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Blood versus Blood

Saturday 6th December 2014

Hugh David pits the live-action Last Vampire against the anime

Blood: The Last VampireWith the animated versions of Saya’s vampire-slaying adventures now into its third incarnation in both TV and feature versions, most recently featured in the release of Blood C:  The Last Dark, one feels compelled to ponder in some depth the abject failure of the 2009 live-action version one of Sony’s few key 21st century animated franchises.  Given how many more hits than flops there have been in this century’s waves of live-action adaptation, it takes a really unusual combination of events to render such a disappointing film.

On paper, there seemed some considerable potential.  French commercials and music video director Chris Nahon was already something of a genre specialist by this point, making one of Jet Li’s finest Western films in the bone-crunching Kiss of the Dragon and helming the second adaptation  of best-selling author Jean-Christophe Grangé’s works with Empire of the Wolves, a Jean Reno-starring thriller.  The latter’s extended climax in Turkey, as well as some nicely-handled moments of weirdness early on, combined with the action from the first film, suggested he could handle an international production of the level planned by Pathé and HK production company Edko for Blood: The Last Vampire.

Blood: The Last VampireScreenwriter Chris Chow was hot off Ronny Yu’s cracking 2006 Jet Li flick Fearless.  Legendary Hong Kong director and fight choreographer Cory Yuen Kwai (the man behind Jet Li and Jason Statham’s signature moves) and his talented team were lined up for the action, and Korean household name Jun Ji-hyun (the original My Sassy Girl) was cast as the lead, planned as her big international debut under the more English-friendly name Gianna Jun.  Stalwart Brits Michael Byrne, J.J. Feild, Colin Salmon and Liam Cunningham filled out the cast alongside Japanese veterans Yasuaki Kurata and Koyuki.  Fantastic Brit musician & composer Clint Mansell was going to ice the cake.

So what went wrong with the film, yet so right with the anime? One wonders if the shift from the original production – Edko producing under license from Production I.G, Ronny Yu directing – to an international one led to an increase in unreachable expectations, with a budget of $30 million.  Or if the shifting trends in international action cinema courtesy of the Bourne series led to the decision to position cameras and edit scenes to such a degree the audience could not actually see clearly the Yuen Clan’s usually-stunning fight choreography.

For anime fans, however, the problem lies in the storyline.  Unlike a large portion of the international film and TV business, anime fans are perfectly at home with strong, self-sufficient heroines without need of saving or redeeming by a man, be they love interest or family member, or who need to have every aspect of who they are explained away through back-story.  We also don’t need for the Asian lead to be sidelined for a good chunk of the story in fear that international audiences won’t stay to the end.

This version of Saya’s story tries to change that, swapping the daddy issues of practically every Hollywood heroine of the last twenty years for mummy issues, but they remain as trite and basic as the former.  Instead of a heroine we can cheer for, however dark her actions, we are left with a character denuded of any sense of mystique or awe at her prowess and strengths.  Sometimes, anime really is the best medium for a story.

Blood C: The Last Dark is available on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.

Buy it now


Blood C: The Last Dark (movie)

was £19.99
Saya is part human, part monster, and has one thing on her mind: revenge.

Visions of twisted experiments and creatures slaughtering everyone she loved fuel her thirst for vengeance.

With blade in hand and rage boiling in her veins, she tracks her tormentor to Tokyo, where flesh-hungry beasts have begun to feed.

There, she joins a group of young hackers hunting for the same man.

As Saya slices her way through lies, traps, flesh, and bone, how much blood will she shed to cut down the mastermind behind her madness?




Andrew Osmond on Production IG’s vampire show
Blood-C brings together heavyweight names in anime and manga. There’s the Blood franchise, in which a teen girl (well, she looks like one) regularly carves up monsters with her sword; there’s the female manga group CLAMP, creators of everything from Cardcaptor Sakura to xxxHOLIC; and then there’s the Production I.G. studio, home to Ghost in the Shell. The result is a controversial mix of extreme cuteness and extreme splat. (The BBFC rates the show ‘15’ but notes it “contains strong bloody fantasy violence and gore.”) Perhaps the best way to enjoy it is to approach Blood-C purely on its own terms, without all the big-name baggage.

Spirited Away versus Oblivion Island

Andrew Osmond weighs the pros and cons
In a great many ways, Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away and Production I.G’s Oblivion Island tell the same story. A modern Japanese girl grows up listless and alienated, something plainly lacking in her spirit. Chance, or perhaps fate, draws the girl through a portal into a fantastic world, a shadow Japan inhabited by industrious creatures. Here, the girl learns that the waste and neglectfulness of her world has profound effects on the fantasy location. There are lost, damaged souls, which it is her duty to heal. But the world has a fearsome ruler who wants to enslave the girl, stealing her memories, her identity, even her name. Can the plucky heroine save both the world and herself?

Blood C: The Last Dark

Director Naoyoshi Shiotani on getting the darkness right
“In every theatre you have different light, so you can never be sure what it’s going to look like. So you have to think; will this be okay, will you lose details in that kind of darkness? It was hard to calculate all that.”


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