Blood C – Complete Series (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 288 minutes approx.
You couldn’t possibly hope to meet a more kind hearted, sweet and upbeat girl than Saya Kisagari, a trainee Shrine Maiden under the tutelage of her father Tadayoshi. Saya’s school friends tease her about her cheerfulness, punctuality and straight laced lifestyle although they find it endearing.
However they are unaware of her secret side – the one in which she slays demonic monsters called Elder Bairn, which feed on human beings, a noble task Saya continues in memory of her late mother, herself a demon hunting Shrine Maiden. But therein lies the irony of the situation – that Saya has no memory of her mother at all, including not knowing her name. Is there a reason for this? Saya is about to find out but as always, the truth hurts.
Beginning with the seminal OVA Blood: The Last Vampire in 2000, the saga of vampiric demon slayer Saga has proven to be a successful franchise for animation giants Production IG. This, their third entry into the canon, follows 2005’s Blood +, which has yet to see a UK release, although no prior knowledge of either outing is required here.
For this series however the creation of the project lies in the hands of the prolific all female group CLAMP, who not only provide their trademark character designs but the original story too. Typically, it focuses on their favourite themes personal memories and a sense of identity while their other obligatory topic of messing with temporal existence also plays a part here.
Via CLAMP’s unmistakeable slender character designs, this is the cutest rendering of Saya to date such is the clumsy but cheery nature of her personality. Instead of being a saccharine nuisance to everyone, Saya is widely adored, from Fumito Nanahara, who runs the small coffee shop, to her classmates Yujka Amino, perky (and annoying) twins Nene and Nono Motoe and class president Itsuki Tomofusa. Even impossibly sexy schoolteacher Kanako Tsutsutori is charmed by Saya’s radiant disposition. The only person who seems reluctant to succumb to Saya’s infectious gaiety is the aloof Shinichirō Tokizane, although he does seem to have an interest in tacit interest in our heroine.
Away from school, Saya is tasked with protecting the small rural town from the Elder Bairn, malevolent creatures of all shapes, sizes and appearance. Literally spilling rivers of blood, Saya uses the sword skills taught to her by her father to take these grotesque beasties down, enduring a claret shower in the process (ruining a seemingly endless supply of school uniforms). Yet, during moments of extreme pressure Saya’s eyes will change to an ominous red and her fighting skills suddenly increase in power and intensity, leading to victory before a temporary black out.
In one encounter, Saya’s doomed opponent begs her to “Remember the covenant”. This means nothing to her but over time brief visions enter her mind, but nothing of any substance. Eventually, things take a bizarre and deadly turn that even the bird brained Saya begins to ask questions; whether she will like the answers is another matter.
CLAMP have been careful to make the story half action, half drama while retaining a supernatural atmosphere throughout. It suffers from a slow start with moments of levity and Saya’s overall harmless personality makes her quite cuddly. The true meat of the story kicks in around episode four as Saya tries to make sense of the cryptic words of the Elder Bairn.
With no answers forthcoming from her father and the egging on from a mysterious talking dog, Saya becomes frustrated with her inability to harness even simple memories of her past. Clues are scattered throughout the show, for the viewer to pick up on even if Saya doesn’t, often proving more helpful than the surreal visions Saya experiences.
When the big reveal comes, it will either be viewed as genius or “What?” – more likely the latter – while the moment itself comes via a huge info dump in which some of the main cast spell everything out in that clumsy convenient fashion that defies logic even in anime – although Saya is partly away with the fairies at this point so it is more for the viewer’s benefit, but subtle this is not. The ending may seem frustratingly open but fear not, a feature length film Blood C: The Last Dark was made to provide a conclusion, and hopefully should see a UK release soon.
When this show originally aired in Japan it was heavily censored due to the explicit gore on display. This was not due to the geysers of blood gushing from the tiniest of wounds or limbs being severed, but the very unpleasant images of Saya’s classmates – both close and peripheral – meeting some very grisly endings at the hands of the Elder Bairn in the later episodes. I’m quite surprised this only got a 15 certificate.
The collaboration with CLAMP makes this a visually brightly coloured affair that is significantly lighter in both tone and aesthetic than previous Blood outings. The animation from Production IG however maintains their highly standard, aside from one egregiously noticeable continuity error in episode nine.
The fight scenes in particular are fluid and precise, with no scrimping on the movements with motion blurs or other deceptive shortcuts. The Elder Bairns may not always look like the scariest creatures ever seen but they are violent. When limbs go or body ripped apart it’s all there in its stomach churning glory and looks a treat in HD.
Hopefully CLAMP’s involvement won’t put off long time Saya fans from investigating this latest entry into the Blood franchise. It may be occasionally twee and a bold departure from the previous adventures, but it has its merits and at least gore hounds are suitably catered for. Blood C deserves a look for taking the brave move to try something different, and while the end result has its flaws, it is not significantly damaging to the Blood legacy either.
Dolby True HD English Language 5.1
Dolby True HD Japanese Language 2.0
Disc 1 only :
Episode 6 commentary
Disc 2 only:
Episode 12 commentary
Textless Opening Song “spiral”
Textless Opening Song “Junketsu Paradox”
Textless Opening Song “Junketsu Paradox” (Episode 12)
Rating – ***
Man In Black