Blood+ Part 1 (Japan 2003)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/22/08
Music: Hans Zimmer and Mark Mancina

Divided into 25 episodes.

Taking place almost 40 years after the outstanding "Blood: The Last Vampire" (2000), the series introduces us to a completely different Saya Otonashi - a normal Japanese high school girl with normal friends, normal problems, and normal dreams. Or so she thinks... She's actually been in hibernation for the last thirty years and has no memories of who or what she is, but that all starts to change when she is attacked by a supernatural monster and a mysterious cellist saves her life. As the fragments of her fractured past come together, she realizes the awful truth about herself and has to accept her destiny as a warrior.

To sustain this drama over multiple episodes, it's only natural to introduce a sizeable secondary cast. This includes Saya's adopted family, her school friends, members of Red Shield (the organization dedicated to eradicating the chiropteran threat), a mysterious servant, and a handful of powerful new adversaries. The series is very bloody, as you might guess from the title. However, it's not shocking or gratuitous, and would actually benefit from pushing the envelope a bit more. The inclusion of Saya's loyal servant and bodyguard, Hagi, is very reminiscent of "Vampire Princess Miyu" (1988) and the unspoken romantic tension just oozes with shojo manga sensibilities. How can your heart not flutter with such a dashing protector who is all too eager to lay down his life for you at a moment's notice? The plot meanders all over the place, giving ample time to explore character relationships and dynamics. Numerous threads are introduced and then quietly fade away as the constantly moving story changes directions. "Blood: The Last Vampire" took place in the world of post World War II Japan, while the events in "Blood+" all stem from the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The series offers some tough criticism of American foreign policy, but doesn't dwell on it and has no intention of making heavy handed political statements. The story builds to its dramatic crescendo, and then sputters and dies in the last episode. Instead of resolution and closure, the series instead chooses to end with a cliffhanger and several new plot twists. Oh, the madness! And will Sony ever release Part 2? Or was Part 2 even made? It's already been two years, so it doesn't look promising...

The show looks great, as you would expect from Studio I.G. The character design is much softer and simpler than the movie, but the puffy lips remain. Mark Mancina provides a superb music score, which lends a bit of a Western feel to the show. The voice acting is excellent and the action sequences are pretty good for the most part. The subtitles are a bit questionable, and clearly some liberties were taken. The most laughable one I noticed was that "video games" was translated as "Playstation." Not surprising since Sony Pictures released the DVD, but still a bit egregious and deceitful. Definitely a top-notch production, dragged down only by pacing issues and some uninteresting side characters. Saya is great when she's kicking ass and slicing up demons, but I had a hard time remaining engaged when she wasn't.