Blood: The Last Vampire and Blood+ are spinoffs featuring similar characters to Blood-C, but they are all set in alternate universes and so are un-required watching.
Images in this review are NSFW, TW:graphic dismemberment.
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Action, horror, slice-of-life
Year of release: 2011
In Blood-C, Saya Kisaragi sings to the cicadas on her leisurely strolls to school, proceeds to be chewed out by her teachers for her tardiness, then spends the day hanging out with her cliche, one-note friends, exchanging shallow banter. Then, at the end of the series, she frantically backtracks that path as her classmates, ones that still haven’t been squashed or bludgeoned to death by monsters, are slaughtered in the most unimaginably gruesome ways possible, and the bloodshed extends outwards to the rest of her village for some of the most gut-churning five minutes of television ever. Blood-C is an anime of dualities.
For the first few episodes, Blood-C plays out a lot like a gothic, high-stakes re-skin of Sunday morning television shows – that its story comes from CLAMP, the author group behind the saccharine sweet Cardcaptor Sakura is probably unlikely to surprise by that fact, but keep it mind by the end of the show and that fact is sure to disturb. Saya makes those walks to schools as aforementioned, but when she gets home to the local shrine, the master there gives her a sword and tasks her with the killing of a local monster pulled out of Japanese folklore. Called Eldar Bairns, Saya’s tense combat with these creatures is the highlight of the show’s opening and eases you gently into Blood-C’s dichotomy of tone, slicing right down the middle of tense, horror mystery and Saya’s normal (if comically clumsy and slightly juvenile) high-school girl life in the boonies.
Tsutomu Mizushima helms the direction of this one, and his background as a Sound Director comes across while he’s teamed up with long-time colleague, Sound Director Ysohikazu Iwanami, and the pair make the atmosphere of the show its greatest strength. The long-shots of Saya’s walks to school veer ever so slightly into the unnerving as the cicadas chirp a seemingly loudening fuzz, and during combat, there is scant music; the sounds of sword swishing and monster hulking dominates the soundscape, and really grips.
By the fourth episode, the routine has gone mostly undeveloped, continuing to ridicule its protagonist for her clumsiness in awkward comic skits, and repeating her friend-group’s stereotyped gags. It’s a little long in the tooth by the time the revelations come. Blood-C’s cool, calm ambience is then cut open by twist after twist, turning Saya’s world upside-down and moving the series into an excellent thrill-ride. She continues to battle monsters, but must question her place in the world, and the reality of her situation, as she comes closer to her own truth.
And, then finally, it all comes raining down in blood and slaughter. Monsters begin to attack people and she hears lines from her classmates such as ‘I didn’t sign up for this!’ She tries to defend people from being munched in half by giant spider-like creatures, and watches as her friends are decapitated or squeezed of their lives in front of her. This is absolutely not an anime for the faint-of-heart – nor China, it would turn out, as the censored version is famous for being nearly unwatchable, as rays of light are forced to cover all the splattered guts. But then again, Tsutomu Mizushima couldn’t give a rat’s ass about that market.
It’s a frantic, distressing ride to the finish line, but the foundation isn’t quite there to make it an epic one. I’ve got to return to those opening four episodes, because it’s where it all went wrong: it’s hard to take Saya, and by-extension, much of the show, seriously, because the juxtaposition doesn’t ring true. The quiet part of the show is excellent, but it’s hard to feel Saya’s grand loss as her favourite world, a world of peaceful lunchtimes and crushing on the local sweetshop owner, is stripped away from her, because it’s just too shallow; likewise, the two sides of her character – and there are only two, not one more side or a join between the two – seem to cancel each other out. The combat proficient badass and moe clutz don’t mesh, and Nana Mizuki’s performance as Saya is just as much a mixed bag, as the guttural confidence of her later-series is balanced against the brittle, thin, raspy high-pitch that fails to sell the former. Indeed, Blood-C is an anime of dualities, but one half is given much more care than the other.