A couple of years ago FUNimation released a show called Black Blood Brothers. While not a breakout success the 12 episode series was entertaining to watch. It was stylish, packed with action, and had plenty of personality to match. I found the series to be totally worth checking out, but it left me wanting more. No second season is in the works however, so I suppose I'll keep on wanting. With the moderate audience on DVD, FUNimation has brought the franchise to Blu-ray for another go-around.
Black Blood Brothers takes place in a world overrun by vampires. Wars have been fought, people have been slaughtered, and in every corner of the world there's a great amount of distrust between vampires and humans. In fact, in the timeline there was an event involving someone named the Kowloon King. He was a vampire with the ability to turn just about anyone (vampire or human) into his slave. A big war was fought, people died, heroes were made, yada, yada, yada. The Old Blood Vampires really bore the brunt of the fighting and helped bring order back to the world, though the Kowloon Children still exist. The series really uses this as a way to define some of the events that take place in the current time period, as well as history of some of its characters.
Black Blood Brothers focuses on the journey of Jiro Mochizuki and his younger brother, Kotaro. Jiro is an Old Blood who possesses some powerful abilities, but even he has a hard time dispelling the draw of a place called the Special Zone, where vampires and humans coexist and the Kowloon Children apparently have left alone. The going isn't exactly easy, however, as there's plenty of fight ahead of Jiro and shadows of his past eventually catch up with them.
Without giving much of the story away, the show is mostly about the journey towards the Special Zone. At some point Jiro gets there, but things aren't as rosy he was hoping for. A woman from his past, Cassandra, is really out to muck things up. She's completely off her rocker and out to ruin everyone's day. Predictably there's a showdown between the two forces and when the dust settles nothing will ever be the same.
To be perfectly honest the story in Black Blood Brothers isn't that involved or fascinating. The characters are decent, though not developed enough to the point that you'll remember more than a few specific people. Heck, the pacing is also kind of wonky at times. Where Black Blood Brothers lacks in these areas, it makes up for with style, grace, and a fantastic sense of self. The world is its own and the action leaves a stronger impression than anything else.
The series really starts strong and ends strong. Parts of the middle fumble a tad, but by and large the adventure is a trip worth taking. The short runtime is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it doesn't give the series a dragged out feeling that others suffer from. On the flipside it also kind of leaves you wanting more. Like, maybe three or four more episodes would have helped flesh it out a little more.
If you missed it the first time around on DVD, FUNimation's Blu-ray release is a neck worth biting. Consider it recommended!
Black Blood Brothers is presented on Blu-ray with 1080p high definition with an AVC encoding. The show has been amped up with a standard definition remaster, and if you've seen other FUNimation efforts of this sort you can probably already figure that the results are mixed. In parts the picture quality is stellar with a great deal of clarity and definition. The show itself is vibrant with a very attractive design and that lends itself to a nice looking presentation, however, there's some grain here and haloing to boot. The show doesn't look bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not as pristine as it could be.
For audio output Black Blood Brothers offers English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD like other FUNimation releases. Either selection works for the show, really. The dubbing casts on both fronts are solid. To be perfectly honest I didn't have a preference one way or the other with this show, which is kind of a rarity. As far as the sound quality compared to the DVD, it's slightly better here with greater fidelity. It's not a night and day kind of difference, however, the track sounds good taken as is so I guess there's no point in arguing it.
FUNimation has decided to port over the bonus features from the DVD release of the show. That means you can expect trailers, clean animations, and originally commercials/TV spots. The real treat is the inclusion of Japanese commentary tracks for each of the twelve episodes. Usually anime lovers have to sit through goofy English commentaries, but the Japanese ones are much more substantial in terms of what they offer. I really enjoyed watching/listening to these!
It may not be the next big thing, but this Blu-ray set for Black Blood Brothers is certainly cool enough to come with a strong recommendation. The presentation of the show is good, but not outstanding. It's marginally better than the DVD release in that sense, though it's nowhere near as outstanding as other shows from original high definition sources. Fortunately the show is still a lot of fun. It's a stylish vampire anime with all the elements that should appeal to a large audience, but I can't see it being anything more than a cult series. Hellsing this isn't, but then again it doesn't have to be.