Blood: The Last Vampire (2000) – Anime Film Review

This 48-minute Japanese animated film earned accolades back in 2000 for being ground-breaking in its technique – using computer-generated imagery to simulate the look of traditional anime – but once you get past that small achievement, BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE is mediocre at best – a rather dull piece of work that feels almost exactly like what it is: a showcase for a technical advance, which hopefully will be put to better use later. The CGI renders some impressive visuals, but back story and exposition are virtually non-existent; the whole thing is just a series of bloody set pieces, featuring a mono-expression heroine who walks around looking nothing but sullen at school until she flashes her sword from time to time to kill off some mutant vampires. Basically, it’s a Japanese Buffy, without the humor.
The story, such as it is, has vampire hunter Saya going under cover at a school on an American air force base in Japan during the Vietnam War. The organization for whom she works has determined that a couple of ‘chiroptera’ (despite the film’s title, the dialogue deliberately avoids the word “vampire’) have infiltrated the base, so they set her up in one of those cute naval-looking schoolgirl uniforms and get her enrolled. Thankfully, Saya does not have to endure wearing her silly outfit for long; before she has had much time to investigate, the chiroptera reveal themselves, leading to a bloody fight followed by a pretty nifty chase scene along the airport runway, with a jeep pursuing a flying winged demon as it tries to hitch a ride on a departing plane.
After this memorable set piece, BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE simply stops, as if the production ran out of money. A confused school nurse, who witnessed most of the events before Saya’s colleagues cleaned up the bodies, identifies a 19th century photograph of Saya with the word “vampire?” written on it – implying that Saya is the ‘Last Vampire” of the title.
Earlier, the dialogue had referenced Saya as the last remaining “original,” suggesting that the vampires she kills are some kind of a mutant strain (they morph from human form into monsters), but the script cannot be bothered with sorting out the implications. Like a bad TV pilot, BLOOD; THE LAST VAMPIRE simply leaves questions unanswered, presumably to be sorted out at a later date. Since then, there have been a manga sequel and a spin-off television show, which hopefully filled in some of the details that the original couldn’t be bothered to explicate. Most recently, a 2009 live-action film featured a series of flashbacks to explain Saya’s past and set up last-reel confrontation that brought the story to a more clear-cut conclusion.
As the archetypal tough chick who kicks ass, Saya provides a few thrills, but she doesn’t have enough personality to carry the film; the writing it one-dimensional, and the inexpressive animation hardly helps. Despite the mystery about her, she has no mystique. The same could be said of BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE as a whole: it’s all flashy surface withnothing of interest underneath.
BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (2000). Directed by Hirohki Kitakubo. Screenplay, Kenji Kamiyama; writer Katsuya Terada. Voices: Youki Kudoh, Saemi Nakamura, Joe Romersa, Rebecca Fordstadt, tuart Robinson, Akira Koteyama, Tom Fahn. (NOTE: In keeping with the American air base setting, much of the dialogue is in English.)