In this fourth volume, Saya’s past starts to take a clearer picture, and she does not like what she is finding out.
What They Say
The battle continues in Blood + Volume Four, more adventures as Saya Otonashi battles the evil Chiropterans! A normal high school student who suffers from amnesia, her destiny is partially revealed when a stranger presents her with a katana. Soon she finds herself fighting Chiropterans - ravenous creatures that can change their form, disguising themselves as human beings. An organization called the Red Shield has been waging a private war to wipe them out. They travel to Ekaterinburg during the continued struggle, but no one's safe.
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 a bit nicer than the previous releases. The front has a picture of Saya crouching in an attack pose. Behind her is a dark, winter scene, which fits the Russian theme of this disc well. The back of the case has a small shot of Saya and David standing back-to-back in a fight while Haji attacks beside them. To the right of that is the disc summary, while screens and technical details are below. The disc has a third image of Saya, this time bundled up in winter clothes, looking reflective, and clutching her sheathed sword to her chest. 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)
With the story pacing evening out on the previous disc, I was more interested than ever in continuing with the story. Now that the Phantom is finally out of the way, and Saya has been able to return to Okinawa and close the door to that part of her life, she can continue on her quest to kick Chiropteran ass. As we are now getting into the latter stages of the first season, the episodes on this disc start revealing more about Saya’s past; while interesting, it is also somewhat predictable.
Following a lead, Saya and the operatives of Red Shield travel to Russia in an effort to find Ted A. Adams, a scientist who reportedly worked on Delta 67, in order to find out more about its mysterious origins. It is thought that despite evidence of research, there are no Chiropteran in Russia, and therefore Saya would get a little bit of a break. Aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, Says meets Liza, another operative of Red Shield, who is also joining in the hunt. However, early in the trip, Liza is ambushed and killed in her room then replaced by a shape-shifter.
The new Liza then converts a couple passengers into Chiropteran, forcing Saya to fight again. The aftermath of the fight sees Saya and her little brother, Riku, thrown off the side of the train. Haji and Fake-Liza jump off to go find them, but Saya is knocked unconscious from the impact. While out, she dreams of her distant past, long before even the Vietnam War, and of travelling the Russian countryside with Haji. This dream awakens further Saya’s urge to discover more about her life before awaking three years previous, and it seems that Fake-Liza might just be the one who has all the answers.
With the search for Saya in the hands of Haji and Liza, David and the others continue their search for Ted A. Adams. While Saya is finding out about her past on her own, Kai is also slowing starting to put pieces together as it seems the constant pushing from David has finally caused Kai to grow up. When Kai handles himself well during a mission, David finally relents and allows Kai to read the journal of Red Shield director, Joel, which notes every encounter Red Shield has ever had with the Chiropteran, and therefore the past of Saya. However, what Kai discovers in those notes is worse than anything he could have imagined.
This volume keeps going with what it does well: gothic action. Each episode has at least one fight scene, and much like the earlier episodes, the fights are rendered well. However, more than anything else, the purpose of the five episodes on this disc is to build the intrigue for what appears to be a large confrontation coming soon by starting to unravel Saya’s past. While each episode has its own self contained story arc, those arcs are little more than backdrop for the revelations about Saya’s character. Through this, we learn a little more about the Chevalier and their association with Diva, why it is that Delta 67 works in the way that it does, and how Saya fits into this equation. While there are still blank spots in the overall picture, by the end of this disc, we have a much clearer image of the motivations of all the characters.
We also get the introduction of a new shadowy group of vampires called the Schiff who appear to be the enemies of both Saya and the Chevalier. The Schiff motives are not yet apparent, though they are trying to get to Saya without alerting the Chevalier. They are easily more powerful than standard Chiropteran, but when a run-in with Solomon Chevalier see two of them eradicated in a matter of moments, it shows that they have to be a bit sneaky with their dealings.
All of this has sufficiently built intrigue for the finale of the first season and the build up to the second, but I cannot shake the notion that much of the actions and revelations in these episodes were a little bit predictable. The story is still interesting, but by being able to guess virtually everything that was coming up, at least to a small extent, it ruined the drama and the overall effect of what the creators were going for. Even with the predictability, though, my interest in the story continues to be high, and with the nice imagery and action, I continue to look forward to future installments.
Volume 4 of Blood+ continues the gothic atmosphere and action that the earlier episodes setup and really start in build up the intrigue of the upcoming confrontation between Saya/Red Shield and Saya/the Chevalier. My only concern with what came across in these five episodes is that the story seems to be falling somewhat into a pattern of predictability. It is a bit of a shame, since there are a lot of interesting things that could be done with this premise, but it did not kill my interest in the story. I still look forward to the finale of season one and hope that it will spur my interest into season two. 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