There are plenty of animated films with superb drawing, and plenty with stunning computer animation, but I haven’t seen many that blend them with the effortless success of Blood: The Last Vampire, which I bought today.
The premise is well worn: there are vampires, we need to kill them. How do we do that? Well, how about an ambiguously vampirish-but-human assassin? The plot itself is fairly basic, but the execution is completely solid and visually stunning in a completely unassuming way. The simplest or most innocuous scenes often grab your eye the most. A bus turning, a plane taxiing on the runway, or the motion of the camera amongst the army base setting often cause a bigger ‘wow’ moment than the dramatic fight scenes. The more obviously dimensional computer graphics are truly integrated into the style of the production and fit seamlessly into the over production design. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any film do it that well yet (Blood was released in 2000). It’s worth watching it just for these beautiful moments.
The only downside is the length. It clocks in at somewhere around three quarters of an hour. I’m sure that Production IG and director Mamoru Oshii had to put immense amounts of time and effort into what is, apparently, the first entirely digital anime film, as well the first to have a bilingual score (Japanese and English), but they gave us the feature-length Ghost in the Shell,* so I’m a bit let down. It’s too good to leave us hanging. I’d really like to see a sequel, particularly since the series seems to have further development and backstory involved (perhaps there are other stories in this world that have been told elsewhere with less production value?). But, I’m not holding my breath for another production like this one.
In spite of the length, it’s a great work of art and deserves to be seen. Also, you can juuuust taste the subtle undertones of resentment towards American imperialism and their intrusive military presence in the greater world. It never gets in the way of the story or the telling, but it’s there; expertly woven into the production with the silent, unassuming spareness of great Japanese art.
*And Jin-Rô, which I haven’t seen yet.