animefringe february 2003 / reviews

Blood: The Last Vampire 2002
Format: Left-Right manga / 200 pages
Production: VIZ / Tamaoki Benkyo
Comments: It'll still leave you hungry for more.
Animefringe Reviews:
Blood: The Last Vampire 2002

Honestly, I didn't like the anime version of Blood: The Last Vampire enough to purchase it. While it was undeniably a technical masterpiece, it was over too quickly and never stopped to explain what the heck was going on. I'll have to admit that I wasn't very fond of the English voice acting in the movie either; it wasn't horrible, but did nothing to add to the excitement of the production. Still, it was quite a bit of fun to watch, with some brutal action, interesting (if never developed) characters, and some of the best animation I've ever seen. Thus, when I discovered this book in the Waldenbooks database, I couldn't help but order a pile in (including one for me) and eager await its arrival. The potential coolness inherent in the story set up by the anime version was enough to keep me hopeful for the manga adaptation, and in general, I'd have to say it didn't disappoint me...too much.

This sequel takes place ten years after the events of the anime (which was set in 1966), focusing on Saya as she investigates a gang leader that most likely is a Chiropteran. Blood 2002 is set in an alternate universe that behaves exactly like our own, except for the fact that there are strange creatures lurking in the shadows that have a hunger for human blood. Dubbed Chiropterans (a fancy name for vampires) by their pursuers, these beasts have the ability to shape change into human forms and possesses phenomenal strength. They tend to be emotionally unstable and embrace chaos whenever they're given a chance to do so. The anime version suggested that Saya, our heroine, is the last true vampire. She doesn't need to consume human blood to survive, and somehow, a shadowy government organization is using her to sift out the savage monsters from their victims.

Using a katana and her superhuman strength, Saya finds these freaks of nature and puts them out of their misery. It was a relatively simple set up in the anime, but it all seemed a bit too convenient for me. However, while this is a direct sequel to its predecessor, plot twists abound in this manga adaptation, shattering the simplistic facade of the anime incarnation. I appreciate the increase in complexity here, but since this is the only book available, some of the new plot elements seem to be a little too contrived. Not much time is given for wonder or doubt to set in, and things tend to be revealed and accepted rather quickly, though there's still room for argument by the time the book comes to an end. I'd list the details, but that would ruin the manga, and I wouldn't want to do that to you loyal readers. It's safe to say that Saya's past is revealed, along with some family relations. Her personality doesn't receive much more development, but perhaps its better she remain a dark, intense, wise, powerful being that looks like a Japanese schoolgirl in a sailor suit. What more can we ask for?

The story progresses somewhat choppily, with scenes occasionally jumping from event to event. In particular, there's a fight scene where one character loses an arm, but it's only apparent because in one scene, the person has an arm, and in the next, the person doesn't. Now, mystery and disorientation can be two powerful allies when crafting a good tale, but Blood: 2002 walks a very fine and dangerous line between those two positive qualities and outright confusion. Some people will fill in the gaps happily with a fertile imagination, while others will keep flipping to previous pages trying to figure out what happened. On the whole, I found the story to be more interesting than confusing and it answered more questions than the animated version raised, so I was content with the plot; even if I wanted a bit more for the story.

Just like the anime, this is a wonderful work for the eyes to see. There's a considerable amount of contrast, but everything is inked with bold, clearly defined lines and simple backgrounds that focus on the characters exceedingly well. Nudity and violence are rather common in this book as well, so please take this as a warning: Tamaoki Benkyo (the author and artist) started out as an erotic comics creator. There isn't really outright sex, but there's plenty of casual nudity (characters wandering around or fighting without clothing). I'd definitely recommend this for mature readers only. Potentially offensive content aside, the artwork is top-notch, and the attractive yet creepy character designs have been recreated well in still-image form. I'm certainly keen on seeing more of Tamaoki's work in the future.

This was a fun title to read, and it does shed quite a bit of light on Saya's past and her relationship to the Chiropterans. I'd have certainly appreciated it more if it read from right to left (c'mon Viz, you did it for Vagabond!), but the book is a good size and average price, so this sequel should easily satisfy fans of the anime. The plot still screams for more substance, but the aura of cool emanating from the anime seems to have arrived intact for the manga version. The cover art is attention grabbing, but I'm not sure if people who are unfamiliar with the series will be convinced to pick it up. After all, for the less knowledgeable, it may look like Michael Jackson grasping a sword. The back of the manga is nice and dark, and the plot is adequately summarized. Of course, the most interesting thing about the entire cover is Tamaoki's biographical information, which was quite amusing. Viz has established a pretty good website with the profile as well as other information concerning the book, so if you'd like more data, feel free to check out the site at http://series.viz.com/blood/blood.html. Now that I'm done reading this, I can't help but wish there was more to Saya's story. Until another sequel pops into existence, though, I suppose this will have to suffice.