Everyone loves a good vampire story, right? I mean, with regards to anime Trinity Blood, Blood: the Last Vampire, Hellsing, and Moon Phase are some pretty popular series. 2005's Blood+ joins their illustrious ranks though with backing by Production I.G. and Aniplex so right out of the gate it stands out among the crowd of would be vampire gods. In all fairness though, Blood+ is well on its way to being crowned king (or is that queen?) of the hill.
If you're familiar with Production I.G. then you'll know that they were put on the map thanks to their efforts with Ghost in the Shell. Aniplex has worked on numerous titles as well though in relation to Blood+ they had their hand in the making of Blood: the Last Vampire which actually inspired this series. To further the ties between all three projects is Junichi Fujisaku who was a writer for Ghost in the Shell and co-developer for Last Vampire. As you're coming into Blood+ it's safe to say that if you have an affinity for the two aforementioned titles you'll instantly feel a pull towards this new one.
For a while now we have been enjoying the Blood+ series being released by Sony and available on Adult Swim. The show received a collection a little while ago, but since then the individual volumes have been spilling onto the market every now and then. The show follows the life of Saya, an amnesiac school girl who has hidden memories that are only just beginning to bubble to the surface at the start of the show. It is quickly revealed that she's a vampire who has been locked in battle with monsters known as chiroptera. The plot gets a little more complicated than that, but essentially there's more to the story than meets the eye and one of the most interesting parts is Saya's battle with her humanity.
Saya's journey of becoming a weapon against the chiroptera has grown over the past three volumes of the series. Last time around Saya and company worked their way through Vietnam in pursuit of Diva and the Phantom. Throughout the volume there's plenty of conflict, but one of the most interesting moments come as Saya awakens some of her true power. The show explores some of what has happened in the past with regards to such an event, but needless to say if she fully unleashes her abilities she could be lost in a sea of blood. In the end the journey to Vietnam proved kind of fruitless though and Saya's group heads back to Okinawa to regroup, which leads to some personal moments with Saya closing a door to her past.
The fourth volume gets underway quite nicely as Saya's Red Shield unit heads to Russia for a special mission. Along the way they wind up taking a train, but the trip is interrupted when some chiroptera attack. Naturally there are some nice bits of action here and in the end one of the group gets knocked off the train and out into the bitter cold. Saya heads out after them, but gets lost herself and passes out in the midst of a blizzard. This allows us a nice moment to explore her past as she dreams about an adventure from back in the heyday with Hagi. She has apparently been to Russia before and every time the show takes a look at her rich background history I always find it fascinating.
From here the installment continues the push for the mission as Saya is recovered and Red Shield regroups in their search of a scientist involved with experiments during the Vietnam War. Further intrigue comes about as the gang completes that leg of their mission and someone in their midst is not exactly who they seem to be. This all comes together for another exciting installment of the show and it leaves you wanting the next installment. While structure of the series is rather formulaic to some extent, there's no denying that the plot arcs help break up the story into segments. We are given a little bit at a time with each volume and though there are five episodes per installment the stories feel rather self-contained. This volume is no different and though it's not quite as energetic as the previous one was, it's still fantastic just the same.
Ironically enough, even though Blood+ is a recent show with some high production values it is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. Where is the anamorphic widescreen that this series called for? I have to say that I'm disappointed but when it comes to this program I suppose beggars can't be choosey.
Thankfully the video quality showcases all of the quality that I was hoping to see. The picture is brilliant and clean the entire way through with no compression artifacts whatsoever. There is some grain that appears here and there but those feel like moments that were designed that way for a reason. The contrast for this series is quite nice with a dynamic use of color and you'll notice that red dominates everything else once the blood starts to flow. Overall this is a gorgeous looking series with some fantastic designs that lend themselves well to the look of the show.
In some ways the audio for Blood+ also turns out to be kind of disappointing. A 2.0 stereo presentation for both English and Japanese languages does not offer the sense of immersion that an action-suspense series like this demands. The quality of what is here is very good thankfully and it's entirely free of flaws. The dubbings for both languages also stands out with the Japanese feeling only slightly more natural by comparison. In both tracks I do have to say that the music is phenomenal and it certainly left an impression. Subtitles are included for English, French, and Korean.
Once again there are no bonus features on Blood+. It's very disappointing though I suppose it's not surprising considering the boxed set apparently includes some material that the individual volumes will not receive.
Blood+ hit the ground running and its rich characters, involved plot, and dynamic atmosphere help craft one of the most unique vampire shows in quite some time. If you haven't seen the show you definitely owe it to yourself to check it out. Whether you do that via Adult Swim, grabbing the collection, or eve picking up the individual volumes you simply can't go wrong. This show comes highly recommended and after four volumes there hasn't been a single disappointment.
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