Black Blood Brothers Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Black Blood Brothers

Black Blood Brothers Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     February 28, 2008
Release Date: February 26, 2008


Black Blood Brothers Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
It's been a decade since the sacred war between humans and vampires. The rise of the Kowloon Bloodline, a new breed of monsters bearing an infectious bite, set the streets ablaze under the reign of their king. Humanity had never witnessed such pure, animalistic brutality.

Today, Jiro travels with his younger brother Kotaro to the Special Zone, a place where vampires live freely in peace alongside humans, the troubles of the past long forgotten. But the brothers find themselves in the midst of a battle between human soldiers, vampiric refugees and the re-emergence of the Kowloon Children. Assisted by Mimiko, a negotiator between their species, Jiro will try to make sense of the chaos which surrounds them before they are caught up in it and destroyed. To protect those that he holds dear, the vampire will once more draw forth the Silver Blade.

Contains episodes 1-4.

The Review!
Ten years after a deadly war with vampires, humanity has put the past behind them and is unaware that they still live among them.

Audio:
FUNimation has put through two pretty standard stereo mixes for this release and it's actually something of a surprise that they didn't include an English 5.1 mix since they tend to do that for the more action oriented shows. The two stereo mixes are encoded at 192kbps and come across clean enough and are generally problem free. There isn't a lot of real impact with the mix in general though some of the action moments work fairly well, nor is there any real sense of solid directionality to discern. The series utilizes the forward soundstage well enough as a full mix but it's one that you feel could have been a bit tighter and more engaging.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Black Blood Brothers comes across pretty well overall and continues to highlight the changes FUNimation is going through. The series retains its alternate angles for the opening and closing sequences but beyond that, the show has a pretty good bitrate that helps to keep everything looking clean and solid. There are a few scenes here and there where the colors show a bit of noise in them, often in the blues, but beyond that there's really nothing to nitpick with outside of a few gradients and a bit of background noise at times. Black Blood Brothers has a good vibrant look at many points but it also handles the darker scenes quite well also.

Packaging:
Black Blood Brothers has some simple but solid artwork that really highlights the dark nature of the show. This volume features a dark looking shot of Jiro in his full outfit with his sword drawn and just enough of his fang hanging out to hint at that aspect of it. With a solid black background, his red outfit stands out all the more but it's not done in an overly vibrant manner. The volume number and title is kept to the left of him in a non-distracting manner while the logo along the bottom is done cleanly with silver foil. Toss in a few logos underneath that and to the right and it's a good looking design overall. The back cover uses some of the dark reds from Jiro's uniform as its background color which makes it easy to read the text that covers the summary of the volume and the show overall. A few shots are included from the show as well as a decent section of character artwork. There's hardly any sex appeal here which is a bit surprising since that's usually tied to action shows. The bottom portion of the cover is rounded out with the extras listings, production credits and a technical grid. No insert is included but FUNimation has made some noise on the back cover about the original covers being included. The reverse side has two pieces of cover artwork from the original Japanese releases which are more cast shots and filled with a bit more color. While I like the front cover as used for this release because it's simple and stark, any of these covers would have been good to kick the show off with.

In addition to the disc only release, a disc+box starter set edition was also put out. The box is rather stylishly done with a heavy black design to it that has single pieces of character artwork on the two main panels that's slightly glossier which gives it a very slick feel. The design mirrors the keepcase artwork design fairly well except for it all being done in black which adds a good element to it. Interestingly, the box is the cut away type in that you lift the top of it off and they've done it at an agle as if a blade has cut through the middle of it going downward. The inside opens up to a small piece of cardboard wraparound inside which has Jiro's eyes looking out from it in a pencil sketch with color and within there is the keepcase and a bit of paper to hold it still. The starter set is designed to hold all three volumes and it has a very elegant and classy style to it.

Menu:
The menu design is rather straightforward as it utilizes the same artwork as the cover of the release but with a bit more material in the background instead of just black. The colors look much more vibrant here and we get a fuller look at Jiro and his outfit which when tied to the instrumental music gives it a bit more of a menacing feel. The layout is kept minimal for the navigation with everything on a smalls trip through part of the center. Access times are nice and fast and it's easy to navigate without any issues. Due to angles and poorly labeled subtitle tracks, we didn't bother to check with player presets.

Extras:
This release has a rather strong set of extras which is quite surprising, but is also part of that whole value added idea that should draw people into purchasing if they enjoy it. Each episode has the original Japanese commentary track with it that has the creative staff going over the series production with anecdotes and more. Interestingly, you cannot load these on the fly from the main program nor change to other tracks when watching it via the extras menu. In addition to those four commentaries, there's also a series of original TV commercials and the standard clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the series of light novels by y Kōhei 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, 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.

Black Blood Brothers has a fairly basic design about it as it takes place in the real world with little changes from what we see around us. It doesn't have a lot of near future fantastic elements to it nor does it seem particularly different from what we see. The areas that tend to stand out are pretty small and are mostly relegated to Jiro and one or two others of the apparent Old Bloods who dress differently. Jiro's the most stand out character in terms of design simply because nobody else would dream of dressing like that as they move about life. Of course, where these characters have been in the last ten years is something that you don't know so maybe there's a place where everyone wears bright red foppish hats all the time. That said, I rather like the visual design of the show because it doesn't detract from the story and it isn't introducing a lot of things that need to be explained with useless jargon.

In Summary:
With the first third of the series out of the way, Black Blood Brothers gets off to a bit of a rocky start by having to cover a fair bit of ground in the exposition and background before it can move forward with the story it wants to tell. Once it gets there and the cast slowly expands and the world becomes clearer, it moves at a good pace and is fun enough to watch. There's plenty of room to go with it and lots of things I hope get answered as they make their way towards the Special Zone. All in all, this was a relatively light and fun show with some cute moments, fun characters and vampires. Never underestimate the appeal of vampires, particularly for the female audience, who will let things go simply because of the premise. Black Blood Brothers isn't a show that I think will turn out to be high art by any stretch of the imagination, but it does look to be good fun.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Commentaries, Original TV Spots, Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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