Saturday, 15 August 2009

Film Review- Blood the last vampire vs Blood the last vampire SPOILER ALERT

I recently purchased the Anime film "Blood the last vampire" and tonight, viewed it along with the more recent live action remake, with the intention of comparing the two imaginings of the story and having done so I feel compelled to blog. So without further ado...

The Plot.

A quick summary of the plot for context. Our heroine, Saya, hunts vampires, the twist being she is one herself! Not only that, but she's an 'original'. She works for an organisation who discover that in an American army base in Japan, vampires have infiltrated the school as students. The year is 1966 and in the background of all this the Vietnam war rages. Saya goes undercover as a school girl to get the bottom of things and slay the evil demons haunting the school.

The Anime.

I've always been a fan of anime. It is something removed from Hollywood, a different way of visual presenting ideas. The story lines, the animation style, the scores, the characters, every bit of the genre in fact is so culturally different to the western equivalents. This makes it refreshing and exciting in today's world of a constant stream of block buster movies.

Blood the last vampire is no exception to this. The first striking break from current western traditions is the length. With two and half to three hours quickly becoming the average length of a film, I was more than a little surprised to discover this anime feature to be just 45 minutes long. What it lacked in length however, it made up for in pace. The characters are introduced swiftly and in action allowing much exposition to be covered in a very short time. A bit of necessary plot develoement and then the real action begins and once it does, it doesn't let up. Another unique aspect of this film is the time frame. The vast majority of the show occurs in a single day and night. All this might sound a bit hectic, but the pace is maintained without confusion via a very simple trick. The film does not needlessly go into the personal back stories of every single main character. Character development is handled through short shots in which we get a feel for the major players emotional reactions to the various situations. I feel this is far more personal than Hollywood's usual style of going into the lives of each of the characters invariable dysfunctional style. For example, in one scene near the end, our heroine has just slain the last villain, she walks over to it and feeds it as it dies with some of her own blood. This simple scene tells us everything we need to know about her personal involvement in the events that had just played out.

This tempo however, leaves many questions unanswered which I might have found frustrating had it not been for the marvellous final scene. This is a film not so much about the vampire hunter or the vampires, but rather it is about the nurse; a hapless bystander who gets caught up in the violence around her. Throughout the film, the nurse is a major plot device. Saya finds the vampires by watching the nurse, her movements are dictated by the necessity to protect her and the final scene shows the aftermath through the nurses eyes as she is interrogated by the police. She even gets the final words of the film, in which she compares the war Saya is fighting against her own kind to the Vietnam war, the backdrop of the movie. And here we discover the underlying metaphor. The writer is (very cleverly in my opinion) commenting on the nature war, it's ethics, it's necessity and yet it's insanity.

This doesn't mean I don't want my questions answered. How did Saya become a vampire? Why is she fighting her own kind? What sway does the clandestine company hold over her? Maybe we'll never know.

The live action film.

But wait! Here is a new live action, full length feature film to save the day and fill in the blanks. With an extra 40 minutes to play with it should be no problem whatsoever to delve into the inner workings of the company and their relationship with Saya. Right? Wrong!

Hollywood here we come. The character of the nurse, so essential to the anime, has been replaced by a teenage girl. Is this to make it more personal to a younger audience? Perhaps. Is it because teenagers are angst ridden and over emotional and it allows for those good old cliched dysfunctional family problems? Definitely! A good portion of the film is used to deal with the relationship between said angst fountain and her father. Pretty much the entire plot of the anime is dispensed with in the first 30 minutes and yet less seems to happen in that time.

But it's ok, here comes the flashback and we get our answers about Saya's past. Well, sort of. Her sword seems to get more of an explanation than her and when we do when we do learn something of Saya's situation, what is the focus on? You guessed it, her father! As if to make matters worse, the leader of the pack of vampires Saya is hunting in this version turns out to be none other than Saya's mother! Dysfunctional families all round then. No attempt is made either, to explain the fact that she just stopped growing up around 16 years old.

None of this truely helps us to understand the characters or how any of this situation came about in the first place. Nor does it help in conveying any message that the film might be left with, although given how little fuss is made about the war, that message is pretty much lost anyway.

The first half of this remake was pointless as it expanded in no way on the original and perhaps even detracted from it. The second half is, quite frankly, insulting.

The anime is a work of art, the remake is a work of ignorance.

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