In the third installment, Blood+ starts to settle into a groove as the overall picture starts to take shape and begins to hit the potential the story has always held.
What They Say
Throughout the passage of time and the shifts in backgrounds, a particular war continues to leave its mark on history, extending its influence into the modern world. There are two major groups involved in the ensuring war. The first group consists of monsters known as Chiropterans who can change their appearances into that of human beings. They are actually immortals who feed on the blood of the living. The second group is an organisation known as the "Red Shield", formed to track down these monsters and exterminate them. Otonashi Saya is a high-school girl who lives a peaceful life with her family. The only problem is, she has no recollections of her life beyond that of the past year. However, her happy life will be destroyed by an event that will lead her to her destined fate. Volume 3 of the series.
For this viewing, I watched the English dub. There is also a Japanese track, and both are only offered in 2.0. There are, however, English, French, and Korean options for subtitles. The 2.0 track sounds nice, with good balance between the channels and no dropout anywhere. That said, Blood+ is a show that could have benefitted from a 5.1 treatment. There’s enough action, with the promise of a lot more, that having front and rear channels could have really enhanced the battles.
For the most part, the video looked really nice, as the show is stylish, and the colors and lines are clean and crisp. However, there were a few times where the video began to look hazy, and not in that “it’s done for artistic reasons” way. It was a bit distracting at times. An unwelcome addition to this volume is an odd four to five second still shot at the beginning of each chapter, almost as if the DVD is frozen. It is not, as the counter keeps going, but rather it is actually recorded that way. These freezes appear at the opening of each episode and at the commercial break. It is really weird and jarring. It is a shame, because when it looks good, it looks really good. I am hoping that this gets better as we go along.
The packaging for this release is nice, though unimpressive. The front has a picture set on a solid purple background of Saya and Haji looking ready to attack. The back of the case has a large image of Haji standing with his case standing along the left and the summary and stills on the right. An episode list and the technical details are near the bottom. The disc has a third image of Saya, this time holding the sword to her side and looking sad. It is a simple design, but one that works.
I liked the menu on this release. The background shows a continuous loop of footage from the show while the theme plays. The selections for Play All, Episode Selection, Audio Setup, and Subtitles are along the bottom in gold, with the highlighted selection easy to see. In reality, there is nothing all that special about this menu, but it is a nice change from the standard static menu that most anime get.
There are no extras on this disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The last disc of Blood+ ended with Saya finally confronting the Phantom, only to have him get away at the last minute having failed to draw out the full potential of Saya’s abilities. As such, this disc continues her search for the Phantom, Diva, and Delta 67. While the first ten episodes suffered from some occasional clunky writing, in this disc, the story seems to get on track and flows much better. While still not earth shattering by any means, Blood+ is starting to shape up as a really good gothic horror/action title.
As this volume opens up, Saya is back at school as the trip to Hanoi has ended. Excitement and jealousy are rampant as it has become apparent that the mysterious Phantom has chosen Saya as his next paramour/target. Though Saya does not seek the attention she is garnering from her classmates, she receives it nonetheless. When a mysterious stranger names Solomon arrives at a school dance and lavishes attention on Saya, that attention escalates. Though Saya knows that Solomon is not the Phantom, the fact that he carries a blue rose, the Phantom’s symbol, in his lapel kicks the rumor mill among the students into high gear.
Solomon does not stay long, and as soon as he leaves, the Phantom puts in another appearance. The chevalier are attempting to move the comatose Diva to a new location, and he is set to guard the shipment. Again, he attempts to draw out Saya’s latent powers so that he can fight her at full strength, but the combined efforts of Saya, Haji, and David force him to retreat once again. The Red Shield quickly jump on the trail, and track the Phantom and Diva to a remote location in Vietnam. What they find when they arrive, though, is worse than anything they could imagine.
After their encounter with the Phantom, the Red Shield return to Japan, and Saya, Kai, and Riku (whom Saya reunited with at the Phantom’s mansion) are given a little time off to relax. They use this time to finally give George a proper burial rite, and to help Saya settle her regrets at having to give up her simple life. At the same time, the reporter Okamura, having hit a wall with his investigation in Vietnam, has also returned to Japan to start over. While there are a number of sweet and interesting moments in these episodes, their main purpose is to set up what is to come on the next disc.
As mentioned above, in this volume the pacing seems to stabilize and the story flows better. Saya starts to accept what is expected of her in battle, important information is coming at a steadier rate, and it no longer feels as if we are just jumping from moment to moment, whereas before there seemed a rush at times to throw as much background information out as possible, while still agonizingly leaving various details out. While I understood those details were left out for the necessity of building suspense, it was fairly illogical the way it was accomplished. By this time, however, they have settled into a groove and found a better way of dealing with the details.
Another minor problem I had with previous episodes is that I found myself fairly uninterested in the petty jealousies and backbitings that are the norm at the Vietnamese school Saya was enrolled in, but those were kept to a minimum as Saya and Red Shield leave the school in fairly short order to chase down the Phantom, meaning that the school and the various girls’ trivial spites were also left behind. I was much more interested in the various characters left behind in Japan, and was glad to see them get some more screen time in these episodes.
I am still a bit mystified as to the division of episodes, as it appears to be the norm to allow the first few episodes on a disc close out a storyline and the last few open a new one. It seems with just a little messing around with the number of episodes on a disc, they could standardize this and get story arcs all onto one disc. As it is, it is a little frustrating, especially when compounded with Sony’s painfully slow release schedule for this title.
That is a fairly minor gripe at this point, however. Overall, these episodes appear to realize the promise of the setup. We continue to get some really great action and some very uncomfortable, gothic moments, but the human elements and the pacing appear to have caught up. So far, these have been the best stretch of episodes on a single disc yet. I hope that it continues to keep it up.
The third volume of Blood+ seems to fix the pacing flaws that troubled flow through the first two discs, and these episodes settle into a really nice groove that shows off the capabilities of this story. While I do not ever see Blood+ being a title that will absolutely floor anybody, it is a really good entry into the gothic genre, and is so far a perfectly fine addition to any fan’s collection. If later episodes keep it up, it has a chance to be one of the genre’s better titles. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Korean Subtitles
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System