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Blood Lad Complete Series Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Blood Lad Blu-rayThe lengths a vampire will go to save a busty teenage schoolgirl.

What They Say:
Werewolves, zombies, and even the Abominable Snowman fight day and night for the title of Territory Boss. The vampire Staz, however, finds the whole thing to be a serious pain. He spends his time watching anime, playing video games, and daydreaming about going to the Human World. That all changes when he meets Fuyumi, a human girl who instantly win’s Staz’s heart, and who then loses her life to a man-eating plant.

Refusing to give up on the girl of his dreams, Staz travels across the Demon and Human Worlds in search of a way to bring Fuyumi back to life by any bloody means necessary.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is a bit of a surprise as we get a pair of locked PCM tracks for the series. The show comes in its original Japanese language form as well as the new English language dub, both of which are stereo, and you can’t change them on the fly – though you can change it through the pop-up menu during playback. The series is one that has a pretty active forward soundstage mix to it as it plays out since it’s filled with plenty of physical comedy, sound gags and so forth that keeps it moving. The dialogue is where it’s most well handled as they pop about and come in from different angles, notably with Bell, but in general there’s a good sense of directionality and placement throughout for it. This is mirrored with the action effects as well as there’s some decent movement throughout when these scenes come in, though a lot of it feels light on real impact at times. The combination of the two works well and the series opening and closing sequences top it all off really well with a warmer and fuller sound.

Video:
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The ten episode series and OVA is spread across two discs with five on the first and six on the second, giving it all plenty of room to work with. Animated by Brain’s Base, the series goes for a kind of old school approach that’s fitting for the material as there’s a kind of hodgepodge aspect to the visual design which give it a modern but otherworldly look for the demon world. It does a lot of moving around and the panning sequences largely handle it well, though there’s a few areas where we do get some line noise. The show isn’t one that’s animated on the cheap, but it’s going for a particular style that really does suit it but does come across as looking a little odd. The transfer definitely works well and we get some good pop and vibrancy with the colors that stands out well and detail is nicely handled where it’s needed. It’s a clean looking transfer that definitely does the job, especially in the really busy scenes where the bit rate surges regularly in the mid-thirties.

Packaging:
The packaging for this limited edition comes in a really nice small but heavy chipboard box that works to the shows familiar design with its yellow and black color design and manga illustration style artwork. The front cover gives us a good look at the main trio while the back cover delves into some of the supporting characters. That’s underneath the wrap cover on the back that breaks things down nicely with a good summary of the premise and a look at the extras. It’s bright, bold, colorful and eye-catching to be sure. The Blu-ray case inside works the same idea with the front cover, using anime style illustrations, that has the six main characters all together with the black and yellow all around them. The back cover largely mirrors the back of the box insert but with the colors inverted as it goes into the premise, breaks down the regular disc features and has the technical information in a clean way, albeit not in a technical grid. The case is slightly bigger than usual as it has a hinge to hold the four discs from the site. It also has some good artwork on the reverse side of the main cast imitating the Beatles street walking sequence.

While I really like the packaging, especially the quality of the box, the big piece that makes this a really limited edition release is the 96 page book inside. Half the book is dedicated to episode breakdowns, character profiles and a slew of design, background and promotional artwork that’s really great to have. The other half, surprisingly enough, is a Blood Lad manga story, which is a real treat to read as it shows how well the show has adapted things but also the tone of the manga itself, which certainly makes you want to read more.

Menu:
The menu design for Blood Lad is pretty nicely done as it ties into the style of the series well while also giving several of the characters their own moment. The main layout is the checkered background, which changes color with each character that’s brought to the forefront, where it has the logo along the upper left and the bottom left has the navigation strip, which is done in a cutely spooky way. There’s a lot of empty space, but it works out well as the right side is given over to the character artwork that fades in and out with each change. With the color changing as well, the open space doesn’t feel quite so open, especially with the checkered approach. The navigation strip works well with quick and easy access here and during playback, though I did wish that it highlighted which episode you were on when watching and checking the episode list itself. Beyond that though, it’s a good in-theme menu that sets the tone well and works smoothly.

Extras:
The extras for this release are all kept to the second disc where we get some of the familiar pieces such as the clean opening and closing, but also some welcome things we don’t often get. One of those is a ten minute long series of dub outtakes – with each new scene getting its own chapter, a real rarity that’s great to see. We also get a brief chalk art video that was commissioned for a convention and an art gallery that lets you delve into the materials nicely. The OVA is also included in the extras section as it follows up the events from the TV series and just goes for a kind of wacky if largely forgettable approach.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Yuuki Kodama, Blood Lad is one of several series in the last few years that came out with a ten episode run. Animated by Brain’s Base, the show was a surprise pickup at the time by Viz Media as it was out of their normal wheelhouse of series that they worked on, and because the related manga is released by a different publisher. As a sign of how Viz Media was changing its anime approach, it couldn’t be any clearer. And thankfully, the results are pretty strong here as the show is very well treated with a great limited edition with a fantastic book, a solid dub and a strong encoding and authoring job that brings it all together. Because in the end, as shiny as the box is and all the goodies inside, it’s the show itself that counts.

Blood Lad is a really unusual show in some ways as I kept feeling like I had stepped back into the 80’s a bit, and I mean that in a very good way. It revolves around a vampire named Staz, who is completely fascinated with the human world but hasn’t visited there as times have changed over the centuries and it’s easier to just stay in the demon world. In that world, he’s carved out his own territory where he’s the boss and rules it in a kind of half assed lazy way, but one where he definitely shows that he can handle it through his less conventional methods. The population he has is pretty cool with his style of leadership, though there are always others that want to take him out and claim the territory as their own. For Staz, he’s more interested in hanging out in his place, a modest apartment really, where he plays his favorite videogames from Japan. They’re all from a couple of decades ago and are quaint, but they’re huge things to him and he plays them with a real passion and love that’s great to see.

Into every vampire’s life a little challenge must fall, and that challenge is an unusual one as a human has somehow wandered into his realm from the human world. With his love of humans, he’s quickly intrigued, but when he discovers it’s a rather adorable teenage schoolgirl named Fuyumi, well, he’s almost pretty much in love. Unfortunately, he gets distracted by a real challenger to his position and Fuyumi ends up gobbled up by a plant creature that spits out her uniform and bones. Alas, Fuyumi has become a ghost and is unable to return to the human realm. This spurs Staz to action, which is what the series is really about as he’s on a quest to find a way to resurrect her and bring her back to her world, though he’ll want to be with her as well. It’s a fairly standard setup, but there are some quirks along the way that makes for some great twists as Fuyumi isn’t a normal human and what we learn about here is actually pretty interesting that once again reminds me more of 80’s comedy anime series with how it has a kind of fun and loose approach to things that works really well.

What the series does is to run through a bunch of episodes where we meet an array of characters that have connections, clues and their own agendas that run with what Staz is up to. Staz is the primary of course and he has a really laid back style that’s fun to see, but also his own panic inducing moments, such as when he has to deal with his older brother who is just intent on unlocking Staz’s hidden vampire powers for his own agenda (revenge!). We also get the arrival of a challenger from a different demon world realm named Wolf that has a rather amusing connection to Staz from the past, but he’s different from others since he’s a werewolf and that has its own quirks. We also get a really fun character in Bell, a treasure hunter that traverses the dimensions with size changing frames that really make for some comically fun fight sequences she gets involved in. It’s a pretty good cast that has a solid supporting cast under it with Staz’s younger sister Liz and a host of minor demons that pop in and out throughout.

The series has a very loose kind of approach to it where anything can go since it’s the demon world and the rules are easily changed. That works in its favor because it’s not a show that takes itself too seriously, and that allows it to be really enjoyed to a greater level. Staz is the main focus here and he is quite fun to watch with how he approaches things and the kinds of interactions he has with people, especially when it comes to his family. If there was anything that frustrated me a bit with the series, it was Fuyumi. She’s the reason everything is happening, and there’s a great twist with her towards the end, but there’s an empty shell aspect to her for the most part. She’s just dragged along to things and moved from place to place after the initial confusion of what’s going on. She has some great bits of humor and her expressions are fantastic – and I’ll admit I loved her “Click Here” shirt – but there’s not much to her in terms of character. And that’s really the only crimp within the show, which doesn’t drag it down but keeps it from being even more.

In Summary:
This release is my first experience with the property and I had no clue what to expect. What I found was a pretty quirky show that uses its humor well and its references right to make for a very fun time with what’s otherwise a simple story. With its ten episode run and OVA, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and that’s an important thing. We don’t get a full closure to the story, more of a closure to the opening setup, but that works well as it’s a whole lot of fun. Some shows, especially comedies, can’t sustain a longer run. What we get here hits all the right notes and it left me with a lot of laughs, some good looking animation with a bent towards an 80’s female anime form that I like and a look at the larger world in a pretty loose way. Viz Media has put together a pretty solid release all around here and it makes me more excited to see what they’ll plan in the future with other shows. For fans of Blood Lad, this is pretty much the best release you could get and I can’t think of what more you’d want from it.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Interactive Art Gallery, English Dub Outtakes, Convention Chalk Art Video, Clean Opening & Ending

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: September 2nd, 2014
MSRP: $69.99
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

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