Black Blood Brothers Vol. #2 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, April 07, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2008
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.
Jiro and Kotaro have finally made it into the Special Zone, but they soon find their welcome less than promising. With his reputation as the hero of the savage wars, the presence of the Silver Sword has raised quite a bit of interest. The Company wonders if he can be recruited, the vampiric leaders ponder his intent even as they test his skills, and every door remains closed to Jiro and his brother. It seems the vampire attracts too much trouble - and the discovery of Kowloon Children behind the barrier may soon prove just how much trouble Jiro can attract.
Contains episodes 5-8.
Now inside the Special Zone, Jiro realizes that it's really just a microcosm of how the world at large works, which puts him and Kotaro in a fair amount of danger from friend and foe alike.
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.
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.
While not quite as dark as the first volume was as the background is a bit murkier, the overall image is still strong as it features just Jiro in his solid red outfit with a menacing look on his face as he positions his blade. It has the same kind of quiet strength to it that the first volume did but it loses a little bit of the menace. 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 outfit 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. 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 and white backgrounds. While I like the front cover as used for this release because it's simple and stark, any of these covers would have worked well in promoting the show and its varied nature with a dash more menace and sexuality
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.
This release once again has a 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. Similar to the first volume, 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)
With this volume containing the middle arc of the series, Black Blood Brothers still leaves me fairly uncertain of exactly how well this will all end. With these four episodes covering what is essentially two days worth of time in-show, a whole lot is going on but there isn't a lot of forward progression to it. What makes it even more problematic is that with so many long lived characters involved, the amount of histories and connections that are hinted at and are possible just makes it difficult to fit well since there isn't enough time to let it all sink in.
Jiro and Kotaro's arrival in the Special Zone was something that was fraught with violence and bloodshed - or is that ash shed? - but in the end they made it inside. What to do once inside is a bit more problematic though as the two of them don't have a place to stay and there's only so long they can stay inside of Mimiko's tiny apartment. Kotaro is all set to stay there however which is amusing while the adults are a bit more awkward about it and the social impropriety. This leads to Mimiko giving the rundown of how the Special Zone works and what needs to be done to find these two a place to stay.
The Special Zone, as Jiro notes upon the explanation being given, seemingly operates as a microcosm of the world itself with how the vampires have integrated into it. Within the Zone, there are three main Houses that operate there and each of them is pretty distinct with what they cover and do. While two of them are pretty specific, one of them is essentially a catch-all of everyone else that isn't quite as focused. That one is the one that Mimiko really doesn't want to get involved in because of how it operates and pushes against the other two. That serves a useful purpose overall but as Jiro talks about, it's little different from what many of them were trying to escape from for so long. While Jiro is still considered a stripling, he's been around the block enough times to know how things work and to have the right connections to those within the Zone to figure out what will be best.
What isn't a surprise is that Jiro is pretty much unwelcome by the two main houses and is actively courted by the third that's headed by Crimson-Eyed Zelman. The history that goes back between a lot of these characters isn't entirely clear or detailed at times, but the general animosity among some of them is pretty strong when it comes to Jiro, particularly for his role as a hero with regards to the Kowloon Children. It also doesn't help that one of Zelman's underlings has been taking shots at Jiro and his brother in the last few hours without any orders to do so. Zelman is very intrigued by Jiro and the two have some mild verbal sparring over how things should work with Jiro and Kotaro in the Special Zone. Amusingly enough, it's the open and up front Kotaro who strikes the strongest tone within the conversation since he speaks so plainly about what he feels is right and that takes Zelman by surprise at times.
The presence of Jiro in the Special Zone is an issue that hits just about every aspect of the show during this arc, whether it's the Houses dealing with him or the Company itself. So many things are drawn to him that commotions occur easily enough no matter where he is and that's the kind of thing that none of them really want there, at least not openly. What's really causing the problem is that his arrival is at the same time that something much larger is being planned as a Kowloon Child has made it into the Special Zone and some very long range and detailed plans are about to erupt. The arrival of Cassandra into the city also sets the stage for something big going on considering her pedigree and that just has everyone on edge. There are many moments of great import bandied about here, but the connection to them and the strength of them continues to be weak because of the length of the series and the way it hasn't had time to really go into any of them in any great detail.
After the first eight episodes I'm still pretty ambivalent about this show. It has some neat ideas to it and the characters, though minimally fleshed out, have a certain kind of classic fun about them. The story is moving along quickly when you look at the amount of time that these eight episodes have played out over, something like three days or so, but it hasn't been too terribly cohesive in regards to what it really wants to tell. The story doesn't exactly spin its wheels here but it's waiting for the remainder of the key players to arrive and opts to flesh out a few of the relationships a little bit more so that it's clear who likes who and who hates who. At the end of this volume it's hard to say how the last four episodes will play out beyond lots of fighting, some posturing and a few tense moments where you can't be sure exactly what will happen. And most of it won't have a real connection for the viewer since it's been pretty superficial. Black Blood Brothers is a fun way to pass the time but it's not much more than that unfortunately.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Commentaries, Original Commercials, Textless Songs
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.
Mania Grade: B-
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.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Black Blood Brothers