In honor of the recent Halloween holiday, I picked up Blood+ to get into the season. I was halfheartedly expecting to get something unoriginal and maybe a bit of crazy fun. Man, I suck at judging things at first glance, this show is awesome.
Blood+ is a reimagining of the common vampire archetype which opts to zigzag most of the rules and established tropes surrounding vampires and instead replaces many elements with new ideas. Sometimes the differences are enough to question if these are exactly vampires. That's probably why it's so good.
As is a common trend in this marathon, the cast gets a mention here. The characters in the show aren't unique by any means, nor are they exactly the most deep, but when they all get together, it feels like an extremely well-rounded cast. Their relationship with the protagonist Saya (particularly her family) is constantly evolving and packed full of moments ranging from tear-jerks to moments of heartwarming.
The balance of the cast goes through quite a bit of character development over the course of the series, with characters like Kai going from inexperienced teenager to pretty much full-on badass. It gives them a certain underlying depth that lets them overcome their simplistic character tropes.
The animation of the series is pretty good all things considered. Through its run it combines computer-generated animation with traditional hand-drawn methods (this series came out when this still wasn't commonplace) wonderfully. Overall the series is pretty well animated the whole way through, I didn't notice a steep drop in animation quality on the tail end of the series (which happens quite a bit).
There are spoilers of important plot points here. The reimagining of vampires taking place is gloriously conceived. The annoying constraints of the usual vampires are tossed out and replaced with compelling and thoughtful elements. One such element was the interesting (and creepy) nature of Chiropteran reproduction. The idea of having two queens born to each mother whose blood are literally poisonous to each other is damn good, particularly when the implications of it are brought up in the show. In addition, the Chevaliers are by no means a unique idea, but they are definitely well done and mesh very well with the changes that have already been made to the vampires within the show. End spoilers.
The first part of the series (episodes 1-25) is packed to the brim with mystery and conspiracies that frankly just keep you coming back for more. The mystery only gets more intriguing with time as you get answers. The nature of what exactly Saya is is a mystery in-and-of-itself that will invite speculation from the audience. Her relationship with the cast and the enemy she fights evolves over the series as both the audience and she learn about the past that she's forgotten. When you finally do get answers, you're hit with more questions that feel just as compelling as the ones that you just managed to answer.
Another point, this series is a real tear-jerker. It is packed with moments that are just sad, depressing even. Where some anime only do this sometimes, Blood+ justifiably does it over and over. The story of Saya's life isn't a rosy one and it is fascinating (but so very tragic).
The main villain of the series is shrouded in mystery for the better part of the first season and arguably onward too. When we are finally revealed the main villain, rest assured that this villain is one of my favorite in years. The villain is completely psychopathic and unites the entire viewership against them brilliantly. Then again, at the same time, the nature of this show's vampires brings into question if we have any right to judge the villain. It could just be a biological imperative in a way.
Oh damn, I've started analyzing the show while writing the review. Another example of why this show is good, it is easy to casually analyze. You'll find yourself connecting the dots as you watch and over-analyzing it sitting in programming languages class (or maybe that's just me).
Well, I think that's it for the great section. Let's just move on-
Hey wait, what's that?
...that Hans Zimmer? IT IS. (see gif for reaction)
The soundtrack for Blood+ is superb, most likely due to the collaboration between Sony's in-house audio teams (Sony is the indirect producer on the series), Mark Mancina, and the famous Hans Zimmer, whom you'll know as the composer on the Christopher Nolan Batman films, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean, and a whole metric ton of other epic pieces. This is the first and, to date, only anime series that Hans Zimmer has worked on in any capacity. It is generally agreed by fans that one of the biggest draws of this show is the incredible meshing of the epic soundtrack with the series. Even better, the soundtrack itself is excellent to the extent that it is recommended by fans to get the original soundtrack. A couple of samplings, including the first opening which I consider the best of the four openings:
The series, while excellently directed and scored, does have a few drawbacks in its pocket. The series starts to feel a bit long-winded at times, almost exclusively in part two. Once the series sorts out most of the mystery and the conflict starts coming to a climax, it feels like the buildup to the final battle takes a little too long, like they ran out of plot threads before they launched the finale arc. As such, the episodes just before the finale feel almost like filler. They don't do terribly much and the important plot points within seem less important and don't resonate very well.
On the other hand, some aspects of the series seem like they weren't explored enough. The nature of Chiropteran queens is still very much a mystery, despite the answers we have. Their lifespans and processes surrounding them are powerful elements that probably should have been better fleshed out sometimes.
Then there's the fact that part one is extremely mysterious and loaded with revelations (that are sometimes disturbing) and the second part is much less so. Part two opts to be more of an action-oriented plot compared to the mystery-oriented nature of the previous part. It isn't as compelling and it starts to drag on without the mystery backing it up. Then the ending of the whole series oversteps into melodrama pretty hard too, which is grating for a series that, up until that point, was very serious and knowingly avoided this very thing.
Blood+ is a rare series that takes a common plot element (vampires) and completely reworks the concept into an idea that stands entirely on its own. The plot and mystery will keep you coming back for more and the soundtrack will keep you listening intently. The direction of series is excellent and the animation is pleasant.
The main villain is gloriously psychopathic and has something that main villains just don't. Maybe it was presence or maybe it was just that the villain that was unabashedly unsettling? In any case, great villain.
This series is for someone who wants to see an action-oriented mystery series that revolves around a centuries-spanning conspiracy. The show employs elements of the vampire archetype and replaces some of the more common and boring aspects of vampires with new, interesting elements. You'll find yourself analyzing the series and the characters more than you'd expect, coming up with your own theories as time goes on.
As usual, I claim no ownership of the images.
There is a very good chance of RahXephon next time.
This is part of my Anime Review Marathon that I began in October 2013 to record my thoughts as I watch a variety of anime on my ever growing backlog. These reviews won't come out on a persistent basis, they'll come out when I feel I have seen enough of a series to pass a judgement on it.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner by using the "Dex's Corner" tag.