Background: There are those who say that religion doesn't mix well with entertainment; be it mainstream network shows like The Book of Daniel, some of the recent porn blockbuster titles, or other fictional works. The reasoning is that people seem to think that a character can't be portrayed in a bad light if they are associated with religion (be it a priest, a nun, or other clergy) since it might be considered an attack on religion as a whole. Ignoring the fact that religious people are still human and made of the same stuff as the rest of us (with all the usual flaws), there have been a multitude of examples of good and bad in every other profession too, forcing people to look at such depictions in context or suffer from the result of being too close minded. That brings me to the futuristic tale of Trinity Blood 2: Collector's Edition, a show where humanity survives thanks in large part to the efforts of the Catholic Church with a struggle between the organization and a large group of vampires that seek to subjugate the survivors of a past war. The emphasis is on a group of traveling priests and nuns that fight the demons as they seek to instill an uneasy peace with a third group trying to rekindle the war to its own advantage. Some of the characters are a bit more worldly than others but the idea is actually well thought out and pays homage to the Church without dwelling on matters best left to yourself, with a lot of action resulting from their exploits.
Father Abel and Sister Esther walk to the Vatican.
Movie: Trinity Blood 2: Collector's Edition is the second part of a story set in a post apocalyptic future where Armageddon nearly destroyed the Earth. 500 years later, the survivors had largely reestablished mankind's place on the planet but with one exception; the emergence of vampires. Earth is divided into two main nation states in this manner, the vampires on one hand and the humans on the other. The humans are led by the Catholic Church, as corrupt as ever and led by a weak pope bullied into action by those surrounding him. A fragile peace exists between the two groups and it is threatened by the rise of a secret society called the Rosen Kreux that will stop at nothing to start a new, more perfect society. They have allies in both nation states and are led largely by vampires but they owe no loyalty to either side, killing anyone they need to to further their goals.
Sword Dancer is the name of Father Hugue, a man who confronts his sorted past in the second episode of the volume.
Small pockets of terrorists on both sides attempt to change the order of the universe but the Rosen Kreux is the primary reason why the Church formed a group called AX in order to maintain the balance at all costs. AX is a group of secret agents led by Lady Caterina Sforza, Duchess of Milano and sister to the pope. Their most powerful agent is Father Abel Nightroad, a seemingly bumbling figure of a man (much like Trigun) who transforms into a being called a Crusnik, a vampire's vampire that drinks their blood when the ability is called forth, as needed. He travels the land on missions from the Vatican, ever fearful that unleashing too much of his power will cause him to lose control and become a threat himself. He is backed up by an android named Tres Ique, a terminator fashioned expeditionary marshal codenamed Gunslinger complete with tremendous firepower and self repair abilities as well as programming that instantly allows him to determine Papal doctrine and attack those who violate the word of the law. The Church's army is led by Francesco De Medci, a Cardinal and half brother to Caterina who has the ear of the Pope, often leading him into extreme positions. Abel is the central character to most episodes but is joined by Sister Esther and others as needed while the larger pieces of the puzzle fit into place with regard to the Rosen Kreux continually sowing dissention and terror into the populace of both societies. His dark secret is known only to a select handful of people, notable that he must carefully control his power or become victim to it himself, plunging forever into the darkness of the abyss like those he fights in the name of the Church.
Brother Leon was a capable pilot as he flew Abel to a special mission using Peter Pan characters as a focal point.
Earth itself has lost most of its technology, with pockets of advances coexisting with the dirigibles and almost medieval technology that most people rely on. The Rosen Kreux employs various factions and promotes the self interests of talented individuals to wage a campaign against the Church. The episodes in the second volume of the show were 5) Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow; 6) Sword Dancer, 7) Never Land, and 8) Silent Noise. While I strongly recommend watching Trinity Blood 1 first, the episodes here were largely standalone in nature, building on the developments of the previous volume nicely. The initial episode seemed designed to establish a few more of the characters and their roles in the movie (particularly Esther, the Pope, and the resident genius of the group, Wordsworth). From there, we see Brother Hugue confront his past as he tries to solve a mystery that baffles even the vampire aristocracy in a race against time. In Never Land, the delightful twist involved reworking the characters of Peter Pan as Abel got Bother Leon (actually Leon Garsia De Asturias) a reprieve from his lengthy prison sentence on a mission to figure out why so many ships in an area end up with dead crews. The volume closed out with Abel and Sister Noelle finding out that the easy answer to a crime isn't always the best answer with tragic results in a cliff hanger of epic proportions. In all, it helped cement my belief that this is going to be one of the season's stand out anime adventures, even though some may not like the use of religious themes and imagery that are often used very intelligently and in a positive manner.
Sister Noelle has some unique powers of her own that allow her to assist Abel when they aren't ripping off the Church on missions.
The characters are based on the original novel by Sunao Yoshida with their designs stemming from Thores Shibatmoto as serialized on Sneaker Buno by Kadokawa Shoten. Given the quality of the first two volumes of the show, I will certainly consider picking up any of the written works that become available since the delicate mix of horror and humor have been handled so well to date. The series continues to impress me that a lot of effort went into it by the makers at Gonzo (no surprise there considering some of their other recent works) and the quality of the depictions rings true in this rebuilt society on the precipice of war. The episodic nature of most of the individual episodes to date seems a prelude to the bigger picture story that is slowly working its way into the series but this is another case where I have no problem rating it as Highly Recommended. If you're worried about the religious issues, keep in mind that while integral to the show, they are not derogatory to religion and the "good guys" happen to work for the church but there are precious few specific elements that will make a non-believer uncomfortable with how the material is handled in Trinity Blood 2: Collector's Edition.
Picture: Trinity Blood 2: Collector's Edition was presented in the same 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen color it was shot in by director Tomohiro Hirata for release in Japan last year in 2005. There was some grain added to give it a slightly gothic, film look and there were some issues with the way the CGI combined with the more traditional animation techniques but the visual qualities supported the story rather nicely. The use of dark scenes was something of a bludgeon at times but I have to admit that as much as the darker themes were addressed handily this way, the DVD mastering looked nearly as good as some of FUNimation's best works to date. There was a corresponding use of well lit scenes this time too that helped balance the lighter material (while thematically obvious, they were still well handled) too.
Sound: The audio was presented with the standard choices of a 2.0 Dolby Digital track in the original Japanese or the newly minted 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English language dub. For my tastes, the vocals were a different experience on each track so I can thankfully say that it was interesting to listen to both of them. The Japanese lead voice actor playing Abel nightshade, Hiroki Tochi, was exceptionally well suited for the part as was the English language actor for Tres Ique, Chris Sabat, but the vocals seemed to be handled nicely across the board. The music was appropriately moody and suited too with the special effects sounding slightly stronger on the dubbed track.
Extras: The fold out package (complete with cardboard sleeve) was designed to fit nicely into the heavy box from Trinity Blood 1 but had some nice artwork too. The 24 page color booklet was also really nice as it had interviews, artwork, character descriptions, and lots more to appreciate, including character backgrounds that fleshed out their motivations a whole lot (nearly rendering the booklet as essential for a full understanding of the episodes) so don't skip it or rely on the edited version of the show if you're a fan of the show. The addition of a few small tarot cards was okay but not really all that special, with a clean opening & closing, some background in the form of a glossary of terms as historical artifacts, and some trailers to other shows. There was also a FUNimation catalog included in the case for other quality shows by the company.
Final Thoughts: Trinity Blood 2: Collector's Edition looks to be one of the winners of the year if you like characters in the Trigun mold that balance out their darker pasts with the situational humor employed in the down times to keep the show from getting too serious. Father Abel exemplifies this best of all, routinely proves to disarm with his clumsy nature before the pressure is on for him to save the day (sometimes from his own team members) with his dark secret, but the other characters seem driven in ways that watching them slowly evolve has added significantly to the replay value. For a blend of excitement, action, and excellent writing, Trinity Blood 2: Collector's Edition continues to propel the story forward in a manner that most anime lovers will relish, showing once more that FUNimation is on top of their game.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.