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DVD Review

DVD cover

Blood C
The Complete Series


Starring (voice): Nana Mizuki and Keiji Fujiwara
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 10 June 2013

Horrifying beasts with a hunger for human flesh prey on the citizens of a quiet town. In moonlit twilight, Saya slays the monsters and returns home drenched in blood. As the attacks increase in frequency and intensity, her enemies relay cryptic messages about a broken contract. Limbs are torn from flesh and skulls are crushed and devoured while the huntress struggles with paralysing visions and gaping holes in her memory. When the humans Saya promised to protect reveal the sickening truth about her role in the violence, she learns her mission isn't as clear cut as she thought - and her most sadistic foe of all is so close she can taste it...

Saya, the sword-swinging, monster-destroying schoolgirl protagonist of 2000's Blood: The Last Vampire, has had a chequered career since her début. While the original film achieved success and acclaim worldwide, a fifty-episode 2005 TV anime, Blood+, made little impact and the 2009 live-action movie did poorly despite the presence of veteran Hong Kong director Ronny Yu.

With this second stab at a TV anime from 2011, this time running a more modest twelve episodes, the series' producers Production I.G. have turned to CLAMP, renowned creators of a string of hits from Cardcaptor Sakura through to Chobits and XxxHolic, and inventive director Tsutomu Mizushima (The Squid Girl). Seemingly sensing that with a little-loved property in their hands they had an unrivalled opportunity to cut loose, CLAMP and Mizushima have taken the threadbare character and premise of Blood and turned in something almost unbelievably vicious.

The series begins with sweet, clumsy Saya, a picture-perfect rendition of a naïve anime schoolgirl protagonist, earnestly attending to her duties as a shrine maiden in an idyllic rural town under the watchful eye of her priest father, who directs her in her nocturnal task of slaying the inhuman monsters – the 'Elder Bairns' – that rise up to prey on the local populace. The fights that punctuate the first episodes are both gory and superbly animated and the monster creations successively more grotesque and original, far removed from the batlike adversaries of The Last Vampire – most notably in a confrontation with a shape-shifting train carriage.

In between these gruesome interludes Saya goes about the carefree business of any ordinary anime girl – being repeatedly late for school, petting dogs, eating delicious sweets at her favourite café, and passing the time with her flatly characterised school chums. So repetitively structured are these early episodes and so glaring is the contrast between the bland everyday and bloody night-time, that even without the sinister visions that afflict Saya from time to time, one begins to suspect that something even nastier is afoot. Unfortunately CLAMP and Mizushima feel the need to hammer the point home, adding a spooky philosophizing narrator and a mysterious talking animal into the mix just so that everyone – except, seemingly, poor Saya – can tell that something's not right here.

That aside, the direction and animation are excellent and the story structure particularly praiseworthy – the script delivers both an especially brutal battle and a disquieting plot revelation once every three episodes, until the twelfth and final instalment where everything is revealed and the series disintegrates into one of the goriest, most senseless bloodbaths ever seen in anime. Anyone hoping for a sense of meaning or redemption in their storytelling is advised to look elsewhere, but if you have a taste for stories that are nakedly cold, calculating and gleefully cynical, Blood C has the goods. Without spoiling, it's astonishing to learn that Production I.G. saw fit to continue the saga into a 2012 Blood C movie, The Last Dark; with Blood C's overwhelming strength being its sense of dread built up over successive episodes, it's hard to imagine the same effect being reproduced in a single movie.

For now, I can only recommend Blood C as a sharp and nasty example of what can be done with an unpromising premise in the right hands. A show I had no real expectations for, somehow it's wound up as one of my favourites so far this year.


Richard Hunt

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