It's Halloween time and I'm sure you're running down the list of your favorite horror classics. If you're an anime fan, Blood: The Last Vampire, the perfect anime horror film featuring a vampire, monsters, and blood, should be at the top of the list.
The 2009 film follows Saya as she eradicates bloodthirsty monsters wreaking havoc on a U.S. army base in Japan. It's 1966, during the Vietnam War, and the U.S. government has more than just enemy soldiers to worry about. Monsters decide to turn the base into their personal feeding ground the night of October 31, while high school students enjoy their Halloween party. Saya kills monster after monster as the students unknowingly dance the night away.
The quick 45-minute film left a great impact on pop culture, quickly spawning anime series, a subsequent animated film, and live action adaptations.
Why, exactly, should Blood: The Last Vampire be on your anime horror list? Firstly, because of the protagonist.
A BADASS ANTI-HEROINE
Throughout the film our protagonist, Saya, effortlessly slays monsters with her katana, displaying precise swordsmanship skills. If she spots one, she takes them down regardless of who's around.
Saya's priority is destroying the creatures. Her second priority might possibly be to save people, but Saya witnesses many innocent people murdered and it doesn't seem to faze her too much. This is one of her most entertaining personality traits; not giving a care about anyone or anything but her mission. When we first meet her, she viciously slashes a man on a public subway train, no questions asked. He looks human, but Saya doesn't hesitate to kill him.
I another scene in the movie, Saya shows kindness and hands over a gun to a scared woman. The woman is thankful — until Saya explains bullets are too weak to work on the creatures. When the woman questions why Saya gave the gun to her in the first place, it dawns on her that she is supposed to use it to shoot herself if she's attacked.
Why is Saya so cold? Probably because she's also a monster, a vampire hunting other vampires.
REALLY CREEPY MONSTERS
The second-best horror aspect of this film are the monsters, known as chiropterans. They are terrifying creatures; big, strong, and ugly, and sporting a nasty habit of rattling off blood-curdling shrieks.
If you don't think they can be any more frightening, try this on for size: They can fly. The chiropterans have wings, giving them a creepy bald bat-like appearance.
The worst part about the chiropterans, though, is that they can completely blend in with humans, including the ability to mimic human speech and behavior so that they're undetectable, explaining why Saya kills that man on the subway. Even when they transform, they still maintain intelligence and aren't controlled by a carnal nature. The creepiest versions of them are when we see them in between their human and chiropteran forms. It gives you the sense that anyone can be a demon, which leads to the moral of the film.
A DEEP THEME BENEATH THE HORROR
Like many horror films, a commentary on human nature is at Blood: The Last Vampire's core.
Saya is human in appearance but is obviously more than that when you observe her strength, quick reflexes, flexibility, and resistance against attacks. At the end of the film, it's revealed that Saya is a vampire through an old photograph of her from the 1800s simply labeled "vampire." At one moment, Saya empathizes with a dying chiropteran when she gives it some of her blood to drink before it takes its last breath. After all, it was only trying to use the base for nutritional purposes.
With Saya the vampire, the chiropterans in human form, and the base inhabitants dressed in scary costumes at the Halloween party, it's hard to tell the difference between the humans and the monsters.
In a quick scene, scribblings about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein are visible on a classroom blackboard, giving us a clue as to what this film is about. In Frankenstein, the debatable question is, "Are the humans crueler or the monster?" The same commentary is made at the end of Blood when the woman Saya saves earlier asks, "Is she still fighting those creatures? Just as we humans continue to kill each other."
If you can't get enough of Blood, the franchise continues with the anime series Blood + and Blood-C, and then the feature film conclusion of Blood-C, Blood C: The Last Dark. Both are retellings of the original story.
Blood + is a lighter version of the story more akin to the typical Shonen anime for horror fans who may not be too into gore. There's still blood of course, but the death scenes aren't as graphic. The main aspects that remain from Blood: The Last Vampire are the character Saya and the chiropterans.
Saya in this version has lost her memories and been living with an adopted family for a year after her memory loss. She's not the tough Saya from the original film but is depicted as a sweet teenage girl worried about normal high school things such as friends and track practice. Meanwhile, the chiropterans are not naturally evolved creatures; they are products of U.S. government experiments. The action is still significant in the show, and as Saya regains her memories, she fights off chiropterans when needed.
Blood-C reboots again after Blood + but takes a darker approach. Saya is also depicted as a sweet teenage girl in this version, but one who is also naïve and awkward. However, she lives a double life in which she kills monsters after school while still keeping her innocence. What's different is that these monsters are not chiropterans but ancient beings referred to as Elder Bairns, meaning "old ones". If Blood + was too clean cut, there are plenty of brutal deaths and killings in Blood-C, as the monsters ravage the small village the story takes place in.
If you're concerned about this version not having the same aloof and cool demeanor as the original Saya, don't worry. Later, we learn this Saya's memories were wiped, causing her to act in this more innocent manner. Once her memories come back, she's back to the Saya we all know and love from Blood: The Last Vampire.
The Blood-C series ends at a cliffhanger, so to see the conclusion you'll have to watch the feature film, Blood C: The Last Dark. The adventure continues with Saya tracking down the culprit who took her memories to get revenge. In this film, we get kickass Saya displaying her beloved swordsmanship and fighting skills and even an ode to the train opening from the original film. And in addition, we get a backstory and a fuller plot, which Blood: The Last Vampire didn't necessarily provide.
With Blood: The Last Vampire, you not only get a great horror film but an entire franchise to consume. That might just be enough content to satisfy all your horror, gore, and monster needs.