Blood-C Episodes 1, 2, and 3 – Night and Day
The Blood franchise, if it can be called that, is an interesting property from Production I.G. which has never quite gotten its due. The original offering, a short film called Blood: The Last Vampire, featured a high school girl named Saya. Set during the Vietnam war, Saya, armed with nothing but a katana, slaughtered man-eating, shapeshifting monsters called chiroptera on a American military base in Okinawa. It was well-animated, bloody, and felt more like a trailer for a larger project than a complete story in its own right. It was heavily implied that Saya was actually a vampire.
About five years later, Production I.G. tried again, which Blood+. This time, they dropped a 52 episode series, which spanned half the globe as Saya, now in the modern day with a severe case of amnesia, fought against the secret society producing chiroptera, run by her twin sister. While initially intriguing, it suffers from several narrative problems (most prominently, a tendency to resolve battles based on plot necessity rather than internal logic or character advancement) and I would not offer an unqualified recommendation for that version either. In fact, I wouldn’t offer a recommendation for it at all. At least the movie had the advantage of being short.
Another half a decade, Production I.G. is at it again, but this time, they aren’t alone. Instead, they’ve teamed up with the famous all-female manga circle CLAMP, who have produced several works which cross genre categories and standard demographic appeals. It’s an intriguing partnership, and one which was enough to get me fired up out the series. That … didn’t last.
I should start off by saying that nothing about the production is particularly offensive. The character designs feature the long limbed, slender designs for both men and women that CLAMP is known for, but despite the lovely cast there’s basically no overt fanservice. (Unless one counts the moe bait, which I’ll discuss below.) The chiroptera designs—if the monsters Saya fights really are chiroptera in the same way the monsters in the past two series were—are suitably creepy and the battles are nail-biting affairs.
Best of all, there appears to be basically no points of plot continuity between this offering and the previous two (which, admittedly, had minimal continuity between themselves). As someone who felt that the plot was the weakest part of Blood+ and basically window-dressing in Blood: The Last Vampire, this could only be a good thing. Right?
Well, not exactly. We’ve gotten three episodes in to Blood-C and I’m still not sure if there is a plot. What we have instead is a juxtaposition: In the first half of the episode, we see Saya enjoying a normal school life with her friends, enjoying her favorite past-times, and generally being insufferably adorable. In the second part, night falls, Saya’s father hands her a sword, and she goes off to fight some nameless abomination for some unknown reason.
After three episodes, we still have no idea what these monsters are, where they come from, why they are targeting this village specifically, why Saya has to fight them, or why she’s so good at it. We see her eyes turn red from time to time, but aside from that Saya’s supernatural nature is unexplored. It’s possible Saya and her father have already had the conversation explaining the larger significance of what’s going on, and we just weren’t privy to it. Regardless, Saya tends to treat her nighttime endeavors as part of a daily routine. For her, this is normal life.
The show lays out thick the dichotomy between day Saya and night Saya. The former is popular at school and a talented athlete, but absent-minded, clumsy, and occasionally bereft of common sense in the classic “moe” formula that anime has long since perfected, and then overused. Saya is late for class because of chasing furry animals around, loves sweets, and sings an improvised song at least once per episode about all the good events in her day. (She also looks appropriately embarrassed when someone catches her at it.) High school Saya is cuteness incarnate.
Then, when the sun sets, that all gets shoved to the side and Saya gets to the monster slaying. There’s no cuteness, no words at all, just grim-faced butchery. Her more human side seems shut off in battle mode, to the point where once she lets a local villager get slaughtered, just to see where and how her opponent would attack. The dichotomy is jarring, as I’m sure it’s meant to be. The two halves of Saya’s life seem completely separate, leaving the question of how Saya balances it all internally—or if her character is just completely inconsistent, arbitrarily switching between modes based on the whims of the writers and the needs of the plot.
A far greater problem is that this cycle repeats episode after episode with no sense of plot development or ongoing revelation. In a medium where the most common mistake is to flood the audience with technobabble, Blood-C errs in the opposite direction, jealously hiding its intentions from the viewer. Only in episode three do we start to get hints—very subtle hints—that the various adults in Saya’s life all know more about her (and each other) than they are letting on. But even that could be misdirection, or just plain teasing.
I want to give the show credit for making each fight seem genuinely perilous. Plot logic dictates that Saya will survive, of course, but the battles are always brutal, bloody events. Saya is a better fighter than the monsters, but not by much. If this is what the show does for the (literal) monster of the week episodes, I can only imagine what it has in store for its bosses.
The question, of course, is whether it’s worth sticking around that long to see. The end of the third episode feels, at least to me, like it’s signaling that a change of pace will happen next time—that the show is done establishing the setting and is ready to move on. Will it? I suppose the only way to find out is to keep watching. I don’t think of CLAMP as the type to play games with their audience. But the show has to do something new, and fast. Repeating content to drive home a point works in small doses, but eventually you have to let things advance.
Blood-C is streaming from NicoNico, which got into the simulcast business this season. Watching from that site does require free registration, and since Dantalian (the only show they have besides this one which is even remotely worth watching) is also streaming from Crunchyroll, the only reason to register is to watch Blood-C. I’d recommend checking out reviews of later Blood-C episodes, on this or other sites, to see if that winds up being worth it.