Background: I know many of you tire of the endless lists where self proclaimed experts tell you how great titles are, only to find many of them to be pretty lame. Thankfully, the main anime reviewers at DVD Talk are fans first, and not the company neutered critics you'll find populating the internet these days; lending some meaning to the Best of Anime lists we espouse each year. One of the best titles on last year's list 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. That brings me to the final volume of a great series, Trinity Blood: Chapter 6, a show I enjoyed even more when I watched a marathon of episodes recently with a couple of friends. 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. All worked out, albeit with some sacrifices by characters fulfilling their destinies, the balance of power restored largely due to the efforts of Abel, Esther, Eon, and an old friend. That led to the final arc of the show where the old world technology came back into play as the sovereign state of Albion; home of a large portion of the technology used in the post-cataclysmic Earth. All is not well there once you scratch beneath the surface though since a civil war threatens the established order, provoked as much by internal dissent as the outside influence of the Rosen Kreux.
The episodes this time were 21) The Throne of Roses II: The Refuge, 22) The Throne of Roses III: Lord of Abyss, 23) The Crown of Thorns I: City in the Mist, and 24) The Crown of Thorns II: The Lord of Oath. Starting off with a hunt for Pope Alessandro, the show takes a turn back to the idea of saving an individual thought to be important as a figurehead more than anything else. As the race to find him rages on, the Rosen Kreux unveil their trump card weapon; a powerful ship that can lay waste to almost everything it comes in contact with, protected by a force field. Were that not enough, Abel gets a visit from his older brother, giving the viewer a whole lot better look at their origins and where they fit into the scheme of things. What was old is new and what was new is old as the various factions fight for their future at the hands of someone who would deny them all if given his way. To me, this was the penultimate volume of the series because even with the death of an important character, actually more than one such characters, the idea of good versus evil was in full play so well drawn that it made up for some of the minor thematic weaknesses of the series to date. The Pope finally starts to realize that he can't be a meek little boy any longer and the fight between Cain and Abel was an interesting blend of CGI effects. In all, saying more would spoil the fun and I'm not going to do that but metaphors aside, you'll find this to be a series ending on a mighty high note, one of the few that can claim such a standing in recent years. As such, it earned a rating of Highly Recommended from me and I wish there was a follow up series to answer some of the questions left behind, still leaving plenty to the imagination.
Picture: Trinity Blood: Chapter 6 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: 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 and taken with the previous ones might allow collector edition fans to play more readily than the rest of us, 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: Chapter 6 sewed up all the major threads really well and served to punctuate the quality of the show nicely. The writing was superior this time, and while some of the religious themes were over stated, I still got the impression that they were telling a lot more than a futuristic science fiction show if you know what I mean. The battle sequences were a better mix of the CGI and traditional style of anime too, often making it tough to see where one ended and the other began, but the whirlwind of events taking place throughout the volume's episodes provided some serious replay value as I felt the need to go back to the beginning yet again to catch every reference. In all then, if you've seen the rest of the series, you're going to like this one a lot (if my guess holds true) but see the series in order to feel the greatest impact of how little things can impact the bigger picture (it was also cool to see Abel finally let loose at 100% too).
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.