Trinity Blood Collector’s Edition (Cert 15)

3 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 571 minutes approx.

Release Date: December 19th   

Rounding off 2022, MVM revive another title from the archives to be given a new HD makeover to catch the attention of newer fans who would have missed its initial release in 2007/8 – the vampiric action epic Trinity Blood!

Set 900 years after an apocalyptic event known as Armageddon, a war rages between two groups of people – the Terran or humans, and the Methuselah or vampires, with the latter claiming to be the stronger and superior race. They have aligned themselves with the New Human Empire and their main objective is to wipe out the Terran, whilst the Terran are represented by the Vatican Papal State.

However, it is not so cut and dried as many people exist who believe peace and unity between the two sides can be achieved, but extremist groups such as the Rosenkreuz Order refuse to accept such a notion and continue to stoke the flames of war. To combat this terrorism, the Vatican has established the AX Unit under the command of Cardinal Caterina Sforza, whose secret weapon is Father Abel Nightroad, a Crusnik – a vampire that feeds off the blood of other vampires.

Abel is not alone in this mission, fighting alongside a host of fearsome skilled warriors, yet his main partner is Sister Esther Blanchett, a young novice with a dark side job as an assassin under the aegis of Dietrich von Lohengrin against a vampire despot named Count Gyula Kadar. Having saved Esther from Kadar’s clutches, Able takes her back to the Vatican where she is given a role within AX unit.

Originally a set of light novels from the pen of the late Sunao Yoshida, who never got to see the manga or this anime adaption of his work, Trinity Blood is a series from studio Gonzo that takes the unusual route of changing the order of the novels’ storylines as well as making their own amendments to them, resulting a confused narrative that fans of Yoshida’s works have noted doesn’t do the source material justice.

Let’s get the Hellsing comparisons out of the way now, as I am sure some of you have your copycat radar beeping like mad. Yes, there is a similarity, which goes beyond the central premise – Abel does loosely riff on Alucard but is closer in character to Vash from Trigun. Caterina is practically a twin of Integra Hellsing, except she wears papal robes and a monocle. And whilst Esther is handy with a gun, she is no Seras Victoria.

Elsewhere, the aforementioned religious references or largely in name only thus aren’t in need of context since the story concentrates more on politic than religion anyway – it is the pop culture references that are corny! For instance, in the first episode, Abel meets a female pilot named Jessica Lang; in episode 7, Abel investigates an island called Never Land, where a Professor James Barrie is turning orphans into vampire fairies, and the two oldest kids are named Wendy and Peter.

It may have been a cute tribute by Yoshida but western sensibilities will view it as trite. They may be a bit more forgiving about the Vatican warship being named Iron Maiden – captained by Sister Kate who is only seen in hologram form – but not so charitable when they learn Abel has a brother named…wait for it… Cain! I guess it does make sense in the long run but a mentioned earlier, the religious motifs are largely superficial than theologically relevant.

Driving the story, broken down into mini-arcs per the novel series, is the ongoing war between the Terran and Methuselah, with almost no major deviation from this. Early episodes serve to introduce the hefty line up of characters, but remembering them all is made difficult by so many being similar in appearance –  at least three AX Unit auxiliary members have long black hair and deep voices, so good luck distinguishing them.

This, as you might have already divined, means character development is minimal but at least the main characters are fleshed out enough to garner our interest, with Abel and Esther being the primary focus for the all-important emotional journey. Coming up the rear is Pope Alessandro XVIII who in this case is a teenage boy because anime. Lacking in courage and conviction, he is constantly belittled by his older brother and a target for kidnappers, but his bond with Esther helps him find his backbone eventually.

By virtue of vampires being the main antagonists – and indeed protagonist – there is a definite gothic feel to the aesthetic and atmosphere, and with war always providing casualties, plenty of blood and violence is on tap for the gore hounds. Necks may be bitten but not as frequently as limbs are severed and bullets rent bodies apart, with the claret spilling freely. Since action is a huge part of this series, this mix of fantasy and steampunk combat always results in a high body count.

Gonzo do a fantastic job with the visuals and this digitally remastered transfer helps accentuate the detail of the artwork and backgrounds. Some of the rudimentary CGI work sticks out a little but not to any detriment, which is easily disguised during the flurry of action, and the odd use of still frames doesn’t reflect on the otherwise energetic animation. A nod also to Takahito Eguchi, whose stirring symphonic soundtrack offers powerful succour to the imagery, leading to a stunning crescendo for the climactic battle scene.

Fans of the light novels or the manga will be the hardest to please with this adaptation I fear, and whilst it has its narrative cavils, I found Trinity Blood to be a very entertaining and enjoyable series. Packed with action and potent observations on the futility of a war based on prejudice, it may wear its influences on its sleeve yet confidently stands on its own two feet. But hey, it has vampire priests – what more could you ask for?

Extras:

English Language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Japanese Language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

English Subtitles

Disc 3 only:

Historical Artifacts

Textless Songs

 

Rating – **** 

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