Given the amount of hype I'd heard before this video was released, I have to admit I was rather curious as to how it would turn out. How often has a feature been over-hyped only not to deliver? However, such is not the case with Blood. With fantastic animation, an interesting story, and some suspenseful music, it makes for a solid watch. However, that's not to say that everything is fantastic either. Clocking in at 48 minutes, this feature is very short, and as a result the story does suffer.
Because the movie is so short, character introductions and character development would take too long if focused upon, and as a result, it is left to viewers to grasp the story line on the fly. Through effective character design and voice acting viewers get a good feel for the characters; some of the character designs are rather interesting and distinctive. From spooky looking snack-bar owner, to sickly student, to strong-willed Saya, the characters are given a distinctive image and personality. While I'm not keen on the school principal's hair, the attention to detail in the characters is excellent.
Otherwise, viewers are dropped into the middle of the action and the story and are quickly exposed to the main premise of the story, the main characters and how they relate to one another. A great deal of background information is revealed through short dialogues and effective use of flash scenes. Even with this economy of time however, viewers are given but a small taste of what is clearly a much larger story.
The direction in Blood is highly effective making use of a number of different techniques to convey the story at hand. With action scenes that are very fast paced and suspenseful scenes that keep viewers perched at the edge of their seat waiting to see what happens next, no scene is wasted here. It's really a shame that there isn't more of the story to fully explore.
As the movie opens, the first impression viewers have is of the animation quality. Being computer generated, the animation is incredibly detailed, smooth and a lot more realistic than most animations. And while on occasion viewers are aware that it is CGI, the realism is occasionally so great that we are half in reality and half in animation. The digital master DVD is truly stunning although there are times when the picture is a touch too sharp and bright. The regular DVD, while not quite as sharp, is still excellent. Truly, a great deal of attention has been spent on detail, from rusting of signs to facial expressions of the characters. We really don't have that "in your face" feel of CGI animation except for a couple of instances in perspective shots where the scene is that bit too flat and modeled.
The music for Blood is also very interesting with some truly suspenseful melodies and, being primarily orchestral, does an excellent job at building the atmosphere of a given scene. The more I watch this feature, the more I find that I truly enjoy the musical track. With some wonderful tension and a good beat, it makes for some very interesting listening. Otherwise, the mixing levels is typical of what is often seen in theatrical releases; the musical/sound effects volume is set that bit too high while the vocal track is a lot quieter resulting in extremely loud backgrounds or very quiet dialogue. There was at least one instance where I'd missed the dialogue but picked up on the subtitle and therefore had to backtrack for the original statement.
Perhaps what is most surprising about Blood, however, is that the bulk of the dialogue is in English with only parts in Japanese. Overall, the voice acting is very well done both for the English and the Japanese dialogue. I have to admit, that the Japanese voice acting has that much more flow and expression than the English.
The English voice acting is quite well done although initially I felt that the lines were a touch forced. More to the point however is that the English lines whether by the English cast or the Japanese was spoken slowly and clearly enunciated. This was more obvious with the English cast as the speakers are forced to speak somewhat unnaturally. However, such slow speeds for the Japanese cast, as it isn't their native language, is not quite so obvious, possibly because we don't expect perfect fluency of non-native speakers.
Kudou Yuki's portrayal of Saya is very well done and her English lines, while accented, occasionally sound more natural than some of the English voice actors. However, one thing that did catch my attention is the intonation of certain lines. Changing intonation can change the intended meaning of a sentence by stressing one word over another. "You just listen for them". With the stress placed on the "just listen", as heard in the movie, suggests "that's all that needs to be done". However, reading the Japanese subtitles, it becomes apparent that the intended intonation is "YOU just listen for them", as in giving an order. The translation itself is completely accurate, however, because of intonation, the meaning was changed.
Reading through some of the Japanese subtitles, I noticed that more detail is sometimes revealed in the Japanese subtitles than what is actually being said in English. Otherwise, the English translation of the Japanese dialogue is very good. And although there are a couple of omissions in the English subs for brevity's sake, the actual meaning is maintained. Also, the English subtitles are a bit "loose" in formality level of English being used compared to some of the Japanese dialogue.
My one peeve about this feature is that it's just too short. Covering what amounts to one skirmish in a greater story, viewers are left with more questions than answers at the end. Who exactly is Saya and what did David mean by the statement that she is the only original? What was the cause of the expression on her face at the end of the film? So many questions arise, yet are left unanswered. Whether there will be a sequel or whether the rest of the story is revealed in the novels or game is unknown.
With the Region 2 complete DVD box set, is a regular press DVD, digital master pressing, as well as a "supplemental" disc with production information and staff interviews. Also included is the English and Japanese scripts which gives a bit more information into the character's feelings and scene setup than is apparent just from the feature itself.
- JYN, 2001.05.15