Film Review: Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)
Blood: The Last Vampire (released as Last Blood in Japan) is a film based on the anime movie of the same title. It’s directed by Chris Nahon, with screenplay by Chris Chow. It stars Gianna Jun (Jeon Ji-Hyun), Allison Miller, Koyuki, Liam Cunningham, Larry Lamb, and Yasuaki Kurata. The film runs for a total of 91 minutes, and premiered in Japan in April 2009.
First, I would like to admit that I never finished watching the original anime film Blood: The Last Vampire. I did watch some parts of it whenever I caught it on TV – enough to get the gist of the film, at least – but I never really watched it all the way through. Next, I would like to state that you don’t need to watch the anime version to tell that the live action version was subpar.
The film is set in 1970. Saya (portrayed by Korean actress Gianna Jun), a half-vampire half-human vampire hunter, is sent to pose as a high school student in an American military airbase. She discovers that two of her classmates are vampires, and proceeds to kill them after they attempt to hurt another high school student named Alice McKee (Allison Miller). Though Saya locked her out of the gym and told her to run away, Alice was peeking into the gym throughout the entire battle and witnesses the “murders”. She runs off to tell her dad, General McKee (Larry Lamb), about what she saw, but they find no evidence of the fight even occurring by the time they get there. They are confronted by two men, Michael and Luke (Liam Cunningham and JJ Feild, respectively), who pose as CIA agents in an attempt convince General McKee not to meddle with their business. Michael and Luke, in truth, work for a group known as “The Council” who apparently intend to exterminate the vampires as well as strongest of them all, a female vampire named Onigen (Koyuki). Both Alice and her father conduct their own (separate) investigations of the situation, dragging themselves deeper into the entire mess.
The plot was so-so. I found the fact Saya is a half-vampire and that the main antagonist is actually Saya’s mother to be terribly cliche. It also severely detracts from the original film, removing key characters like Nurse Makiho, David, and Lewis, replacing them with different characters altogether. From what I know, Onigen was not at all present in the original film.
Comparisons to the original film aside, the addition of the character Alice McKee was just… sad. Alice is a stereotypical nosy-teenager-slash-damsel-in-distress, who does nothing but get herself into trouble and has to be saved by the protagonist. It also annoyed me that there are parts where she is inexplicably knowledgeable about things; for example, she suddenly decides to revive Saya with her blood despite the fact that it was never really made clear to her that Saya is a vampire; she witnessed Saya feeding a vampire her blood before it died, but other than that, there was no clear indication of when and how she realized that Saya was a vampire.
I found the build up of Saya’s and Alice’s relationship as friends to be wanting as well; it’s kind of hard to believe that they’d get so attached to each other in such a short period of time. I think that the movie would have actually worked better if Alice was removed altogether, or rewritten to have a more minor role.
It’s also really, really strange that there were no subtitles in the sequences shown in the Japanese language. Having no subtitles for short segments that didn’t really play major parts in the film’s plot would have been tolerable, but there were a lot of scenes showing Saya’s past that were incomprehensible because of the lack of subtitles. I hope, for the film’s sake, that that was just an error in the copy given to the cinema I watched it in, or that subtitles will be added for future releases.
Despite all my complaints, the film still has some merits. The visuals were brilliant and reminded me of what you’d see in a Production I.G (the animation company that produced the original film) project. The action sequences were well choreographed as far as I could tell (there were a lot of cuts to censor the gore, so it made some scenes too choppy, but I think that’s the MTRCB‘s fault). I also thought the music was cool, but maybe that’s just me being biased toward some of the rock music/songs they used in the film.
While the film is definitely a treat for the eyes and ears, the stereotypical plot line and badly developed characters bring the quality of this film down. I can’t really say that I’m surprised by this, seeing as other films based on anime like Dragonball Evolution and Speed Racer were mostly just about the visuals too. Movie makers should seriously start rethinking their approach to adapting anime into film before we wind up with even more ill-conceived eyecandy.
El Santos is a marketing & advertising professional by day and gamer/bookworm/tarot reader by night. She’s prone to sudden fits of fangirling over her varied interests: video games, fiction, art, folkore, anime, and tarot. She currently lives with her husband and 2 rescue cats.