Recently we had the opportunity to check out Blood+ which turned out to be a rocking good time. Not far beyond that Trinity Blood proved its worth and so did Geneon's Hellsing Ultimate before they went the way of the dodo. If you haven't spotted a trend yet there seems to be a whole lot of anime around these days with vampires as the main characters. Whether they're good or bad, there's no denying the fascination we otaku have with the blood-thirsty undead.
FUNimation's latest series to hit store shelves finds itself nestled firmly in that oh-so adored genre. Black Blood Brothers brings us to a world filled with vampires, humans, and something else born in the interim. While the series takes place at a certain point in history there's actually a lot of background to the show that helps to flesh it out. The premise is actually pretty cool as it becomes a threat that brings both humans and vampires together in a way that they naturally shouldn't.
It seems that back in the day some dude in Hong Kong became known as the Kowloon King. This guy was essentially a vampire who had the ability to infect humans and turn them into his slaves. As these Kowloon Children bit others they too fell under the King's control which is something that no ordinary vampire should be able to do. Like a plague the Kowloon Children swept across the country engulfing humanity and vampires alike. That's the catch because even a vampire bitten by a Kowloon Child turned into one.
During that time period some of the Old Blood Vampires rose up as heroes to fight the Kowloon Children and restore order. One such Old Blood is Jiro Mochizuki, otherwise known as Silver Blade, who made a name for himself by saving many during the war. Ten years have passed and Jiro is on the road with his brother, Kotaro, to find a place known as The Special Zone. The Zone is essentially a bastion for vampires and humans and it's a place where the Kowloon Children seem to have left alone. As is the case with any good story though; true evil is hard to kill.
The first volume of Black Blood Brothers presents four episodes which give us a good introduction to the series and shows much of the journey for Jiro and Kotaro. Considering this series only stands at twelve episodes the fact that four of them are here should tell you that a lot happens. The fine thing is that none of it feels particularly cramped. The crucial development of the plot and characters is there in every form and though sometimes it may appear sparse, the show makes up for it all with charm and energy.
As tread as the vampire mythos is and as common as they are in anime it's quite surprising that this series feels like a breath of fresh air. It tackles things different and though the four episodes here don't particularly break new ground, there's simply a sense of style that's hard to resist. Some level of intrigue works its way into the story here as well as the existence of vampires is attempted to be kept secret by a group known as The Company. This has ramifications for Jiro and his brother as a group they are traveling with reportedly contains a hidden Kowloon Child. The manner with which this event unfolds certainly does not go according to plan.
Right up until the end of this volume Black Blood Brothers was a wild ride. It was a fun diversion that left an immediate impression. Sure this series doesn't necessarily break new ground where vampires are concerned but then again it doesn't have to. Shows like this are successful when they take familiar elements and play with them a bit to create something new. With 1/3 of this journey over already consider this one a success. FUNimation has another fine property in their catalog!
With a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation Black Blood Brothers looks fantastic on its first release. FUNimation did a fine job with the transfer as color vibrancy, contrast, and picture quality all stand out. There were only a few rare instances in between where grain and some slight compression artifacts were noticeable but truly, those were few and far between. The art direction for this series is another feather in its cap as it really makes an impression.
I have to admit that 5.1 English tracks have been growing on me. I generally appreciate original Japanese dubs but there's something about immersion with an action packed anime that leaves an impression. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that FUNimation didn't go the extra mile to offer 5.1 support with this release! 2.0 English and Japanese are the only language tracks that you'll find here. The dubbing quality for both is phenomenal but the lackluster stereo doesn't do the amount of action justice.
Every once in a while we got an anime release that is handled appropriately with bonus content. Thankfully FUNimation went the extra mile to bring some of the original Japanese content to our side of the pond. This release contains a whopping four (!) commentary tracks with the original Japanese cast. Now, if you're familiar with anime in even the slightest you'll instantly recognize that is unheard of. Every once in a while we may receive an English commentary for one episode but having four commentaries by the Japanese team that worked on the show goes above and beyond expectations. The information is infinitely more interesting coming from folks who worked on creating the show and I loved each of them. Aside from those you'll find some trailers, textless songs, and original TV spots but quite frankly the commentaries are more than enough!
Black Blood Brothers is an amazing show. It has such a high level of energy and it brings enough new material to the vampire mythos to warrant a serious look by any fan. If you're an otaku who feels that vampires and anime go together like sushi and soy sauce then this will be your gospel. On the other hand if you're just looking for an action packed show with an awesome premise then this is still a high recommendation. Seriously guys and gals, check it out!
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