Out for Blood: "Black Blood Brothers" Bites Back
Vampires: Like them or loathe them, contemporary fiction just can’t get enough of them. But the first volume of Black Blood Brothers proved a very promising start to a story full of fangs, blood and wooden stakes. Now we return to the Special Zone to catch the middle and end of this twelve-episode tale with volumes two and three.
Black Blood Brothers is the animated retelling of the manga comic series by Kouhei Azano. Jiro Mochizuki is an Old Blood vampire—a “Black Blood”—who was responsible for the defeat of the Kowloon vampire infestation of Hong Kong ten years before. This terrible battle brought Black Bloods and humans—”Red Bloods”—together to fight this common infectious foe. A decade later, Jiro and his young brother Kotaro have journeyed to the Special Zone, a city where vampires have been living in secret. Upon their arrival they discover the dreaded Kowloon vampires have returned. Together with Mimiko Katsuragim, a human mediator for Black and Red Bloods, Jiro is looking to find a home for his brother and himself in a city that fears the legacy of trouble that follows the legendary “Silverblade” of the Kowloon Shock.
Volume one was a tasty reinvention on the classical vampire mythology, not just creating some interesting new rules for their biology, but an entirely different social template to their existence. In volume two, we see Black Blood Brothers focus on the lead trio of Jiro, Kotaro, and Mimiko, and their encounters with the various groups who exist in the Special Zone.
Volume two doesn’t start well, moving away from the rich textures that volume one wove together and settling for a light, comic approach. Unfortunately this choice creates some unnecessary drift in the show, dislodging the story from its fast pace. Episode five meanders badly, choosing to focus on the ‘humorous’ predicament created by Jiro and Kotaro’s unsuitability as Mimiko’s house guests and her frustrating attempts to re-home them. With so much going on in this show, such superficial frivolity is more annoying than enjoyable.
However, the disk picks up as the story begins to show its teeth. With the introduction of the excellent and ambiguous Zelman Clock, the show starts to add some interesting characters to its ranks. By the end of disk two, the threat to Jiro, Kotaro and the Special Zone is out in full force as the mysterious Cassandra enters the Special Zone with plans for a full Kowloon return.
Volume three regains the consistency of volume one, focusing on the dramatic thrust of the show. As with the previous disks, the flashbacks continue to build up the back-story to its shocking twist in the final episode. There is little room for the silly, predictable comedy found on disk two, and even the comic relief characters, such as Mimiko’s colleague at the Order Coffin Company, find relevance.
It’s disappointing that the story ends on a potential beginning—clearly the producers hoped for a second run that never transpired. Nevertheless, there is enough on the three volumes for the audience to reach a satisfying conclusion even if the finale itself prompts a few questions we will likely never see answered on screen.
As with volume one, I have no qualms with the audio and visuals. As for the DVDs themselves, the individual casings are simple affairs, and the packaging itself is a fairly uninspiring black and red driven designs. The special features come in the usual FUNimation colors with textless songs, sneak peaks, commercials and trailers, though each disk does have a set of audio commentaries that certainly increase the DVDs’ worth.
All in all, Black Blood Brothers is a short-lived show with enough texture and pacing to make for a great ride. Sure, there are a few irrelevant slithers of childish comedy that jar with the dark story-arc, but overall this is an interesting slice of vampire fun. Black Blood Brothers has both bite and a unique taste—and in a market seemingly saturated with vampires, that’s saying something.