Blood: The Last VampireYouki KudohvampiresJapanese
Blood: The Last Vampire
Medium: film
Year: 2000
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Original creator: Mamoru Oshii
Studio: Production I.G
Actor: Youki Kudoh, Saemi Nakamura, Akira Koieyama, Fitz Houston, Joe Romersa, Paul Carr, Rebecca Forstadt, Steven Blum, Stuart Robinson, Tom Fahn
Keywords: anime, vampires, horror
Country: Japan
Language: English, Japanese
Format: 48 minutes
Series: Blood: The Last Vampire
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 23 April 2006
Vampires have infiltrated Yokota, an American Air Force base in Japan in 1966 on the brink of the Vietnam War. To destroy them, a team of undercover agents deploys Sana... another vampire.
This film has style. At a breathless 45 minutes that's pretty much all it has to offer, but if you're looking for dark edginess then you've come to the right place. Saya (the eponymous last original vampire) hunts down other vampires at the behest of mysterious Americans. She visits a school with her sword and violence ensues. That's pretty much the entire story.
It looks fantastic, with a surprisingly effective all-digital production that's more common these days than it was back in 2000 when this movie was produced. The colours are mostly monochrome, giving that "black and white film that happens to have been shot on colour stock" look that's become so popular with a certain kind of live-action filmmaker. Saya herself isn't one of anime's twinkly-eyed prettygirls, but she has one hell of a screen presence. She's mean and cranky-looking, letting rip on her foes with savagery that would do your average Buffy episode the power of good. This film is extremely violent, but not in that gratuitous schlocky way of a certain kind of anime. It's just an honest presentation of scary people.
The language side of things is peculiar. I don't know who this film was aimed at, but it's set on an American air force base in Japan and the dialogue is about 70% English and 30% Japanese. Admittedly this isn't the kind of film where the dialogue's very important, but even so I wouldn't expect the bilingual English-Japanese demographic to be the actual target audience. Were Japanese viewers expected to struggle as best they could, or did they get Japanese subtitles? For what it's worth, for those who can do so I'd recommend watching this raw. It's distracting to be an English-speaker reading English subtitles in English-language scenes, while the Japanese dialogue is fairly easy to follow. Besides, this film isn't exactly talky.
There's not much characterisation to speak of. Saya is simply an angel of death, hardly speaking except when necessary. Her foes are out-and-out monsters. There are the aforesaid mysterious Americans and a plump middle-aged teacher who gets caught in the crossfire, but frankly the film isn't particularly interested in its people. It's about action and atmosphere, which in fairness it does very well.
The ending's a bit crap, making it feel like the latest episode in an ongoing series rather than a self-contained film. A kick-arse climax could have raised this from "pretty good" to "excellent". Overall it's a good-looking mood piece that isn't really about anything except its own brand of chilly style. I admired it, but I'd like it better with subsequent episodes fleshing out Saya's world and her story. Apparently there's a 50-episode TV series, Blood+, though it's described as "related to" the original movie rather than being an outright sequel. I'll admit that I'm curious. This has the potential to be an interesting franchise.
FOOTNOTE (a few years later): it did. This went on to be one of the most successful anime franchises of all, with books, video games, manga, two television series and theatrical movies, both anime and live action.