After a bloodline of vampires is ostracized, the world prepares to deal with the consequences.
What They Say A decade has passed since the war between humans and vampires, when the infectious bite of the Kowloon Bloodline set the streets ablaze. Today, Jiro travels to the Special Zone, where the peace between vampires and humans is threatening to crack. As a new battle erupts between human soldiers, vampiric refugees, and Kowloon Children, Jiro must draw the Silver Blade once more.
Contains episodes 1-12
The bilingual presentation for this release uses the same audio mixes as we've seen before but encoded in Dolby TrueHD stereo with its variable bitrate. The two mixes vary quite a lot because the show has a lot of quiet scenes and big pieces but it's still a standard stereo mix in the end that doesn't stand out too hugely. What we get here is definitely appealing with a stronger sound to it overall and everything is very clear and it has a good bit of depth and placement to it. The music makes out very good with the fullest feeling to all of it and some of the incidental music has a really good warmth. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is a standard definition remaster rather than a native HD series that's spread across two discs in an eight/four format. The show was never one that really stood out as high quality and the transfer here reflects that in that a lot of it has a soft feeling to it without a lot of detail gained here. Colors are generally good though with only some basic noise in some of them like the sky blues or the heavier reds where it'll stand out more. Some aliasing can be seen during the panning sequences but it's not a huge issue or terribly distracting. The transfer here isn't a huge improvement but it does improve things a bit and is certainly better than the DVD release.
The packaging for this release keeps things on the basic side as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case inside a slipcover that replicates the same layout and artwork. The front cover is a standard but good piece of Jiro in his full outfit looking all serious with his silver sword standing out strongly. The background is done in red as well but it's a darker one that manages to work well in combination with Jiro's outfit, which is unfortunately just far too red. The blue from the Blu-ray strip doesn't look badly here on the slipcover and the darker blue of the case itself helps to cement the artwork as well. The back cover uses the same dark reds for the background while on top of it there's a lot of text, breaking down from a plug, a decent length tagline and a summary that goes over the very basics of it all. The character artwork to the right side is a bit small but shows off a bit of the designs while the left side has a bunch of shots from the show that are all scrunched together that doesn't do all that much to sell it. The technical grid, white text on red, goes over everything cleanly and clearly, though it's worth noting the 300 minutes of extras is largely commentary tracks. The set does have artwork on the reverse side with Jiro, Kotaro and Mimiko together with smiles while the right side has a black background that breaks down the episode numbers and titles together.
The menus for Black Blood Brothers avoids doing a full screen of clips from the show as its main theme, which is definitely appreciated, but it does use the clips it has well. Using the reds from the background of the cover, it has an almost book like look to it for the main background while in the foreground it has a rectangle in which obscured and mostly dark oriented clips play out from the show. Keeping it from dominating the screen, especially on a large screen, is quite welcome. Below it there’s a thematic block that contains the navigation, which is also what is used for the pop-up during playback, which uses a good font that evokes something slightly classical to it. Submenus load quickly and everything is quick and easy to access. A nice plus that I like is that in language selection, it does show you what is actually selected before you change anything. Sadly, it still does not read our players’ language presets.
The extras are pretty much par for the course here as we get the clean opening and closing sequences and a number of TV spots and commercials to show how it was all advertised. The big extras for this set continue to be the English language commentaries which are done for each episode. They're the fun pieces with the English language staff talking about what went into it, some of the jokes and gags and so forth.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the series of light novels by y K┼hei Azano and Yuuya Kusaka, Black Blood Brothers is a twelve episode series that runs with the classic idea of combining the supernatural with action and comedy. In a way it feels like an "anime by the numbers" concept but it does it all well enough that you can enjoy it and wonder if there will be some real depth to it or not. Of course, you have to contend with the idea that this is only twelve episodes that's based on novels that have had up to eleven releases as of this writing, so it's certainly incomplete and quite open. This may be the kind of series where you hope and pray that the novels will get licensed afterwards.
Black Blood Brothers takes place ten years after the Kowloon Children incident in which humanity learned about the reality of vampires. And not just any kind of vampire but a specific bloodline that's highly infectious and intent only on feeding. The rest of the vampire bloodlines are much more restrained and tend to play by the conventional rules of living in secret, living long and living happily. The Kowloon Children incident caused a lot of bad blood to flow and humanity has a great distrust of the vampire families because of it. The result of that war has left the general population believing that there aren't any more vampires though. What's been slowly happening is that Special Zones are set up where the vampires can live in peace with each other without fear of being hunted by man.
While the time of the Kowloon Children incident isn't given much screen time at first, we do see some of it and how a vampire named Jiro was instrumental in dealing with it by trying to save not only his fellow bloodlines but also humanity. Now ten years later, Jiro is intent on making sure that his brother, the young Kotaro, is able to make it to one of the Special Zones so that they can live freely and in peace. The two are the last members of their line and there is some important parts of that heritage that only start to get explored towards the end of this first volume. Jiro and Kotaro are an interesting pair to watch as Jiro really does have that kind and understanding older brother side going to him and it's clear that he loves and dotes upon his little brother. Kotaro is a bit too childish for his age at times but he has that wide eyed innocence that makes it easy for him to get into trouble and to trust people he shouldn't. Their journey is one that naturally puts them into a number of dangerous situations.
At the time that their journey takes them closer to Japan where the Special Zone is, the ship they're traveling on is subject to an intense battle between another group of vampires trying to get away from their country and the humans in the Company. The Company is one that is supposedly working for the benefit of both humanity and vampires but the actions by this paramilitary group points in the other direction as they don't take prisoners and are looking to kill all of them. With the possibility that one of them may be an infectious member of the Kowloon Children, it certainly makes sense based on the fear they have to go this route. That Jiro and Kotaro get caught up in it only makes it worse as Jiro is certainly highly skilled and doesn't take kindly to what he sees going on. This attack pushes the pair into meeting up with those trying to escape from another country as well as someone from the Company in the Mediator department, a young woman named Mimiko who is a Compromiser.
The introduction of Mimiko helps to give the series a bit more continuity and flow as she brings in some aspects of the Company and how the world works these days. She also adds in some fun little bounce and the relationship angle as well with Jiro as she takes her job seriously and is intent on getting the pair of them to the Special Zone. Her work as an employee of the Company also gives her an in when dealing with the armed side of it that's causing such a ruckus in trying to take down the Kowloon Child character. She's also got a lot of spunk and energy since she's relatively new to the job and young. That helps to give her some good comedy moments with silly expressions but also some uncertainty about how to proceed and occasionally some really good emotional moments where she connects with others. Mimiko brings in the human element to all of it quite well.
Jiro and Kotaro’s arrival in the Special Zone was something that was fraught with violence and bloodshed – or is that ash shed? – but in the end they made it inside. What to do once inside is a bit more problematic though as the two of them don’t have a place to stay and there’s only so long they can stay inside of Mimiko’s tiny apartment. Kotaro is all set to stay there however which is amusing while the adults are a bit more awkward about it and the social impropriety. This leads to Mimiko giving the rundown of how the Special Zone works and what needs to be done to find these two a place to stay.
The Special Zone, as Jiro notes upon the explanation being given, seemingly operates as a microcosm of the world itself with how the vampires have integrated into it. Within the Zone, there are three main Houses that operate there and each of them is pretty distinct with what they cover and do. While two of them are pretty specific, one of them is essentially a catch-all of everyone else that isn’t quite as focused. That one is the one that Mimiko really doesn’t want to get involved in because of how it operates and pushes against the other two. That serves a useful purpose overall but as Jiro talks about, it’s little different from what many of them were trying to escape from for so long. While Jiro is still considered a stripling, he’s been around the block enough times to know how things work and to have the right connections to those within the Zone to figure out what will be best.
What isn’t a surprise is that Jiro is pretty much unwelcome by the two main houses and is actively courted by the third that’s headed by Crimson-Eyed Zelman. The history that goes back between a lot of these characters isn’t entirely clear or detailed at times, but the general animosity among some of them is pretty strong when it comes to Jiro, particularly for his role as a hero with regards to the Kowloon Children. It also doesn’t help that one of Zelman’s underlings has been taking shots at Jiro and his brother in the last few hours without any orders to do so. Zelman is very intrigued by Jiro and the two have some mild verbal sparring over how things should work with Jiro and Kotaro in the Special Zone. Amusingly enough, it’s the open and up front Kotaro who strikes the strongest tone within the conversation since he speaks so plainly about what he feels is right and that takes Zelman by surprise at times.
The presence of Jiro in the Special Zone is an issue that hits just about every aspect of the show during this arc, whether it’s the Houses dealing with him or the Company itself. So many things are drawn to him that commotions occur easily enough no matter where he is and that’s the kind of thing that none of them really want there, at least not openly. What’s really causing the problem is that his arrival is at the same time that something much larger is being planned as a Kowloon Child has made it into the Special Zone and some very long range and detailed plans are about to erupt. The arrival of Cassandra into the city also sets the stage for something big going on considering her pedigree and that just has everyone on edge. There are many moments of great import bandied about here, but the connection to them and the strength of them continues to be weak because of the length of the series and the way it hasn’t had time to really go into any of them in any great detail.
What turns out to be somewhat problematic for the series at the end is that Jiro is kept to the background for the majority of the first two episodes and a good chunk of the third. Black Blood Brothers becomes more of an ensemble piece at this point as Cassa has laid the groundwork for her attacks to pressure the power people to give her what she wants. Spreading infected blood on a timed scale throughout the Special Zone has put everyone at risk and has made her incredibly dangerous since she’s so unhinged in an amusingly calculated way. The lack of Jiro outside of a few scenes where he’s trying to get things figured out stems from his belief that he needs to be away from everyone since he only draws attacks and violence upon them. That does work out in a way as it shifts the focus elsewhere and we get some really good bits early on with Mimiko as she investigates with Wong about what’s going on.
Black Blood Brothers does introduce some really good things in the last episodes however that does make me want to see more made. The first is that we get to see more of when Jiro first met Alice and how he came to become one of the Sage line of vampires as well as getting a lot more detail about what makes this particular line so special. These moments are scattered throughout the volume but there are some strong payoff sections as Jiro telepathically fills Mimiko in when everything gets really dicey. The other intriguing aspect is that the recently introduced Eleventh Yard gets talked about in the final minutes of the show and it really does cement why the Kowloon Children are so intent on getting into the Special Zone. This series does a rather good job of finishing out the opening arc of a larger story in a way that has me wanting to either read or see more of it. This is something I certainly did not expect going by the first volume.
Watching Black Blood Brother again after the singles run didn't change my opinion of the show all that much. The show has an awkward flow at times with the way Jiro interacts with people since he has the age and experience to him and many are somewhat deferential to him. Getting to the heart of how the world is setup here isn't all that smooth either which makes for some confusing moments early on as well. There is a lot of potential here, evidenced by the number of light novels made, and as it starts to really expand on things towards the end, it's a show that can entice you into wanting more even against your better judgment. The Blu-ray edition isn't a significant upgrade, but it does improve things overall and the lossless stereo mixes for both tracks is definitely welcome. If you haven't picked it up before but are interested, this is definitely the one to get. If you're not wedded to the traditional view of dark, creepy vampires and want to see something with a take of its own, this is a good title to check out.
Features Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Commentaries, TV Spots, Commercials, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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