuya Terada and directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo (Akira), Blood: The Last Vampire follows the story of Saya, the last remaining ‘Original’ Vampire, on her mission to rid the world of Chiropterans; vampires of a sort who have become malformed hybrids, completely different to their ‘original’ forefathers.

Let me just state that, although comparisons will undoubtedly be made, I’m going to review this as a completely standalone title, so comparisons to the live action remake will not me made, save this: Blood: The Last Vampire is everything its live action counterpart is not, and in short, I loved it.

I’ve given you a brief synopsis of the main premise of the film, and it’s hard to go into too much detail without completely spoiling the short (48 minutes) film, but Saya, the aforementioned ‘Original’ is employed by a department of the US secret service to investigate an American high school situated on an US air base in 1966, where it is believed a Chiropteran has infiltrated the school. Whether staff or student, it’s not known, so Saya is packed off in a cliched Japanese School uniform and a sword (cleverly hidden) strapped to her back. As you can probably guess, the story takes a turn for the sinister as a plot unravels that genuinely had me pleasantly surprised and gave a new take on the Vampire franchise.

In terms of animation, it’s dark, gritty and really gives that 60′s vintage feel, combined with great sounds, that really give a thoroughly authentic visual and aural experience. What I liked about it, is that there wasn’t an outward Japanese (big eyes small mouth) feel to it, but had its own unique style that seemed to me to be an amalgamation of eastern and western animation styles.

Saya herself is a fantastic character. At times she seems completely devoid of emotion; a ruthless single-minded killing machine, but by the end of the film we realise she’s so much more. She’s a caring individual, torn by her choices and the fact that she is effectively ‘doing as humans do, killing her own kind’. This is a moral they throw in, but it’s expertly timed and doesn’t feel at all cliched.

Saya is supported by some fantastic characters including Mahiko, the school nurse who plummets headfirst into the conflict, but really comes through as a supporting character, and is the humanistic element of the film, that we could all associate with if we were thrown into the situation.

The Chiropterans are beautifully animated, have personalities of their own, and have a grotesque and twisted elegance to them. They look like mindless beasts, but are anything but. The battle between Saya and the Chiropterans is as much a battle of wits as it is steel on fangs.

In terms of the ‘Subbed or Dubbed’ debate, so often dubbed films are dumbed down and lose their subtle nouances in translation, but Blood: The Last Vampire eliminates this problem. They make Saya bilingual. When she needs to speak English, she does, and the same for Japanese. In fact, I’d say the Japanese/English ratio is around 60/40.The English is done well too; not over the top, not over explaining the given situation. Subtle, and true to the feel of the entire film.

Blood: The Last Vampire is a beautifully stylised and gripping film. It flows so effortlessly, and although some will be let down by the short running time, I think it’s perfectly paced and does not need to be any longer. It’s a completely different take on the vampire franchise and I found it both moving, and refreshing. It spawned the also fantastic Blood+ anime series, as well as the not-so-noteworthy live action film; but the less said about that, the better.

Get out there, watch it, and enjoy a true masterclass in how Anime horror should be done.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

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