Quite possibly one of the most disturbingly violent anime TV series I’ve seen.
What They Say:
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 paralyzing 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.
The audio presentation for this release is about as one would expect as we get the original Japanese track in stereo and the English track in 5.1, both of which use the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The presentation has locked tracks where you can’t change between them and when you watch it in Japanese the subtitles are locked on. The show has a pretty good mix overall in both tracks, though the show is largely one that’s quiet and mildly dialogue driven. The atmosphere and music cues is what dominates it and even when it goes to the action in most episodes, it’s the music that really provides the design of the action rather than the sound effects. Both tracks work well and from what limited listening I did with the English track, it adds a bit more impact to some scenes and more clarity when it comes to the dialogue. Placement throughout is decent and fits within the context of the show and overall we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the summer of 2011, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs for the Blu-ray release with eight on the first and four on the second, which is where the extras also generally reside. Animated by Production IG, the series has a very strong visual look to it, between the character designs by CLAMP and the overall style of the animation itself. There’s a lot of quiet scenes without a lot of movement, but it has a certain strong look to it with the color design that it continually pops. When it shifts to the action sequences, it shines really, really well with bitrates that run past the 40’s and just captures the look of it beautifully. There are a few scenes where it looks like there’s some mild banding in certain black segments, but it’s pretty mild overall. With so much red in the series and a strong amount of black, it all holds up really well and stands out visually.
The limited edition packaging for this release comes with a Blu-ray sized heavy chipboard box that holds two Blu-ray cases inside, one that holds the DVDs and one that holds the Blu-ray discs. The box has a good look to it as it has to blend some murky colors with the backgrounds. The foreground has Saya in her school uniform with her sword out that looks dark and dangerous while being nicely detailed. The back panel gives us a similar layout with the background with the blacks,r eds and gold colors while the foreground here has Saya wearing her shrine outfit whiel holding the sword. It’s a serious look overall but with her facing outward straight on this time, it’s a bit more distinctive in a way.
Inside the box we get the two cases that are pretty nicely done overall. It works the same style as the box itself and uses two different images of Saya, both of which have her in her shrine outfit as well which is a bit of a disappointment as I would have wanted another school uniform image here. One cover has her smiling and happy while the other gives us a serious Saya. The back covers are a little bland as it gives us more of the golds and reds with the breakdown of episodes by name and title with the relevant discs, done in black. The reverse side of both covers has a lot of shadow work with some small bits of color along the edges but it’s nothing noteworthy overall or all that noticeable. No show related inserts are included with the release.
The menu design for this release is pretty simple and uses a menu style that I’m not all that much of a fan of, at least if it isn’t done with some strong in-theme style. The menu for this series is a left side of the screen piece that takes up about 20% of the real estate which has the logo and the basic navigation and decent submenu navigation for the episodes and the languages setup. The right side is made up of clips from the show which plays up the action a fair bit and some good character display segments as well. Submenus load quickly and the side menu doubles as the pop-up menu making it easy to move around.
The extras for this release is pretty straightforward as we get a pair of new English language commentaries here, one one the first disc and one on the second disc. The second disc has a few more extras to it as we get the original promo videos, some of the original Japanese commercials and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a large body of work behind the Blood: The Last Vampire franchise that began back in the 90’s, bringing a new series out in the summer of 2011 with character designs by CLAMP and animation by Production IG was essentially printing money. Add in that it would culminate in a movie as well that would be released in 2012 and it fits in with the nature of the property in its approach over the years. Unfortunately, the reality of the show during its broadcast proved to be nearly fatal to it as it really didn’t feel like a Blood series in terms of storytelling. Watching this on the Nico Nico service made it even worse with the fan commentary that was presented with it as it just made the flaws in the show stand out all the more. And it reminded me to never let other influences get in the way of a show that has to stand on its own. And that revisiting a show in this form can really change an opinion.
Blood-C works across three layers and manages to draw it all together in the end in a way that really works. And knowing it in advance, having seen it before, it made the rest of the show more enjoyable than it was in its weekly form. The first layer of the series is the one that simply introduces us to the setting. We get to know Saya Kisaragi, a high school girl living in a small town that’s almost a village out in the countryside. She lives with just her father who runs the shrine there while continuing on the work of her mother as a certain kind of shrine maiden. Saya’s a bright, outgoing young woman who loves going to school, has several friends and a welcome approach to life. She doesn’t always seem to be the smartest kid around, but part of it is just her happy approach to everything. Seeing how she’s settled and a part of the community and happy to be there makes her an easy accessible character in this form.
While we have that persona for her, there’s another aspect as well. Saya is honoring her mother by following in her path that her father has set for her to train using the Sacred Sword. What she uses it for is what’s disturbing as there are creatures that appear in the town called Elder Bairns. Each one is vastly different as we basically get old style gods and monsters that take physical form and kill humans in order to eat and survive. Saya has the skills through the Sacred Sword to take them down and some heightened healing abilities which are quite useful. Over the first half dozen episodes or so, we see a variety of creatures that come in out of nowhere most of the time during the quiet and dark of the night and end up brutally killing one or two people that Saya then goes to avenge since she wasn’t able to save them at first.
Both of these stories exist in each episode for awhile as we see how Saya is almost a split personality in a way, but not quite. She lives these two lives and keeps things separate, but as the Elder Bairns begin to come around more, some of the students are drawn into it and end up getting killed. Brutally. The thing with the Elder Bairns is that they treat people like food and just savor it, from tearing apart limbs, chewing torsos, squishing all the blood out of a body to drink. And while we had a censored broadcast originally, here everything is shown all the more clearly. There’s a lot of disturbing scenes as the first half plays out, but the show goes up several notches just after the first half of it is over when one of the creatures shows up during the day at school and Saya’s entire class is threatened. It’s absolute, pure, brutal carnage. There’s some lavish attention paid to how its animated and I definitely appreciate the brutal beauty of it. And story wise, it works very well to put Saya into shock as the bodies start to fall. Or be flung around, gutted and smashed.
While these two stories to eventually intersect, and it then shifts more to just Saya as the killer of Elder Bairn’s as there’s little in the way of school happening from there, it shifts into the third layer of the series, the truth layer. We see various comments made throughout a lot of the show that hint at things, and they’re things that I didn’t pick up too much the first time around, which talks about how Saya is being tested. The core thrust of it all is a look at what makes a person who they are, is it their past and experience, is it the environment or is just what’s inside of them from birth. Saya’s obviously a bit different when you get down to it, The twist as to who is orchestrating all of this is pretty nicely done and the way the final couple of episodes play out is intense and really does go over the top in a huge way. The core idea is explored a bit, but in the end it’s really short circuited by what some of the supporting players do and the question isn’t truly answered.
While there are certainly some story issues here, more so for long time fans of the Blood franchise, the really problematic area for some more than others is the violence. Violence has always been a big part of the franchise, but this just seems to go above and beyond what has come before. While there are theatrical works and certainly some hentai series that are far more disturbing, this really feels like the most violent, visually so, series that I’ve seen. Largely because half of it just seems to happen out of the blue, where the characters are just standing there and suddenly they’re cute in half, gutted or beheaded. And it’s animated with a lot of detail that’s even more striking because of the vibrancy of it and the way it allows it to all be seen rather than quick cuts that shift off screen. The show wants to shock you and I think it does it really, really well.
Because of the structure of the show, I really had a love/hate relationship with the series when I first watched it because of how it didn’t feel like it fit in with what came before. With this being a second viewing, and a marathon viewing as opposed to weekly, it really does all connect together better than I really thought. Saya’s story is clearer and the connective tissue of it all works a lot better. But the main problem with the series in this viewing is that, similar to the weekly viewing, is that it’s just a prequel to the movie itself. I haven’t seen the movie so I can’t say how well it figures into that and how necessary the series is. But what we have here really is a rarity with anime these days. This is a dark, disturbing and violent show that caps it all off with our lead character screwed over heavily and put through the ringer. While I loved the animation, this was one of my most hated shows of 2011. Viewing it like this, with what I know, it’s improved significantly and is something that I’m already interested in revisiting to see what else I may have missed.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary for Episodes 6 & 12, Original Commercials, Promotional Videos, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: January 8th, 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.