Our main man in Japan, Mark Slonsky, writes in with his thoughts on Blood: The Last Vampire, which arrives in theaters July 10th. You can read his review below, while our official thoughts are coming in the next few weeks. The live-action Manga adaptation tells the story of a mysterious girl known as Saya (Gianna Jun), who is employed by a covert US government agency to eradicate a species of vampire-demons that is about to threaten mankind.
Blood opens up with a great stylish kill on a Japanese train. It’s sad that the rest of the film fails to live up to the expectations the original Anime film or the beginning presented. Locally the release here has been pretty limited. The production itself is a mix of Hong Kong and French. For something so uniquely Japanese this makes it appear slightly off. You risk alienating the country you took the source material from when you cast the lead Japanese character with a Korean girl. Most of the cast is a mix of American, Japanese, and Chinese. The Japanese spoken by the non Japanese cast here has been re-dubbed to sound more realistic. The actors playing Americans sound slightly off. Chris Nahon director of Kiss of the Dragon and Empire of the Wolves does what he can with the original source material in the first twenty or so minutes. Some of the skyline shots look as if they were lifted straight from the walls of Production IG. It starts strong but the hammy acting only gets worse as it goes along.
The film focuses on Saya a 400 year old vampire who works for a secret society eliminating the more unsavory vamps who occupy Japan during the Vietnam era. She is supplied blood and information by this society on her path to seek revenge and kill a powerful demon called Onigen played by Koyuki of Last Samurai. Saya’s rage is focused on killing her to avenge the death of her Master played by the awesome Yasuaki Kurata. The action sequences involving him are by far the highlight of the film. She is told by the society that her mission is close to being over. In order to avenge her Master and confront Onigen she must follow a lead on a U.S. Military base high school. She’s coerced into going undercover and stands out like a sore thumb. Apparently having your hair in your face and being in a permanent scowl makes you a bad-ass. Buffy she is not. Every time I saw it I wanted to scream ‘Get a comb!’ She befriends a lonely General’s daughter who has seen the vamps firsthand. It doesn’t take long till the vamps reveal themselves and their ‘plan’, which itself is never fully explained. Saya quickly kills them off in a huge street fight. The trailers make this sequence look amazing. However watching it in a theater it’s shown for what it is. Apparently there was a discount on CG Blood. The same CG blood! Every time you see Saya cut into someone the same stock blood is shown over and over again. It cheapens all of the action whenever you see her cut into someone and lightly colored blood bubbles fly out of them. There are almost no cuts seen on any of her attackers! One of the more important vamps morphs into its monster form. I was hoping they would at least keep with some of the more awesome transformations from the Anime but they didn’t. Instead we are forced to watch a man in a rubber suit that doesn’t hold up in bright lighting running all over the place. This only adds to the cheese factor. An action sequence later in the film looks partially lifted from ‘Underworld Evolution’! For a film made by non-Japanese it surely ends like one. It’s finale reveals a few stereotypical revelations that most film fans will groan about. Followed by an vague ending that I honestly didn’t care about one bit.
I’m sure there will be fans of this kind of film. It is definitely not a horrible film but it is not a great film by any means. It doesn’t live up to the trailers or the original source material. I’m sure most reviewers will get caught up in the hype of the adaptation itself and give it praise it doesn’t deserve. When it reaches American shores I am sure it will most likely go straight to DVD and find it’s audience there. In my opinion it is a ‘rent’ not a ‘buy’. Do yourself a favor and just watch the Anime.