A mixture of science fiction, religion, vampires and a future/past world makes Trinity Blood a fascinating world that only has its surfaced scratched.
What They Say
Armageddon. The ultimate sin of humanity, perpetrated upon itself, which cast the shroud of death across the world centuries ago. And out of that lasting darkness, they emerged... From the legends of ancient times, they have been called forth into the world anew... vampires.
Two races - Terran and Methuselah, human and vampire - are locked in a struggle for existence, trembling on the brink of war. Some seek the path to a peaceful coexistence, while others pursue a dangerous shift in the balance of power. The world's enemy, Contra Mundi, is starting to move. Cooperation and goodwill between the two races may be their only chance for survival.
Abel Nightroad, a touring priest for the Vatican, walks calmly where others fear to tread. A member of the formidable AX, tasked with the protection of the fragile equilibrium. Neither human nor vampire, with an awkward yet optimistic nature, this Father is a force wholly his own. When the greater threat emerges, the enemy of my enemy is my friend... and Abel Nightroad seeks a safe path for all.
Be strong in your endeavors for the sake of the world.
Contains episodes 1-24.
Trinity Blood has what's been the standard for FUNimation's TV Blu-ray releases so far with its bilingual mix being both high definition and standard definition. The English 5.1 mix gets done in Dolby TrueHD and it's really quite striking, particularly when it comes to the music. The incidental sounds, minor music cues and background noises come across really well here, especially with things that you might not recognize at first. The Japanese stereo mix is done in a lossy Dolby Digital form encoded at 640kbps and has a much more obvious forward soundstage feel. There are differences in the volume of each mix and often the Japanese sounds louder, but it also sounds more forced to the center stage. The music makes out the best throughout with a richer feeling in the lossless format but in both tracks everything comes across without problem. The Japanese track just isn't as clear and free as it should be.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Trinity Blood looks to be an upscale based on how the bitrate works for it, but if it is it's one that I have to say I find appealing. The show has a lot of dark colors to it and they come across well here, though there are noisy areas to be had in some of the larger swathes of color and the source material itself has a problem in there being visible gradients throughout the series at times. It's not a constant problem to be sure, but when they do show they are noticeable. Some of the panning sequences introduce a bit of the jagged line effect and you can see shimmering from the CG source material as well in those pans, such as in the opening, but it's again an issue related to how the show itself was animated. While I don't think this is a stand out looking release, it's one that is generally pleasing to watch and left me happy to have it in this form.
Nothing FUNimation could do with this release would top the DVD release, much like Basilisk, as both had very top of the line boxes in design. This edition goes the standard format we're seeing for TV series from the company with two standard Blu-ray cases inside a thin cardboard slipcover. The package in general uses the same design concepts, artwork and borders we saw before to good effect and the Blu-ray logo doesn't detract from the artwork oof the front cover with the strong yet beautiful looking designs. The back of the slipcover gives us Abel in his powerful form looking conflicted with lots of shadows mixing into the dangerous looking framing. The summary runs through the basics of trying to explain the world while below it we get a tiny tiny strip of shots from the show that mostly focus on character artwork. We also get a decent listing there of what's in the box for episodes and discs as well as extras. The technical information is clean and clear. Other technical information, such as runtime and region coding along with production information is relegated to the bottom flap of the slipcover.
Inside the slipcover we get the two standard Blu-ray cases and the dark blue works pretty well with the cover artwork. I liked that they spread the logo across both cases so it has a bigger feeling to it. Both covers use artwork from the DVD releases of the characters that's filled with lots of symbols, detailed framework and really appealing character artwork that's detailed and fully realized. They don't feel like simple designs which gives them a much richer and almost tactile feeling. The back covers are the same in layout with the framework while having more character artwork in the center of each that feels equally rich. The top and bottom sections have the disc numbers and respective episode numbers and titles next to them while the second case has the extras listed on the bottom half since only one disc is there. Both covers have artwork on the reverse side that covers the full length of the case with more richly detailed character pieces and settings. Also included in this set is a twenty-two page full color booklet that has interviews with the Japanese creative folks as well as numerous character profiles and artwork.
The menu design for the series does things nicely in them by taking the framing artwork from the covers and using that around the navigation strip itself. It adds that kind of old and worn feeling to them with that edge of danger because of how it looks as well as the clanging aspect to moving from selection to selection. The main menu itself has numerous clips playing throughout the background, often through red filters, that adds to the oppressive feeling and gives it a decidedly dark and edgy feeling. The layout is simple and certainly falls in line with how FUNimation does most of their releases but it's solid and functional with no problems. The navigation strip doubles as the pop-up menu during playback and I like the expansive way they do the episode selections which has more detailed artwork in the background of it while also listing full episode titles inside the ornate box. Unsurprisingly, the release defaults to English language dialogue with sign/song subtitles.
The meager extras are all found on the third disc as we get the clean opening and closing sequences as the Historical Artifacts section. This section is just a series of key text pieces that detailed various aspects of the show as well as real world historical analogues where appropriate. It's a little slow in navigation to get from page to page and I wish there was an overview section so you could just go to the page you wanted to read more on rather than having to go through it page by page.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back when Gonzo was riding high, at least with Western anime fans, the adaptation of a sci-fi political religious show involving a cold war between humans and vampires that has lasted for centuries was an ideal pick-up. Clocking in at twenty-four episodes, the series is 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 only read a smattering of the light novels and manga, I've separated opinions on them so that each stands on its own merits.
The series takes place over nine 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.
Trinity Blood works from an interesting angle with the way the series plays out. Adapting from the original material, they tell distinct chapters within the series where self contained stories exist while common threads permeate across the whole. It's not a full story being told here with a culmination at the end, especially since the original author had died the year before this aired and left his work at that time uncompleted, but rather a series of intriguing stories of different length that explores this world and the cold war relationship between all involved while covering the politics, religion and intrigue of it all.
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.
Another episode that is a very mellow piece that's more interested in character exploration and expanding the setting a bit more is the fifth one. Abel returns to the Vatican with Esther in tow and we get to see clearly once more just how out of place he is in such a setting. If not for the help of the enticing Noelle, he'd probably end up skewered by those who protect the place. Once past that though, Abel finds himself providing some details about his encounters with the Rosen Kruez to Caterina. The presentation of it is fairly minimal but it and other movements around the Vatican allows us to see some of Caterina's history and start to understand what motivates her. It also explains heavily why she and Abel are like they are. Caterina has been an interesting person from what little we've seen so far and this does a good job of making her a bit more fleshed out.
Esther gets a bit of time as well in learning her way around the place which in turn helps explains some of the general make-up of it all. The only downside is that Treis gets doesn't get used too much but he does have a couple of rather fun moments. This overall greater understanding of how the AX operates and the people within it is used to launch more of the episodes as various operatives under Caterina's control are sent out into the field. After looking at some of them, such as Hugue and Leon, it really changes the perspective on Abel and he seems to be the most grounded and human of all the people that are there. And that says a lot considering what he's able to do and become.
After the events in Barcelona arc that are best left to be seen, and the sheer amount of destruction caused there, Abel's return to Rome has put everyone in a rather subdued state. The threat of the Silent Noise is still there, and the damage caused has found its scapegoat, but the repercussions look to be wide ranging. The group that's doing all of this damage is still within the shadows but its power has caused Abel to question himself thoroughly. He's now at the point of, having served Caterina for so long, that he'll actually walk away from it all. With him being more out of the picture here, it does allow the other men that have come on board in recent episodes to have more time and provide a bit more of a balance for Caterina in opinions and styles.
Caterina is definitely needing those opinions and extra eyes as the Pope's uncle, Archbishop Alfonso D'Estes has returned after being away from Rome for five years. His losing against Alessandro for the position of Pope had him quite upset when it happened but it appears that his fire and anger has diminished over time. His arrival is an effort to smooth things over but it comes at a time when tensions are high and there are potential rifts between Caterina and Francesco, rifts that D'Estes seems to stoke every so slightly. With the threat of an attack by the mysterious group and his arrival, Caterina needs Abel more than ever but he's just completely lost to the rain and his own internal sense of despair over Barcelona.
One area where the series really picked up for me outside of some of the interesting single episode stories is the one with the "Night Lords". This arc has Abel and Esther going to the heart of the Empire with Ion. Donning the attire of the locals and heading to the west side of the city where all the Methuselah's live, the show sets about bringing Ion and the others to inform the Empress that they are indeed intent on working together against a common enemy. It's a simple enough and effective approach which is why there is an active campaign to make sure that they not only don't make it there but there is enough bad blood out there to ensure that they won't be believed anyway.
This arc is a fair bit of fun in general since we get to explore more of where the Methuselah live and call home while also how they deal with the lower class that remain in the area. Visually it's not all that different from the Vatican area other than some obvious architectural things when it comes to capital buildings, but the variances in how they have to deal with such things as the sun is interesting enough. The political side of it also gets touched on a bit, not to the depth we've seen the Vatican side of it, but it helps to expand some of what's been going on there. The Empress herself opens up a whole can of worms when Abel goes to meet with her privately which should make for some interesting material if it gets explored in the two remaining volumes.
Spending so much time in the Empire has gone a long way towards exposing the viewer to more worldviews as well as a better understanding of the people who live there. The Empire in its own way is fascinating since it has a mix of both kinds of people there but what intrigues the most is the... well, intrigue. We've seen a fair bit of it so far as time has been spent with Ion and he's seen forces moving against him. We've also seen a few snippets of it when Abel confronted the Empress behind the scenes about who she really is. Political intrigue, mixed with Methuselah's, is something that's highly appealing. Trinity Blood walks a fine line though of providing that, the visuals that will entice as well as the action sequences that will raise it up higher.
Ion is still essentially the central character of this story but he's well aided by Esther. She's quickly become the lynchpin character of the series in that her arrival early on has brought quite a lot of change in the world. She's been witness to a lot of important events, public and private, and is moving up in the ranks of usefulness by those in the Vatican. This storyline has cemented her even further as she's present during one of the most tumultuous times in the Empire's modern history and ends up with close ties to Ion who has just as many important ties. His connections have been interesting but he's also had some conflicts that strike hard at him, particularly when it comes to Radu.
Succession and power are almost always highly engaging moments in a storyline and prove a lot of impact but only if you've grown to care about the setting. A change at the end of a novel as opposed to it happening as an introduction to one will have vastly different impacts. With much time spent in the Empire, between this storyline and dealing with Asta in a previous one, the impact of the political shenanigans are fairly weighty. But some of the best scenes are the ones that are quieter and smaller. A particular sequence has both Esther and Ion captured and jailed and Ion is forced to go into something of a bloodthirsty mode. This puts Esther in a position of having to kill him in order to save herself, which brings a really good emotional level for the situation. With Trinity Blood not having the same kind of issues of a manga series to it, there is a lot more unpredictability involved with it that makes a scene like that potentially great.
The new storyline does something similar to the Night Lords as it brings Esther to a new place. The realm of Albion, which appears to be England, has just had their queen pass away and the country is in a state of uncertainty. No successors exist and the only ones that could conceivably move into it are those from neighboring countries. Albion has a national policy of independence which would mean having an outsider in control would crush them in their national pride and spirit. Esther and the Pope are there to observe some of their latest achievements in Lost Technology as well as trying to cement some kind of way of establishing a more formal alliance. The Vatican hopes to be able to stem the tide of foreign influence there while gaining some themselves.
The realm of Albion is fascinating enough as it's a very advanced place, similar to the Empire, but without that same kind of history to it that the Methuselah bring. Albion has more of a future looking feel when it comes to interiors and the manner in which most of the officials present themselves. As fascinating as Albion is though, I'm far more intrigued but the subplot that has those at the Vatican now vying for control over whether they'll form an alliance with the Empire. Events of the previous storyline with what Esther has done have opened a new avenue in a much more formal way and there are strong opinions on both sides. This is a really solid subplot that I hope is expanded upon in the storyline before the end of the series.
The first half of the closing storyline finishes out the deal with the seeming rebellion that is close to happening below the surface of Albion where a ghetto city of Methuselah live. Their providing key technologies to Albion has increased the value and presence of Albion to the world and after centuries of such efforts things have certainly come to a boil. With the Pope being involved more directly and now running scared for his life below the surface, he's able to interact directly with what he's only known as the enemy. Though Alessandro doesn't exactly grow during these episodes nor does he truly gain a spine, he does begin to show some resolve and interest in the world he's a major player in. Exposure to the realities outside of the Vatican can only do good for him at this point and his character finally seems to not be quite the wimp he has been. At least a little.
Where this storyline and the next one blends in is with a key piece of technology that they have underground. Events come to a head where Abel finally catches up to where this powerful piece is located only to have someone very unexpected on his heels. Just when he believes the danger has passed, his brother Cain arrives and is able to put Abel in his place fairly easily, mostly due to the expression worn by Sister Esther when she sees him in his Crusnik mode. Cain's arrival at the end of the series with the Orden speaks more of potential future plotlines than anything else but it's also one where we finally get some background on Abel and the other Crusniks. Though brief and far too soft in visual quality, these small moments illuminate a wide area of potential. Abel has been the central figure of the series but one that has easily fallen to the side, even at the end here where he spends episode twenty-three with hardly any screen time. That's helped to expand an interesting cast of characters, which works great in short story form, but works against the flow of the series.
In the long run though, the two final storylines, the three part Throne of Roses and two part Crown of Thorns, are some of my favorite parts of the series. Everything just comes together well, most of my favorite characters make appearances and it has some good revelations that really pique the interest. Granted, it's made me more interested in reading the novels more seriosuly since it's unlikely we'll see more of this in anime form, but it's served to leave me with a positive impression of the series overall. The weakest part of the ending though and it's likely something that was rushed was how the subplot with Sister Esther seemingly came out of nowhere. It's not so much that it was a bad idea but rather one where unless I missed some major hints along the way it just showed up and then barreled forward too quickly. It did provide for some great visuals however and a neat little political trick.
It was surprising to realize that I hadn't revisited Trinity Blood since its original release. Watching the show the first time around in single disc form was a real problem because the story arcs would cross volumes and the wait between them often took the wind out of the sails of the storyline itself. Seeing it over the course of a weekend in this form really allowed the smaller moments that blend across the episodes to be more apparent. The growth of the characters is another area that feels more real as well as seeing the attention to detail with the design of the world. Trinity Blood is a show that I wish there was a lot more of, that we were able to explore in more detail both the characters and the intrigue of it all. There's so much material to mine here, a massive world to play in, that it could easily transcend what it is to something bigger. This high definition release is definitely better than the DVD release and for English language fans there's more reasons to upgrade, but it can't compete on packaging in the slightest. I was ambivalent about the show at times during its initial run but generally liked here. Here, I find myself even more favorable to it as well as to the potential of all of it that was never achieved. In that, Trinity Blood is an interesting series to view and see where it could have gone. If you've not seen it before, this is definitely the release to get and check out.
Features Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Historical Artifacts, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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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