Blood+ Collection 1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • MSRP: 119.96
  • Running time: 600
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Blood+

Blood+ Collection 1

By Chris Beveridge     March 27, 2008
Release Date: March 04, 2008


Blood+ Collection 1
© Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


What They Say
Saya Otonashi, a seemingly normal high school student, suffers from amnesia and she can't remember the past year of her life. One day, after a man appears and gives her a katana sword, her destiny begins to be revealed. Soon she finds herself fighting the latest threat to humanity: Chiropteran monsters, ravenous immortal creatures that can change their form and disguise themselves as human beings. They feed off blood and hide themselves within the human world. An organization known as the Red Shield has been waging a private war to wipe them out and now the struggle has grown. Saya's journey for the truth has begun.

Contains episodes 1-25.

The Review!
Waking up after thirty years of slumber, Saya discovers that she's not quite human and is part of a very bloody worldwide legacy.

Audio:
Sony's bilingual presentation of Blood+ is pretty decent and at times surprises with what it does with a basic stereo mix. Encoded at 192kbps, the show is often more about the quiet moments and dialogue than the big action pieces and these are well done. Placement of dialogue across the forward soundstage is clean and problem free and it has a full sound when required, particularly for the opening and closing sequences. When the action scenes hit, there is a decent amount of impact during a lot of them which gives it some added presence. They don't ring out like a full on 5.1 mix would but it was better than I thought it would be given the audio encoding. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. Do note that the next episode previews were never dubbed in English for broadcast so they're kept to the original Japanese language when it comes up.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2005 and early 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Blood+ spreads its twenty-five episodes across five volumes with five episodes per volume. The release is fairly recent but the quality is surprisingly variable for a Production I.G. show. Early on the show looks very clean and crisp but as it progresses into darker scenes it starts to show more problems. There is a significant amount of noise in a number of scenes that's not intentional, i.e. not part of a flashback, and this gets very distracting at times. Not so much an authoring problem but a source problem, Blood+ has a fair number of visible gradients during some of the daylight scenes with the backgrounds such as the blue skies. There's also a strange problem, likely again source related to how it was originally presented, as when it comes back from commercial breaks it has a slight pause that makes it feel like the DVD player is stuttering. There are a number of very good scenes and overall it's not bad but it feels like this should have been much better looking.

Packaging:
The Blood+ collection is done in an interesting way that makes me wonder how the second part will go. The overall package is very well done with a heavy chipboard box that opens from the top which contains the three double thinpak cases and the t-shirt. The keepcases takes up barely half of the box which has you wondering whether the next set will just drop in or whether that will be its own collection as well. The box is really slick in its design as the front has a black and white image of Saya up close with the logo along the side in raised red foil. The back of the box is done in various shades of dark red which has a nice full color shot of Saya with her sword out while below is a collage strip of characters from the show. The summary covers the basics of what to expect and there's a very brief summation of what extras are on the disc. A decent technical grid is included along the bottom that covers the basics though it's worth noting that the run time includes the extras.

Within the box are the three thinpak cases which contain two discs in each of them. Each case has a good looking piece of artwork that centers around Saya and has a very polished yet dark feeling to it. The back cover uses the same artwork but puts it through a very dark filter on top of which it lists the episode numbers and titles for each of the discs along with a one or two line episode description. The keepcases are all clear and the reverse side has some full color artwork of Say and others. The keepcases are all very nicely done though a bit tight at times when removing the discs but that meant everything came in safely in delivery. In addition to the keepcases we get a Dark Horse manga mini preview book of the Blood+ first volume. Also included is a Large black t-shirt with a great piece of artwork of Saya on the back that was used for the front of the box.

Menu:
The menu design for Blood+ reminds me of just how much I've grown to dislike mainstream DVD authoring while at the same time enjoying Blu-ray menus all the more. After a series of unskippable warnings, the main menu is a 49 second piece that takes a bit of time to get to an interactive part as it wants to do some load-up animation. The layout is decent enough with a dark night set against the ruins of castle with rose petals floating by that centers on Saya. The layout is fairly standard Hollywood style in that you have separate menus to get to the audio setup and the subtitle setup. The really annoying area is with episode selection. Having watched this in chunks, going back in to pick up in the middle of a volume is very annoying as when you select an individual episode, it dumps you back out to the episode selection menu when it's over instead of continuing on to the next one. On the plus side, the disc correctly read our players' language presets for each volume and we had no problems there. The menus were essentially areas that I couldn't get out of fast enough.

Extras:
Blood+ comes with a sixth disc that contains all the extras for the show which is done in a similar layout to the main series in regards to menus and layout. Within it is really just a single extra called "Inside Blood+" which has a series of five interviews with ten of the Japanese voice actors. In total it runs just under an hour and contains a lot of the standard Q&A material that you'd find in any series. It's a bit repetitious if only because almost all of them are asked the same questions at first about the show and their characters. Some of it is more interesting than others and I was glad to hear Eri Kitamura talk about how Blood+ was her first lead role and how she handled it. In a rare event, Sony has gone and provided a voice over track for the Q&A session as well so that those who absolutely can't stand foreign languages or can't keep up with the subtitles can get in on the interviews as well. Beyond this there are a few trailers for other anime and recent releases from Sony and that's it. Unfortunately there are no clean versions of the opening or closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Utilizing some of what came before during the multimedia blitz that was Blood the Last Vampire back in 2000, Blood+ is a 50 episode series that takes the core character of Saya and gives her a greatly expanded story. In an interesting twist, Blood+ doesn't work through a lot of the vampire material that felt more prominent in the OVA but instead plays out more as a curious monster based supernatural story. Blood+ has some a solid pedigree behind it with the creative team and animation studios but it's still a hard sell when taken with so many episodes.

The series revolves around Saya, a high school girl who lost her memory a year ago and has been living with a man named George who took her in. George had lost his family years prior and decided that the best thing he could do with his life was to help others, hence taking in a pair of boys as well named Kai and Riku. Kai is a year older than Saya while Riku is a couple of years younger. The four of them have formed a decent enough family but there are stress points among them. While Saya shirks work sometimes and focuses a bit more on her friends and some athletic meets, Kai spends a lot of his time prowling about in the darker areas of Okinawa where he gets into street fights and works on motorcycles. While he's not an out and out badass punk, he's got the edge to him that's softened a bit by his devotion to Saya and other members of his family.

Unsurprisingly, Saya's life undergoes a drastic change as a series of murders taking place across the country comes home to roost within Okinawa. Even worse is that one of them happens in her presence at school when a strange humanoid beast appears out of nowhere and is intent on killing her. This begins a dangerous spiral where those close to Saya get drawn into events as they're targeted simply because they're close by. Whether it's a teacher at school or someone closer, Saya's life turns upside down by the arrival of these creatures. She's not completely alone however as a friend of George's named David intervenes with a very serious attitude. David and George go back a fair way to when both were in the military which ties well to the military base in Okinawa. David is also rather aware of what's really going on with Saya and is trying to get George to reveal things to her so that she can help out.

The most interesting person that comes to Saya's aid when these mysterious beasts begin to appear is the beautifully handsome and enigmatic Hagi. With something of an aristocratic air about him and a sense of refinement, Hagi is someone who is entirely devoted to Saya. With few words, he's more of a man of action than anything else but also someone who provides reassurance and a quiet confidence. Hagi is very aware of Saya's past which is slowly revealed over the twenty five episodes in this set. His ties to Saya are among the most interesting of the show and the revelations that come out during the last five episodes of this set are among the best episodes so far. Saya's reliance on him only grows as the two of them get thrown through a series of strange and unusual situations in which Saya is given chances to remember her past.

The cause of these situations revolves around something mysteriously known as Delta 6-7 which is the basis of what's creating the creatures known as Chiropterans. The only thing that can kill these beasts, effectively and relatively easily at least, is the sword that Saya uses which contains her blood. When the Chiropterans begin to affect those who Saya cares for the most, she joins up easily with David and the group he belongs to called the Red Shield to hunt them down. Saya is unfortunately hampered by the fact that everyone seems to know more about her than she does and are reluctant to tell her since they believe she'll be better off remembering it herself. With flashbacks to events thirty years prior during the fall of Vietnam as well as going as far back as the late 1800's, Saya's past is a source of much fascination because of how she remembers and the way so many seem to be waiting with baited breath for those memories to surface.

Blood+ spends a lot of time moving around the world which is both a good and bad thing. With its first arc taking place in Okinawa with Saya's adopted home and family, we get some beautiful settings and locations that don't feel like a lot of other shows that are more Tokyo based. From there the mystery has Saya and company heading off to Vietnam which is an unusual turn as the show slows down considerably there. These are very important episodes as it introduces more of the real cast of "bad guys" for the series who have some fascinating ties to Saya. The Red Shield's main mission at this point is to track down Diva, the person they believe responsible for most of what's going on. The discovery that she's in Vietnam has Saya moving into a school there to figure out what's going on while everyone else is tackling the problem from a different angle.

But Vietnam isn't the only place that the series deals in outside of Japan. Once the Vietnam present day arc finishes out, there's a rather intriguing journey to Russia where the mystery of the Chiropterans is explored more through scientists who worked on the project decades ago. At the same time, a storyline is taking place in France where one of the main men serving Diva named Solomon operates out of which has a deep past not only with the Chiropterans buy Saya herself. The exploration of that storyline through Solomon is also paralleled by a reporter who hooks up with a friend of Kai's named Mao who is the daughter of a mafia boss in Okinawa. She's intent on finding Kai since she's got strong feelings for him and she uses the reporter with her money to get closer to finding out where Kai disappears to after events in Okinawa go out of control during the first arc.

Blood+ spends a lot of time moving through these various locations and teasing out the various threads that tie together the larger storyline. With the number of episodes that the show will run, there isn't a lot of hurrying going on here to get to the meat of things. In some ways this is a real positive as it takes its time to go through all of the subplots to show us how it all works as a larger storyline. But it also causes a fair number of lulls during some of the arcs, notably the Vietnam one which felt very weak after the opening arc in Okinawa. That storyline showed us a lot of the family and closeness that Saya, Kai, Riku and George had which was then given the shaft as Saya ended up mostly on her own. The saving grace to a lot of the lull moments in the series comes down to either the great material with Hagi - particularly his origin story - or watching Solomon and his compatriots moving about with their plans.

Blood+ is a mixed bag when it comes to its animation which isn't so much of a surprise considering its length. Production I.G. was riding high with their Ghost in the Shell series and this one definitely feels weaker with its animation overall. A lot of the daylight scenes, particularly in Okinawa, look really lush and have a beautiful sense of the location. In a different way, a lot of the Russia scenes with the snow look fantastic as it's very dark and oppressive which fits the mood. But throughout a lot of the Vietnam arc and parts of the Russia arc, Blood+ has a noticeable dip in fluidity of animation and the designs seem to get simpler. The series isn't as detailed as their work in Ghost in the Shell which is to be expected considering the locations but with the budget spread over fifty episodes it has some difficult areas to work with. This isn't a bad looking show by any stretch of the imagination but it does feel uneven at times and not what I expected from Production I.G. after the last few shows of theirs I've seen.

Where Blood+ has its biggest flaw, at least for me, is with its subtitles. While they are often very close and it's an accurate dub that's used for conveying intent and meaning, the subtitles are actually dubtitles the majority of the time. A lot of it works well and it's only really noticeable as bad if you have a good knowledge of Japanese there are more discrepancies. If you have a passing knowledge of certain key phrases and a bit more, there will be areas that will bother you a lot as a simple word is given a few more words in translation due to lap flip. Some are changed outright as well which can be problematic, but again, only if you understand what's being said. While areas of this did bother me, and the timing is off slightly, it never derailed the show. Inquiring with a representative from Sony Pictures, they ended up using the broadcast translation instead of the full original language translation. I was told that they would not do this again.

In Summary:
After falling in love with just the video release of Blood the Last Vampire eight years ago, I was excited to sit down at what would be a longer re-interpretation of the storyline into something more complex and not so dependent on other media to tentpole it. Blood+ has some fascinating elements to it and it's taking its time to weave its tale but there are some very uneven moments in both story and animation that keeps it from standing out strongly. What really makes this set worth the time and effort is the first five episodes in Okinawa and the last five episodes in France in which we get a lot of great story, character moments and setup for the second half. Sony has done some decent work with the set but like the show it feels uneven and uncertain in some ways. My only fear with them is that we may not get the second half of the show based on some of their past dalliances with anime. That said, this is certainly an experience worth checking out since it's a solid amount of anime at a good price with a show that very much benefits from being marathoned and seen in a short amount of time.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Inside Blood+ Interview Section

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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