Background: I know that many people these days are wary of lists that supposedly consist of the "best" a genre has to offer but I have to admit that I saw some great titles on the Best of Anime 2006 list a short time ago, contributing a few titles myself that I had really enjoyed. One of them was Trinity Blood, a futuristic tale of a cold war between the human race and a sect of terrorist vampires trying to commit a jihad of sorts to upset the established order of things and emerge as the dominant faction of sentient beings on the planet. The archetypes used in the series could be traced back to numerous other series over the years but also combined in such a way that I found a lot to appreciate with repeated viewings, making today's review of Trinity Blood: Chapter 5 all the more appealing to me. Here's a look at some of the previous background of the show and an update on the four episodes included on the disc:
Movie: Trinity Blood is set after a huge world war between humans and vampires nearly ends life on the planet Earth. 500 years later, the survivors had largely reestablished mankind's place on the planet but with one exception; the emergence of vampires as an equally powerful race. 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 in order to further their goals.
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.
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. To this point in time, Father Abel and Sister Esther were on a dangerous mission to return a royal envoy back to the vampire empire, the youthful and headstrong lad named Eon; a loyalist to his queen that had found many of his former friends to be worse than the humans he had previously hated blindly, until Abel and Esther showed him another path. Now on the run from his own people, Eon must warn the queen but finds a lot standing in his way as the trio tries to maneuver while attacked and hunted down by factions desperate to keep him from talking.
The episodes this time were 17) The Night Lords III: The Island of Her Darling Children, 18) The Night Lords IV: The Palace of Jade, 19) The Night Lords V: A Start of Pilgrimage, and 20) The Throne of Roses I: Kingdom of the North. The majority of the volume was used to tie up the preceding storyline where Eon, Abel, and Esther had to warn the vampire queen of what was going on. She was rumored to be all knowing in her kingdom but given the brazen attacks on the royal family by the terrorists, the trio set out to do their very best even knowing that getting caught would likely mean their own deaths. The endless cycle of violence needed to be broken though and with the help of a special little girl, they managed to be in the right place at the wrong time; resulting in Eon's blood lust balanced against a very fragile Esther. I refuse to spoil it for you but suffice it to say that not everyone was who they appeared to be and events had been manipulated by a variety of characters for numerous reasons, the roller coaster ride ending with the death of an important character. The peace deal nearly secured, the show then switched gears to start a new storyline, one where just as much duplicity was to take place involving a powerful kingdom to the north of the Vatican that could play a pivotal role in securing the future.
Okay, some of the plot points of the volume were worn a bit threadbare by now since much of it was just a reversal of what had taken place in the human kingdom previously. The twists and turns were often predictable but it was still a lot of fun nonetheless and earned many a smile in the humorous moments and some tension in the dramatic parts. I wasn't keen on how the arcs were split up this time as the sole episode for the newest one stood out like a sore thumb; allowing the story to just start before the cliffhanger ending appeared but I liked it better than some companies usual means of dealing with such a situation; cutting off the episode, charging full price for three episodes, and thumbing their noses at the consumer so FUNimation is to be applauded for taking the tougher route here. I'm going to rate this one as Recommended though it was almost good enough to go to the next rating, losing out by a small bit thanks to minimal extras. If you've been watching thus far though, you won't want to miss this one either.
Picture: Trinity Blood 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 that matter 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: I got in the regular version of the show and all it had for extras was a clean opening & closing (as textless songs), some background in the form of a glossary of terms as historical artifacts, and some trailers to other shows.
Final Thoughts: Trinity Blood: Chapter V detailed the further adventures of special agents Father Abel and Sister Esther in a futuristic setting where mankind is at odds with a nation-state of vampires; many of whom view the human race as mere cattle to feed upon rather than beings worthy of admiration. The possibilities for the conclusion or the series being picked up again some day (there isn't much left to go) were pretty solid this far into the season and I found myself going back over older volumes to pick up clues I hadn't noticed in the past. The show had some flaws but the dub was as good as the original language track for me and that alone is reason to pick it up in my book since too few companies are willing to spend the amount of time and energy needed to make this happen these days. In all then, the story proved to be well worth continuing to watch and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
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, Best of Anime 2005, and Best of Anime 2006 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.