BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (2000) – The Dungeon Review!
As much as I love Japanese horror, exploitation and action films my foray into Japanese animation is sparse. The only reason I can cite for this is Pokémon. A few years ago I stayed with my sister and her family. At the time my nephew was hugely into Pokémon. He had a bunch of these Pokémon movies which would have been easy enough to avoid normally. There is nothing normal in my world about a three hour car drive to the cottage with a nine year old and a five year old. Three hours of Pokémon videos with commentary no less! Whose freaking idea was it to put TVs in minivans?! Evil sons of bitches! Hearing the kids fight would have been so much more tolerable than this. Each time a new Pokémon character came on the screen my nephew would comment on their ability. Something along the lines of “oh that’s a fire Pokémon and he’s plus ten and everyone has to go to the graveyard”…blah…blah…I love you kid but what the hell are you going on about?! Yeah, apparently there is a Pokémon card game. Pokémon may very well be the dumbest most irritating animated show I’ve ever seen! My god those voices!! Those horrible voices and sounds the various characters make are like nails on a chalkboard! I knew good and bloody well that Pokémon did not represent Japanese animation as a whole, but those voices! Those awful shrieking voices! I should also add that I have seen very few animated films from any country. The only animated films I ever seen growing up was what they showed on The Wonderful World of Disney. We went to the theatre and drive-in tons when I was a kid but I don’t remember seeing a single animated movie. I loved cartoons so I’m surprised I never begged to see this or that animated movie. Maybe I just don’t remember?! Anyway, animation as a whole is a bit of a gaping wound in my movie-watching experience. I bought an outdated book of animation on DVD dirt cheap and consulted with my friend Jason over at Genkina Hito’s J-Film Reviews who gave me a list of animated Japanese films. My video store only had a small collection of Anime; in fact they had just two titles from Jason’s list. Blood: The First Vampire was one of them.
Saya is a vampire hunter sent undercover to a school on an American air base. More accurately she is a chiropterans hunter (I don’t think they ever used the word vampire in this film). The school is believed to be educating two chiropterans which Saya quickly deduces to be a particularly anaemic student and her friend. Saya efficiently dispatches one of the chiropterans as the school nurse looks on in horror. The mysterious chiropteran assassin Saya may have more in common with her monstrous mark than it might appear.
The choice to set the film during the Vietnam War was an interesting one but of little significance to the story. I thought it was pretty clear where Blood: The First Vampire was going early. It is called Blood: The First Vampire after all! The problem was taking 3/4 of its runtime getting there. Saya’s true nature is revealed at the 3/4 point which is where I expected the adventure to begin. Instead of the adventure beginning however it came to an abrupt end. The build-up is certainly energetic enough and the time it takes to get to Saya’s story is reasonable for your average 90 minutes film. Blood: The First Vampire however was less than an hour. According to IMDB the film is 48 minutes long! I am mystified by this! Blood: The Last Vampire’s supporting characters are non-entities really except for the wishy-washy school nurse. Fortunately the Saya character is the focal point and she is sassy and intriguing. Saya is a woman of few words with a hell of a scowl. Saya has large attitude and outstanding skills with a Katana. The animation is beautiful. It has a lovely dark gothic look and the backgrounds were quite impressive. It was nice that Saya wasn’t drawn with an 8 inch waist and double Ds and I loved the air of mystery and strength her character possessed. Blood: The Last Vampire really is just an impressive film in every aspect where the visuals are concerned. Like I long-windedly indicated, my animation exposure is limited, but Blood: The Last Vampire is one of the most attractive animated films I’ve seen.
Blood: The Last Vampire is a striking visual experience but its story disappointed me; it basically ends as it was beginning to intrigue me. You certainly won’t be bored as the film is ridiculously short and absolutely flies by. In the case of Blood: The Last Vampire that isn’t necessarily a good thing; the film seemed in desperate need of a longer runtime! Blood: The Last Vampire is nonetheless an enjoyable watch. Recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5
Directed By: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Starring: Youki Kudoh, Saemi Nakamura, Joe Romersa, Rebecca Forstadt, Stuart Robinson, Akira Koteyama, Tom Fahn, Fitz Houston, Steve Blum, Paul Carr