Blood+

Stolen Innocence

Dreams and half-submerged memories torment a girl with a katana who possesses unearthly gifts and hideous monsters with a taste for human blood.

by Lesley Smith

Saya Otonashi appeared to be just a normal teenager until the night when a cellist with a mutated claw kissed her with blood-stained lips and awakened her forgotten self: a warrior with supernatural reflexes and a gift for slaughtering vampire-like shape-shifting monsters known as chiropterans or yokishu.

Welcome to Blood+.

Based on the 2000 anime Blood: The Last Vampire, which told the story of a mysterious girl named Saya -- the 'last remaining original' -- charged to destroy the vampiric creatures that had infiltrated the American Yokota Air Base on the island of Okinawa at the height of the Vietnam War in 1966, Blood+ is a sequel of sorts to the best-selling OVA.

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Blood: The Last Vampire was one of the titles that helped anime to become more accepted in America and even in the UK, where it debuted on Channel 4 within a month of its DVD release, a first for an anime production. The trailer alone entranced otaku, causing them to head over to the DVD store en masse. As an added incentive, the film was mainly in English, and even Saya spoke English and Japanese with a fluency that is seldom seen in anime.

Wearing a sailor fuku, she enters the base's high school at the behest of a secret American organization to find and destroy the chiropterans masquerading as students and other members of the base. Saya herself is dark and solemn with her trademark plaits, and she is not one for mindless chatter. The film itself gives no clues as to what happens next for this Japanese vampire slayer, who uses a katana to slice and dice her vampiric prey.

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One of the most visually stunning aspects of Blood: The Last Vampire is the chiropterans, which come in different forms, and many of whom had lived human lives for many years, hiding in plain sight. (In case you are wondering, 'chiropteran' basically means 'bat.') Some could fly, and all shared a thirst for blood that often led to bloody carnage. However, the origin of these vicious creatures is shrouded in mystery and left untouched in the film.

Despite being well received for its use of CGI and being mostly in English, Blood: The Last Vampire is extremely short -- a mere forty-eight minutes -- and it leaves much to be desired when it comes to character development. This was remedied in part by the release of various manga series and a Playstation 2 game, each set in a different historical period with Saya as the protagonist. The manga are being released domestically now, but the Playstation 2 game has not made it yet to US shores.

Blood+

Blood+ takes up Saya’s story in the modern day, animated by Production I.G., which also animated Blood: The Last Vampire. It sports an upbeat J-Pop opening theme entitled Aozora no Namida (Tears of the Blue Sky) by idol Hitomi Takahashi, and a much more sedate and enchanting ending song entitled Kataritsugu koto, sung by Chitose Hajime. The soundtrack itself is composed by the acclaimed composer Hans Zimmer and Mark Mancina.

We are reintroduced to Saya, now a cheerful teenager with short hair, a passion for athletics and an appetite the size of Mount Fuji. She is best friends with a girl named Kaori, and she seems to have the perfect life with a loving family. Saya, however, is not the normal Japanese high school student that she appears to be. Despite not being able to remember anything prior to the past year, she has been living happily with the Miyagusuku family near an air base in Okinawa. However, Saya has flashbacks of helicopters and slaughter, and she has a medical condition that requires regular blood transfusions.

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After on of these transfusions, she comes across Hagi, a handsome cellist who busks in the back streets of Okinawa. A skilled fighter, he is her protector and the one who returns her trademark katana during a battle with a chiropteran at her high school.

Also watching over Saya is a mysterious organization known as 'Red Shield’ that covers Saya's monthly expenses as the daughter of the ex-pat George Miyagusuku. They are fully aware of her true origins. Red Shield also monitors 'mouse' -- their codeword for renegade chiropterans.

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After the events of Blood: The Last Vampire, Saya apparently ended up entombed in an Okinawa mausoleum belonging to the Miyagusuku family, sleeping away the years. George was charged as her keeper, and when she finally awoke, he decided to raise her as his own child, as his wife and daughter had died in a car accident some time before.

Saya has no memories of her previous incarnation, and the first few episodes show her shock at trying to reconcile her teenaged self with the slayer that she once was, and the trained killer that she becomes at the taste of blood. Hopefully, this series will explain some of the many mysteries left hanging by Blood: The Last Vampire.

As with the prequel's release, there are three manga in development to provide a more detailed back story to the series, and two computer games have been announced, one for the PSP and one for the PS2. However, it has not yet been confirmed if these titles will be released in the US and Europe.

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