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Monster Re-Vamp: "Black Blood Brothers" Brings Fresh Blood to an Old Genre.

by on March 5, 2008

There are immortal entities roaming this world, forever cursed to tread a parasitic, singular path, blemished with the stain of timelessness in a progressive society. Long in tooth but full of bite, these monsters are unstoppable.

Yep, vampire films. Will we ever be rid of them?

ImageOnce upon a time, vampire flicks were fairly predictable affairs that clicked their heels to the sound of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But since the late twentieth century, they’ve been rejuvenated over and over and over again, and now embrace a wider scope of the blood-hungry lore. Lost Boys, Interview With A Vampire, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Underworld, Blade, Ultraviolet, Moonlight… will teens ever bore of the vampire?

Apparently not, as FUNimation brings Black Blood Brothers to the apparently vampire-yearning U.S DVD market.

Black Blood Brothers is a retelling of Kouhei Azano’s manga tale of the same name. Jiro Mochizuki is a vampire: a “Black Blood”. But he is no ordinary vampire. He is an Old Blood with mighty power. Having lived for over one hundred years, Jiro has fought against the parasitic vampires called the Kowloon. Both Jiro and his annoying little brother, Kotaro, are on their way to the Special Zone, a city where vampires have been living in secret since the end of the Kowloon wars when Black Bloods and humans—“Red Bloods”—fought together against the common Kowloon menace. Along the way, Jiro and Kotaro meet Mimiko Katsuragim, a human mediator for Black and Red Bloods. Together they face an uncertain future as the Kowloon return.

What seems to make Black Blood Brothers different to past vampire stories is its bold attempt to create a world that has already suffered a wake of vampire activity before the first chapter commences. By doing so, it drops the audience into the middle of an ongoing socio-political problem rather than involve them from the start. I can’t say I’ve seen this done with a vampire story on such a large scale. This world of vampires has a complex background before the story begins and this gives Black Blood Brothers a strong base to build its tale. To add to the historical layers, we have Black Blood dynasties to give the monsters of this world a cultural distinction from many of the genre’s past stories. As the series progresses, more nuances are added to the history, racial relationships, and biology of man and vampire. Many of these textual elements to the tale are based on vampire mythology, but they are implemented in modes far enough removed from the original to feel fresh. For instance, the interaction born from a vampire bite is far more complex in Black Blood Brothers than in most vampire legends, focusing on the human experience as much as the hunger of the blood drinker.

ImageThe story itself is a neat weaving of past, present and future events, confidently delivering the exposition to the audience without feeling contrived or labored. The equilibrium between story and background is a vital ingredient in the show’s success as there’s a great deal of information to impart. Thankfully, the story moves at a comfortable and consistent pace, and the background information is explained in relevant and well-sized chunks.

As can be expected in a contemporary show about vampires, there are a great many action sequences, all of which are well crafted and tightly orchestrated.

That said, the visuals aren’t anything mind blowing, but they do serve their purpose. The show looks good, though it doesn’t go the extra mile in its animation or design. The incidental music is evocative, despite the occasional lapse into a contemporary anime tone. While the score complements and enhances the viewing, the opening credits are too raucous. I can’t help but feel this approach short-changes the show, preventing it from pitching its dramatic potential in those essential opening moments. The end credits works a little more in the show’s favor by emphasizing the more gentle dramatic nature of the Black Blood Brothers.

ImageSo far as the story goes, Black Blood Brothers‘ only real let down is in some of the crass and childish character dynamics that pop up from time to time. It’s a pity that such an interesting set of characters is tainted by some silly puerile scenes, such as Mimiko’s humiliation at being uncovered as a virgin. These attempts at light humor may appeal to 13-year-olds, but everyone else will cringe. If we look past some of these superfluous awkward moments, there is a lot of potential to be found in the array of characters in this opening volume. There are hints that there further depths are to be found in the relationships between them, and certainly the prologue opens with questions that underscore a tragic arc to come.

The DVD itself suffers from the standard FUNimation mandatory opening trailer, but it does redeem itself with four subbed commentaries that include the input of creator Azano himself. The usual trailers and textless songs are also present.

I would very much recommend this opening volume to Black Blood Brothers to not just vampire buffs, but to anyone looking for a fresh face on an aging genre. Those looking for innovative action or startling visuals may best look elsewhere, but if your interests extend beyond the simple whims of eye candy, Black Blood Brothers: Bad Tidings opens the series on an interesting note. Quite whether the series will live up to the expectations this volume generates is yet to be seen, but regardless of what follows, these four episodes stand well enough on their own as one enjoyable story.

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