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7 November, 2005

Review: 'Blood: The Last Vampire' (2000)

If anyone's tempted to watch this anime film because of the connection to Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, Avalon), as I was, there are two points of which to be aware.

Firstly, it arose from a masterclass 'student project' supervised by Oshii; it's not really his film. In the 'making of' documentary, the writer, Kenji Kamiyama (who went on to direct the disappointing 'Ghost In The Shell - Stand Alone Complex' series) mentions that he held down a day job whilst working on 'Blood', and 'pulled all-nighters' to meet deadlines. Considering those circumstances, it looks remarkably professional.

Secondly, it's a technical exercise, integrating the standard 2D hand-drawn anime style with rendered, approaching photorealistic, 3D. Effectively, backgrounds and unchanging objects (e.g. vehicles) are in 3D, with a virtual camera able to interact with them, whilst characters and action are in 2D. It's a valuable technique, which I'm certain will develop, but 'cutting-edge' isn't always 'good', and at this stage of the evolution, the effect is rather obtrusive. Nice try, but....

There are two further consequences of the project's nature.

At 46 mins (including extensive credits) it's an extremely short film. Judging it by the standards of the major studios, I'd expected at least 90 mins, and was astonished when the end of the first act turned out to be the end of the whole film.

The story is extremely thin. There's negligible character development (no, that's inaccurate: there's no character development), insufficient exposition (told you it wasn't an Oshii film) and a skeletal plot. It's enough to hold the technical elements together, but not in itself a reason to watch. Lacking backstory and ending inconclusively, it feels like a short story. Viewed in that context, it's okay, but I hadn't been forewarned so expected more.
The IMDb says that the original plan was to make three films, but only the middle episode received funding. That explains a lot, and is a pity. This fragment could have been the middle of a good story.

I suspect animation students and technical enthusiasts would get a lot from this film, and the story itself is a mere carrying medium. For everyone else: rent, don't buy.

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