Blood: The Last Vampire

Rating: 4 Rampages Saya

At the Yokota Base in Japan, a nervous American military is on the brink of the Vietnam War. But a greater threat exists within the walls of the heavily-guarded compound: Vampires. A team of top-secret undercover agents learn of these blood-sucking fiends, and dispatch the mysterious Saya to hunt down and destroy them. This beautiful yet dangerous vampire slayer must use her extraordinary abilities and lethal Japanese sword to save the humans from the vampires who fear no sunlight. Based on a concept by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell). Directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo (Black Magic M-66, Roujin Z)

Saya again Review:
Herself the Elf sez: Well, damn. This was one of the best-looking movies I've seen in a while. What's neat is that Japanese characters speak Japanese, Americans speak English, and those who'd be working in both environments speak both. Some people have found this dual-language aspect distracting, but I thought it worked well and added to the feel of being on an American base in Japan, with the whole two-worlds-in conflict aspect that one would expect.

The animation in Blood is just brilliant. Everything is rendered so realistically that you often forget you're watching an animated movie, and the integration of 3-D computer-generated mechanical elements with the 2-D animation is absolutely seamless. (Apparently, it's the first Japanese animated feature to use the technique that Disney has been using since Pocahontas--drawing the characters by hand, then using the computer to ink and colour them, giving a very clean look and saving tons of time and effort by skipping the hand-painting process.) The animators worked with a very limited palette of colours, giving Blood a very dark, gothic feel that reminded me a bit of Sleepy Hollow. A big plus for this movie are the great action sequences and suspenseful chase scenes--Saya is one of the coolest scary-chicks-with-a-sword in anime.

Dark, moody, bloody, and heavy on style, the only problem I had with Blood was that it didn't really feel like a movie--at 48 minutes and 18 seconds, it was more like a prelude to a movie. It sets the stage for a brilliant story, and then it just ends. I was left at the end feeling 'Okay, so now when's the real movie going to start?' All the same, it's a brilliant example of dark fantasy/horror storytelling and I'd definitely recommend it; just be prepared for the abrupt ending.

Available from Manga Entertainment.