Feeling burned out on the whole vampire craze? If the idea of yet another show about vampires causes your eyes to roll to the back of your head and make you cry, "No...more...vampires," then Black Blood Brothers is probably not good enough to sway your interests. Insatiable fans of the genre, however, will love sinking their teeth into this short, 12-episode series based off the light novels by Kōhei Azano.
Jiro Mochizuku is an old blood vampire, a black blood, who wields great powers like stopping bullets cold, Matrix-style. He also dresses like Orko from He-Man and is fiercely protective his little brother, Kotarou. Jiro wants to take his sheltered little brother out into the real world, so they hitch a ride on a ship. The brothers want make their way into the Special Zone--an area where select vampires and humans peacefully co-exist. This Special Zone is run by the Order Coffin Company, which serves as an intermediary between humans and vampires.
Along the way, the Jiro awakens from his slumber only to find himself at the center of a battle between the Order Coffin Company's Suppression Team and the vampires aboard the boat. After some words Jiro is flung into the water, which apparently is his weakness. Earth is not a good place to be if water melts you down. The general public is not aware of the fact that vampires exist and it is up to the Order Coffin Company to maintain this secret. So, when Jiro washes up on shore as a mangled blob of flesh, the company sends Mimiko, a mediator, to cover up the ordeal and bring him to safety. Eventually, Jiro catches up with his little brother. Along with Mimiko, they make their way into the Special Zone where the real adventure begins.
Special Zone is protected by a barrier designed to keep out uninvited vampires, particularly a nasty and invasive lineage of vampires called the Kowloon (somehow this is pronounced Ku-Lon). These bad guys are a hybrid species of vampires and zombies and a welcome addition to typical vampire stories. A Kowloon's bite victim instantly becomes a Kowloon Child, a zombie-like vampire under the full control of the biter. This leads to a pyramid scheme of zombie vampires as each biter can control the entire chain of Kowloon Children underneath them. A Kowloon's bite turns both human and other vampires, which makes the Kowloon the most evil and hated line of vampires. And now, for some mysterious reason, they desperately want to sneak into the Special Zone.
The first few episodes may turn off all but the most devout fans of the genre with its bland characters, stiff voice acting, average animation quality, and a cookie-cutter storyline. The story does not begin to grab your attention until more information about the characters' pasts is revealed. The Black Blood Brothers world is filled with a rich history that heavily involves Jiro. The first episode alone does not have nearly enough content to immediately separate this show from the bloated vampire marketplace. However, if you stick with the series to its conclusion, you will be treated to a good story and a unique spin on vampires.
It takes a lot of time to warm up to Jiro as the main character. The supporting characters adequately carry the show until Jiro develops into a compelling lead. Zelman, in particular, is a fascinating and powerful old blood vampire. His motives are always in question as he clearly embraces being a villain, but for some reason seems to protect Kotarou and side with Jiro. Mimiko, plays a rather weak human character who seems to be a corporate stooge in her first appearance. However, as Jiro's relationship with her grows, she becomes a brave, independent, and valuable ally that cuts through the blandness of Jiro's character.
Black Blood Brothers' ending is a prime example of a good anime series ending. This is one of those series where saying too much will ruin a show whose ending deserves to be experienced by its fans. Without giving away any spoilers, the plot of the 12-episode series is tied up nicely. It's a delicate balance to successfully leave just enough room for a whole new set of episodes without making the ending so open-ended that you feel cheated. When this series began, I thought watching would be a chore. I don't typically enjoy vampire stories, but once more information was revealed about the characters' pasts, the series hit a groove and became fun to watch.
Audio: The disc set includes English and Japanese 2.0 stereo tracks. Both tracks were adequate although at times it was difficult to hear the dialogue over the background music. That issue thankfully disappeared early in the series. I did not listen to much of the Japanese track, although I nearly made the switch after the first few episodes. Jiro, voiced by J. Michael Tatum, was almost unbearable in the early episodes. His voice wavered between a direct copy of Wesley, from The Princess Bride, and a snobby American--both of which sounded forced, weak and stiff. However, once J. Michael Tatum settled into his role and found his voice, the character became much more likeable.
Video: The video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer does have some minor blocking and line noise. There were many instances of CGI mixed in with the traditional anime art. While it mixes in with the art better than many other series, it can still be noticeable and, at times, jarring.
Extras: This set is loaded with commentary tracks. Each episode sports a subtitled commentary track with various members of the Japanese voice cast and production staff. I listened to the final episode with the commentary track turned on and it was funny and informative. I don't know that I would ever watch the entire series with the commentaries on, but the option is definitely appreciated. The commentary in the final episode featured no dead air at all. With a subtitled commentary track, the subtitles of the actual show are not displayed. Any length of silence means that viewers are left watching a show in Japanese.
Also included are textless opening and closing credits, TV spots, and trailers.
Final Thoughts: I had low expectations coming into Black Blood Brothers. I am generally not a fan of vampire stories, but this one never crosses the line of becoming too sparkly. This series lacks the production quality of many other modern series, but the story is surprisingly intriguing and the ending was unexpected. The ending leaves room for a follow-up series, which I would love to see happen. If you are a fan of vampires or horror-ish anime, then Black Blood Brothers is certainly worth a look. Recommended.