In retrospect, it was only a mater of time before Hollywood turned its greasy palms on Japanese anime as an untapped source of material ripe for the pillaging. It was only about ten years ago the studios wised up to the graphic novel’s potential – and we all know how that turned out – so it doesn’t take a huge logical leap to see that Manga is the next course on the menu.
With proposed adaptations of classics like Cowboy Bebop and the beyond-seminal Akira still kicking around the rumour mill, it seems a safe bet that US funded live action animes will be all the rage over the next few years.
Source material like Ghost In The Shell, Ninja Scroll, Appleseed and Fist Of The North Star (this one actually already exists, and stars Malcolm McDowell back in his ‘anything for a paycheque’ days) all have a lot of potential, if humanist elements can be weaved into the high-concept action set ups. On a side note, I’d love to see how some unlucky scriptwriter coped with Ranma ½ and its gender-bending main character with a dad who sporadically transforms into a panda, but I digress.
Getting back on topic, 2009 has seen the release of the first two big budget anime adaptations in Dragonball Evolution and Blood: The Last Vampire. Having not seen Dragonball, it would seem unfair to comment (let’s just say that word on the grapevine hasn’t been favourable). But if Blood: TLV is anything to go by, Hollywood may be guilty of treating Manga movies with about the same amount of respect it has with videogames – very little.
Staring the South Korean actress Gianna Jun, Blood tells the story of Saya, a four-hundred-year-old vampire-human demon hunter, who, with the help of a covert government organisation, spends her life whooping undead ass on a mission to find Onigen, the original vampire.
After getting posted to a US Military base in Tokyo, Saya rescues an American girl called Alice (Allison Miller) from some demons (‘demon’ and ‘vampire’ are basically interchangeable in this film) and the two become friends, with the loner Saya glad for some company, it seems.
Saya then spends the next hour-or-so chopping up Onigen’s lesser vampire minions, or ‘bottom feeders’ to use the film’s terminology, like sushi with her badass katana while saving her token Yank sidekick’s wasabi-hind. And all this while dressed in the sort of Japanese schoolgirl sailor suit a fetishist’s wet dreams are made of, because even though she’s over four centuries old, Saya still looks sixteen, obviously.
If your thinking that all this sounds a lot like a shame faced mash-up of Blade, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Kill Bill and Men In Black, you’d be right, because it is. However, as derivative as it may be, Blood is not entirely devoid of charms.
Jun displays the sort of star quality that’s sure to bag her better roles in the future. And director Chris Nahon adds suitable verve to the action sequences, of which there are many, despite being hamstrung by some very shoddy CGI blood sprays and beasties. Allison Miller is also fine in her cute-as-buttons sweet sixteen girl, whose inclusion seems tacked-on for Western audiences.
As for the rest of the cast, the plot and production…well, the less said the better. This really is very lazy fare all round, commissioned, one thinks, to cash in on the current vampire craze more than anything else.
The original Blood: The Last Vampire, released in 2000, is remembered as the first ever fully digitally animated anime. And, while visually stunning, is not regarded in the same league as some of the aforementioned output. But the story of a teenage vampire slayer would have been an easy sell in the current climate. Let’s hope any future Manga adaptations are treated with higher regard, and chalk this one down as a water tester.
The disc comes with the same sort of bog standard extra content you find on DVDs. Six ‘making of’ featurettes, with the ones about Blood: TLV‘s star Gianna Jun, director Chris Nahon and legendry Hong Kong filmmaker Corey Yuen, who served as Action Director on the shoot, the most interesting.
The Manga trailer for the original Blood is kind of cool, too. Pretty basic stuff, though, making the whole package pretty slimline.
Blood: The Last Vampire is released on November 2.