Trinity Blood Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, April 21, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2006



What They Say
Centuries ago, man's Armageddon birthed the vampires' wrath. As man and immortal clash, a reality-shattering threat looms. Hope resides solely in a new breed of hunter operating under the Vatican's authority. The true battle between holiness and evil has begun.

Contains episodes 1-4:
Flight Night
Witch Hunt
The Star of Sorrow 1 - City of Blood
The Star of Sorrow 2 - Hunter's Banquet

The Review!
If there's one thing that will attract women to a series, it's Japanese themed vampires. Trinity Blood takes this and a number of other ideas and runs with an intriguing series.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a good mix of action and dialogue to it and the mix handles it all very well. The music in particular, especially the opening and closing sequences, sound great. The action during the show uses the full soundstage just right as events happen all over and with some good noticeable directionality to it. Dialogue also works in a similar way with plenty of well placed dialogue in addition to the standard full sounding areas. We listened to this in its English mix a bit and it sounded good there as well and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions on either language track during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. After the recent release of Basilisk and the video issues that I had seen there, I was really wary about the Trinity Blood release since it plays in many of the same kinds of colors. I was also wary since FUNimation has moved most of its authoring in house and it's taking some time to get it back to where it was. The transfer for this show looks quite good and avoids just about all major problems. There isn't any really noticeable grain to it, colors are very solid throughout though there are the occasional moments where certain shades have some mosquito noise to it and cross coloration simply isn't there. The opening and closing sequences in particular look fantastic with sharp vibrant colors and solid blacks.

Packaging:
I haven't seen how the standalone release looks so I can't say anything on that but in regards to the limited edition/starter set release, it is fantastic. Possibly one of the best by FUNimation yet. The hard chipboard box is covered in beautiful artwork of the characters on just about all sides while one spine as the themed cross to it. The top has the TB letters on it and its' between them where the box splits to open up. The top portions that split and fold outward do so on thin metal rails so that it stops at about a 70 degree angle. Inside we get even more artwork on the panels but also a backing panel to keep everything straight and in place that has a gorgeous shot of the main trio. Inside the box is the digipak case with a slipcover to hold it all inside. The slipcover uses different character artwork than the box but the design remains the same. The back of the slipcover is as I suspect the keepcase design is with a rundown of the shows premise and episode numbers/titles as well as pictures. They also break down the trading cards that are included and the booklet that is included. Round it all out with the technical information and it's a very well laid out piece that's gorgeously in-theme and still quite useful.

The digipak portion of it uses artwork from the box itself for the multiple panels that are needed for it and it opens up to the booklet holder and another piece of artwork that isn't used elsewhere. The booklet itself is gorgeous and filled with beautiful artwork and designs, interviews with the staff and character profile information. Add in the couple of cards that come in a separate sealed plastic bag with the associated volume number printed on it and you've got a release that is just stunning from top to bottom. This is the kind of release where you can see exactly where all the love and effort went as it looks and feels like a top of the line release. Few boxes mirror the overall look and quality of this release.

Menu:
The menu layout for the release has some great artwork to work with. The first volume has a nice looking illustration of Abel done in a widescreen design where his hair flows off to the right. There's some mixed backgrounds of plants and other things in shades of red that accents it along with the black sections to give it a good creepy but alluring feel. With a bit of the foreboding instrumental music playing along, it all comes together quite well. The navigation is pretty standard and easy to move about it and we continue to use the language setup section to ensure that we get the right settings since the angles for the credits sections are tied to it. It's unfortunate that those cannot be selected in the menu.

Extras:
The extras for the first volume are a bit weak but they do provide some of the standards. We get the clean version of the opening and closing sequences as well as a few text pages that catches the viewer up on various religious terms and locations that are prominent in the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gonzo goes back to the vampire well with Trinity Blood, a twenty-four episode series based on the original novel by Sunao Yoshida, which also saw a translation to manga form. Gonzo's had fairly decent luck in the past with vampires, though their interpretation of the Hellsing series divided fans. With Trinity Blood, they're able to work with a more open interpretation since novels to other media tend to allow for a number of changes as long as the core is still there. Having not read the core material, there's nothing to really sway my opinion of the show as I went into it without any real advance knowledge of it other than positive word of mouth from a lot of women.

The series takes place a few hundred years from the present, at a time long after civilization pretty much annihilated itself in a series of cataclysmic wars. Humanity has survived and rebuilt but they aren't alone this time. The world is seemingly divided between two main empires, one of humanity and one of vampires. There are cracks in between where regions try to play out a neutral role but for the most part, you're either part of one or the other. The human side of the world that we see in the first four episodes here takes place in what used to be central Europe. There are familiar names at times, such as the Vatican and its central role in the rebuilt Rome as well as the area of Hungary which has retained its name, but empires and countries seem to have fallen away to the two main sides. The focus of the show is based around the Vatican and those who work for it.

We're introduced to the lead character of Abel Nightroad as he's on his return to the Vatican from a mission only to have the trip interrupted by a vampire who was hired out by an organization known by the olden name of Rosencrantz to crash the airship into the Vatican. Abel, as we see from this encounter, is one of a special group of traveling priests for the Vatican who handles odd missions and the like but he's also something far more. Like many who are in this kind of role throughout history, he's a very likeable guy with a smile and very disarming looks and nature, people tend to feel very comfortable around him and at ease. But underneath all of this he's much more, something that the natural order of the world has evolved. Vampires believe that it's their right to take the blood of humans much as humans take the flesh of animals but Abel is something different, he's the next level up on the food chain as he claims and he feeds on Vampires themselves.

Because of this, Abel almost in a way has a different set of personalities to him, as when he's in his normal priest mode which has him dealing with all sorts of people while traveling about he's someone you wouldn't mind hanging out with. But when he shifts to his feeding mode and ups his power level to deal with the vampires, he's a far darker creature and his appearance becomes more menacing as well. He's still the same person underneath all of it but it's almost like a super-hero identity, where the visage and voice changes and he does things he wouldn't do otherwise. His moments as this are fairly minimal throughout the first four episodes since when he does come across the vampires he's able to deal with them pretty quickly since they're such low level thugs. But it does get more interesting as it progresses as more dangerous entities are in the offing but he's still really the same almost bumbling kind of priest at the core.

The opening set of four episodes provides for some fun stories to it and do an excellent job of laying out the setting. The first two are standalone pieces that gets us into the basics of the Vatican and Abel's place in it as well as the conflict with the vampire empire but it also shows some of the political intrigue occurring within the Vatican. The current pope is an early teenager it looks like or just a touch younger who is assisted by one of the cardinals, a woman named Catherina who in some ways wields the real power of the seat as the pope often defers to her on matters. But there are others within the high council who advocate different approaches and in general seem to be more aggressive, the kind where you almost want to tag them as the evil characters because of their designs and initial motives.

The series is made up of a number of story arcs across its twenty four episode run and the first two episode arc is contained in the first four. This is one that brings us out into the world a bit more as we go to one of those places that falls between the cracks of the two massive empires and introduces us to more of the lower ranking church members and histories that help to flesh things out. One of the best characters introduced after Abel is someone who seems to be a companion of his, a fellow priest type named Tres. Tres is definitely on the hardcore side of the job and not one you can imagine being sent out on his own to deal with people as he has more of a "Terminator" feel to him. He's the one that brings the gunplay to the show and helps to up the action quota since Abel can't be in his feeding mode all that often without reducing the effectiveness of it.

The opening of the series is presented in a rather interesting way that doesn't feel like a lot of other Gonzo shows. While there is plenty of action to be had, it feels like a slightly slower paced piece that's spending more time on the characters and their backgrounds than we're used to. The design of the show is very well done with its leanings towards the church which makes me eager to see how the vampire empire is conceived. The series director, Tomohiro Hirata, is someone whose not done too much with Gonzo beyond a few bits of animation and directing Peacemaker, but his history before then is one that has me really intrigued as he's worked extensively on a number of eighties and early nineties series as a key animator on properties that I continue to have a great fondness for. His Gonzo stint hasn't left much of an impression with me but with Trinity Blood being under his direction it has a really great feel to it.

In Summary:
Trinity Blood is the real highlight among a number of high profile series being released this season from FUNimation. It's technical side is definitely solid, the packaging for the limited edition is just stunning and the show itself will certainly have a sizeable number of fans for its story and characters. There is a lot to explore in this world and we're seeing just the tip of it here, but with its use of religion, war and vampires in an intriguing science fiction setting, it has me intrigued. It's also got a heavy appeal to women, something that you see with many vampire shows. I think this is the show that really needs to be watched to see how it does here in the long run as one with the most potential for FUNimation.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Director Interview, Cast Auditions, Cultural & Historical Facts, Concept Art

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98/44.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Trinity Blood