(Warning: this post is chock-full of spoilers for the anime Blood-C.)
I want to start this rant/review by noting the history of the Blood franchise and its central character Saya. It began with the 2000 movie Blood: The Last Vampire, animated by Production I.G. (Manga sequels and alternate versions came later; Blood was an orginal creation by Mamoru Oshii.) The film is about Saya, a vampire who sides with humans to hunt and feast on other vampiric beasts. It’s one of those “use a monsters to kill monsters” stories, except that Saya is very willing to kill these fellow monsters, zero shits given. After all, vampires are tasty.
Blood: The Last Vampire inspired numerous other productions in various media formats. As for anime, a 50-epsiode production titled Blood+ aired from 2005 to 2006. Then came the 12-episode series Blood-C in 2011. The sequel to that story was provided in movie form by Blood C: the Last Dark in 2012. Production I.G. did most of the animation for all of these versions.
They aren’t all supposed happen in the same world or universe. However, there’s one thing that stays the same in all versions: Saya is a vampire who cooperates with humans to hunt other vampires and human-eating monsters. She uses a katana and inhuman strength to fight. Production I.G. cooperated with the famous mangaka group CLAMP to make Blood C, which is the version of Saya and her story that I’ll be talking about here. Let’s review!
Art and Animation 8/10 Excellent
I’m a fan of production I.G.’s works and I love CLAMP, so it’s only natural I adore the visuals in Blood C. My only complaint is that detail is sometimes sacrified for consistently good action scenes with a lot of character movement. It’s true that not every character design or fight scene is as detailed as it would be in an anime of the late 2000-teens. However, Blood C came out in 2011, and it wasn’t given a huge budget. With that it mind, I think the art and animation are amazing. Let’s look at a few specifics.
The fights are my favorite parts of Blood C in terms of animation. All of them are enjoyable, but some of my favorites are the battle with the statue monster in episode 1, the shadow monster in episode 6, and Tadayoshi’s monster form in 12. Sure, these action sequences aren’t the 10/10 scenes you might see in Psycho-Pass or Beyond the Boundary, but they’re way better than average for their budget and for 2011.
They are presented in real-time, not like the fight scenes in classic shounen. You know, the ones where only two or three simple moves end a fight, and each one is discussed at length as the hero’s new power or the enemy’s skill. There aren’t still-shots of the character dodging, or shots with action-line backgrounds as the character swings her sword with minimal movement. No, the Blood C fights look real in comparison. There is no discussion of special hero power as they play out quickly and brutally.
The designs for the monsters are all wonderfully freaky and frightening. It’s obvious that plenty of thought and detail went into creating the Ancient Ones or Elder Bairns.
Rather than being realistic, CLAMP works focus on art and stylization. Character proportions are very CLAMP, with people having long limbs, thin bodies, and that characteristic face shape. I find all of this visually appealing, personally. The colors for the characters tend to be natural, with many browns and greys, or else bold, with black and red hues. I like each character’s design, even if they’re simpler than what I’d expect from an anime of today’s time.
The backgrounds are unpretentious but perfectly adequate, full of bright and beautiful greens in the daytime. Sometimes, the outdoor backgrounds have the look of being hand-painted, but I’m not an artist so I don’t know. There is careful consideration of colors and shot background designs for indoors scenes. Through the series, especially in the early episodes, the art and lighting help make a strong contrast between Saya’s peaceful daytime life and her grim, gray life of monster-hunting at night.
Sound: 8/10 Excellent
The instrumental music in Blood C is unforgettable. Most scores are variations of the show’s theme, “Destiny.” This doesn’t always work for series, because if you happen to not like the main melody, you’re stuck listening to it for 12 episodes in different versions. I happened to love the melody, though. It’s perfect for horror and suspense. There were 23 tracks total in two volumes, enough variation to keep it interesting. Also, several tracks that weren’t versions of “Destiny” were used, such as #8 “Covenant,” #9 “Guimauve Cafe,” and #5 “Treasured Promise.”
The voice-acting featured in Blood C is decent — and compared to the hilariously bad English Dub, it’s practically a masterpiece! I recognized Jun Fukuyama playing Inu, the wish-granting dog youkai. Fukuyama has been in hundreds of anime series, but is most memorable for big roles like Koro-sensei in Assassination Classroom and Lelouch in Code Geass. Saya’s father Tadayoshi is voiced by Keiji Fujiwara, who played Leorio in Hunter x Hunter, Zenzou Hatori in Gintama, and various other funny and lovable roles. I’m a fan of Nana Mizuki, voice of main character Saya.
I also loved both the opening and ending songs. The latter is called “Purity Paradox,” by Nana Mizuki, and it’s catchy and addicting. As for the opening, it’s called “Spiral” by Dustz and the lead male vocalist is multilingual. The song includes phrases in Japanese, English, and French.
Characters 7/10 Good
Characters are not developed as well they could be, but they were still done decently for a short 12-episode series where most of the characters are acting or not themselves for the majority of their screentime. Details and personalities of the characters are not this anime’s strong point– in fact, they’re probably the most poorly executed aspects in the series. Yet, most of the characters had either interesting concepts or interesting twists, and Saya and Fumito were presented and explored excellently. So I still give the characterization in Blood-C a 7/10, “good.”
Story and Structure 8/10 Excellent
There is a difference between predictable/overused and what I consider an archetype. A show is annoyingly predictable if you can’t connect to the feelings of the characters and how they handle the situations. It’s predictable and overused if the show doesn’t present enough of its own originality to separate it from similar stories. Predictable or poorly constructed short horror or thriller anime series include Btoom!, Mayoiga the Lost Village, Corpse Party, Magical girl Raising Project, A.I.C.O. Incarnation, and Ousama Game.
With the exception of the last item, I don’t actually dislike any of these series. But they would rank in the 5s and 6s and rather than the 8s. Several things separate Blood-C from those other titles, such as superior story progression, less vagueness, fewer minor plot holes, more content that is truly horrifying, and main characters who are highly interesting and/or relatable. Also, Blood C has a “classic” model of psych thriller/ horror that it follows.
This is what the model is like. The protagonist should be confined to a constructed, false world and/or false identity which she initially believes in fully. There should be plot devices that explain why the character can’t think clearly about where or who she is. There should be immediately noticeable inconsistencies with the protagonist’s world, memories, or abilities. Ideally, there should be ample blood and gore, but it must be the kind audiences can take seriously.
Continuing with the plot, the main character should recieve hints of the truth slowly. Part of the truth is usually that the set-up was some kind of experiment. By the end, the protagonist should be horrified by her world crumbling, and infuriated by the mastermind. Rather than forcing a happy ending to a grim show, the conclusion should be dark, but also with some potential promise for the surviving characters.
Blood C follows this structure faithfully. It also keeps in line with the structure of a well-paced and planned 12-episode anime. Episodes 1 and 3 are exciting and interesting enough to convince the audience to keep watching, and within the first three episodes, the basics of the world and characters are established. Episodes 6 and 7 are significant to the story, with key battles, losses, or hints. Episode 10 leads flawlessly into the two-episode finale of 11 and 12, wherein Saya finds out the truth and tries to fight against Fumito.
The structure in Blood C is practically perfect in my book, but since it can be construed to be a little redundant in some episodes, I give it 8/10 rather than 9/10.
Enjoyment: 10/10 Masterpiece and Overall Score
So what did I enjoy about the anime? Here are just a few things. 1) The interesting and scary designs for the Elder Bairns or the Ancient Ones. 2) The sense of expectation, and the action, fight scenes, blood, and gore! 3) The villain and his strange relationship to Saya. 4) The psychological shock that Saya goes through and the themes of betrayal and everything being fake.
5) Finally, I enjoyed the classic story of being trapped in a fake world, discovering your true identity, and realizing it was all an experiment. Related to that, I liked the structure of the series and how it gradually progressed from Saya knowing nothing in episode 1 to her world completely crumbling as she realizes the truth in episodes 11 and 12.
Overall Score: 8.2/10 Excellent
Though my enjoyment would suggest rating it much higher, I give Blood-C an overall score of 8.2 as an anime critic. Still, that means that it’s an excellent anime and well worth watching for anyone who can stomach the violence. (And if not, that’s perfectly ok.) I think of Blood-C as the archetype for short (6 to 12-episode) horror series and psychological thrillers.