Review for Blood C: The Last Dark
It’s going to be impossible to talk about the Blood-C: The Last Dark feature film without referring to the Blood-C television series that precedes it, so consider this fair warning that the series will be heavily spoiled ahead. Of course by that very same token, this should be indication that this isn’t a movie that stands all that well alone. You’re going to have to see the TV series first. I watched the TV series for review last year, and I wasn’t particularly taken with CLAMP’s perspective on the Blood universe. It was a series, which despite its blood, guts and gore, extreme violence and chilling imagery, failed to make an impact with me. Instead I found it to be insipid, dull and unsatisfying. The show was really about Saya, living as a shrine maiden in an isolated village, going to school with her excessively perky friends by day, and battling demons called Elder Bairns by night, and as the two worlds collided, she began to question her reality more and more.
It turned out that she was being played, that the local cafe owner, Fumito Nanahara was more than that, and had set up the entire village as a sort of lethal reality TV game show, without the broadcasts, just as a means to warp Saya’s mind, for reasons that remained obscure in the series. That series ended with his malicious games revealed, and with Nanahara escaping in a helicopter after shooting Saya through the head. Saya swore vengeance (she is a vampire after all), and the movie picks up not long after that point.
Tokyo has changed. There are rumours spreading of people being devoured, a curfew has been imposed for all under-20-year olds after 9pm, and the use of the internet and social media is being restricted. The city is practically under martial law for the youth, with security forces patrolling the street, enforcing these new draconian laws. It’s to this harsh Tokyo that Saya returns, her first act to save a girl named Mana Hiiragi from a man turned monster on the Tokyo underground. It’s a fortuitous encounter, as Mana is a member of the Sirrut group, dedicated to finding out the truth behind the current crackdown in the city, and reversing the laws. They’re aided by their wheelchair bound benefactor Kuroto Mogari, who has a personal stake in finding Fumito Nanahara. But in the real world, Fumito is powerful indeed, the head of a global corporation, and scrupulous is staying out of the public eye. Saya will need Sirrut’s help is she is to track him down.
Blood-C: The Last Dark gets a pretty pleasing 1.85:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p resolution. While the series may have been stricken with excessive digital banding, the same isn’t true of the feature film, which only rarely shows signs of such compression, an impressive feat given that it’s set mostly in dark, and where there is a lot of creative use of light sources, and fast changing imagery. The animation in The Last Dark is exceptionally good, and the film makes full use of the Blu-ray resolution. The image is detailed, with quality character designs and at times almost photorealistic world designs. The way that the animators play with light and shadow, with reflections and lens flares really makes this film look impressive indeed. The action scenes come across well, with impact and style, and this is one of the best animated features I have seen in some time. That’s no surprise given it’s a Production IG joint. Once again, Clamp’s usual design aesthetic is somewhat restrained for this movie’s characters, but given its location and contemporary period, it makes you want Kawajiri to take another crack at bringing X to the screen with this kind of budget behind it.
The images in this review are sourced from the PR and aren’t necessarily representative of the final retail release.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and Japanese, with a signs only track for the English dub, and translated subtitles for the Japanese audio. Just as with the TV series, the audio and subtitles are locked during playback, although you can change between the two with the pop-up menu. No English with full subtitles for HOH dub fans. I’ve got in my notes that the surround ‘kicks arse’, which is no doubt a response to the film’s action packed opening, a battle with a demon aboard a subway train, followed by a car chase. Things do quieten down later in the film, but the later action sequences are just as effective. The dialogue is clear throughout. I checked that that the English dub exists, and indeed it does.
Lack of time prevented me from taking a closer look at this disc’s extra features, but it isn’t short on bonuses, which you’ll find after the disc loads up its animated menu (which took a while on my player).
The US Actor and Staff Commentary is one of those more considered Funimation efforts, usually found on feature films, where the ADR Director (Mike McFarland) invites various members of the cast and crew into the booth one by one to be interviewed about the film. Quite understandably, this isn’t a scene specific commentary.
The NoNeNoNe Theatre comprises 6 HD bits of promo, which feature the psychotic twins from the series, here to remind of what happened in the series in a humorous way, to get viewers back into the groove for the feature film. You can watch them individually, but if you select Play All, the run time is just shy of 12 minutes.
You get 4 minutes worth of Promotional Videos for the film, the Original Teaser, the Original Trailer, and the US Trailer.
This being a Madman sourced disc, you’ll also find an Australian anti-piracy thank you, followed by trailers for Appleseed XIII Collection, Baka & Test Series 2 (the Australians got it on Blu-ray, grrr!), The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (The Australians got it on... you know...), and Evangelion 2.22.
Blood-C: The Last Dark kicks off in spectacular fashion, with a chilling supernatural menace unleashed on a tube train leading to a great fight sequence as Saya pursues the monster through the city streets, eventually rescuing Mana. There then follows one of the best car chases I have ever seen in animation, putting some live action movies to shame, impressing with the realism in vehicle design and motion, throwing in a helicopter element, and tying in to someone hacking the city’s traffic control system in a real-time version of the Italian Job. If only the rest of the movie was this good.
It’s not. After blowing half of its action budget on the start, it then goes about building the story and the characters, and it’s here that the film begins to fall apart. For one thing, while I did complain that the series was sterile because of its continued focus on Saya, in the film it’s like she’s a guest star in her own movie. For the filmmakers, the interesting characters are the members of Sirrut, and a lot more time is given to developing them and their relationships. About the only time that Saya does take centre stage during the middle act, it’s to share the screen with Mana, who inexplicably has developed an obsession with her saviour.
This wouldn’t be too bad, but the members of Sirrut all conform to the typical stereotypes that populate mainstream anime these days, and when you see the cutesy pre-pubescent hacker (voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who else?) simultaneously typing with her hands and her feet, you’ll be asking where you’ve seen that before. It’s Ed from Cowboy Bebop before you lose too much sleep. And Coorie from Bodacious Space Pirates. The characters are so familiar and their interactions so clichéd that I found myself drifting off more than once during the film, the adrenaline rush of the epic opening long since forgotten. And there is a scene where Mana and Saya share a bath...
If you’re wondering about Saya and her vengeance against Fumito, by this point so was I. The film does come back to it for the conclusion, albeit with a wholly predictable twist and the rest of the action budget can be found here in its finale. The problem is that the questions set up by the series, the whole motivation behind Fumito’s schemes and the reasons why Saya wants revenge, all become diluted by the middle act. By the time we return to it, with the epic Kaiju sized finale, I have to admit that I had long since ceased caring. Why did Fumito play with Saya’s mind, what was his ultimate goal? Why did I fall asleep during the epic action finale with the visual intensity and the subwoofing audio overload, and have to watch that bit over? All questions that I will probably never be able to answer.
Blood-C: The Last Dark is another reference disc for showing off what anime can do. You can put it on the same pile as Sky Crawlers in that regard. And just like Sky Crawlers, you can use it as a cure for insomnia too. The beauty of the animation nudges it above average, as does a very neat xxxHolic crossover moment.