Title: Blood: The Last Vampire
Length: 1 x 48 minute movie
Genre: Action, horror
Year of release: 2000
Around the late ‘90s to mid 2000s, there were an awful lot of vampire flicks. Internationally, media of all formats were being churned out, adding computer tech, guns, hamstrung evolution theory and a more horrifying level of gore to this modern twist on the classic gothic tale. With its katana wielding protagonist, dimly lit murky colour palette and pints of blood decorating the scene, Blood: The Last Vampire clearly fits amongst this trend, but the brief foray into this movie’s universe dodged all the common pitfalls of its ilk.
But, as an anime, there’s a bigger elephant in the room: this movie’s primarily spoken in English, with some Japanese slipped in.
Director Hiroyuki Kitakubo has mentioned in interviews that both Dracula and Buffy The Vampire Slayer went into influencing Blood, and one can see from the acquired-taste character designs that indeed Western inspiration is a part of this project. From the ground-up, Blood felt built to sell in the West. I’m very thankful to report that, barring some occasional poor English voice acting, this unique decision never shoots the movie in the foot; David, Saya’s American “cop” contact has a distinct and memorable performance, and Saya herself has some inspired moments, though occasionally her lines feel rigid (both in English and Japanese).
Voice acting aside, the blessing of the movie’s innovative outlook is definitely the setting. Saya is tasked with hunting down the Chiroptera in the US-run Yokota Air Base during the ramp-up to the Vietnam war. To detail this setting, some rather excellent, background world-building is at play. Particularly during a high school Halloween party’s big-band performance, but throughout the movie the period setting comes across with depth, despite not leaning upon it too heavily. The theme of loneliness and not fitting in, while only glazed-upon, gives surprisingly deft introspection to Saya’s character.
While her voice actress puts out a wanting performance, and her character design has some peculiar design decisions, Saya herself is the aloof badass one would come to expect of the genre. However, unlike her genre parallels, she does not get bogged down with a weakly written romantic arc, instead battling with a sense of freedom and the existential dread of her circumstance. The movie does play coy with her development, and while it was not necessarily the most well-hidden set of ideas, I appreciated the subtlety.
At only 48 minutes long, one of the film’s greatest achievements is how quickly it gets to the point. For comparison, Underworld is north of 2 hours, and there’s some similar ideas here – but Blood cuts the fat. While it leaves more questions than it answers, particularly with regards to the greater supernatural conspiracy within the world-building, there’s no hand-holding, no unneeded explanations and not even any awkward dialogue; vague, perhaps, but Blood: The Last Vampire’s writing is as slick as its action.
And o, the action delivers. With piles upon piles of gore and a sense of aggressive desperation in its katana and other melee weapon-based choreography, Blood is a popcorn-chowing doozy at its peak. The bloodcurdling monster designs prove to be capable, creative foes, and the eventual slaying makes for some great entertainment. While the hunting aspect might have gone just a little too fast, there’s some fantastic horror devices in play to keep you on your toes.
Ultimately, Blood: The Last Vampire is only 48 minutes. There’s undoubtedly a lack of development due to its brief duration. However, the movie circumvents that by giving just the right pinch of insight into the bigger picture. There’s a feeling of satisfaction, but to also be hungry for more, which is the best way to kickstart a franchise.