Like many anime series, Trinity Blood begins with the romanticised amalgamation of different periods, organisations and styles (used to its own ends) that we are by now familiar with; drawing on the quasi-imperial history of Catholicism, differential levels of technology, and a relatively consistent Gothic aesthetic, to paint its own fictional landscape, and provide the chess pieces for the incumbent competition therewithin.
Elements of science-fiction are also unveiled later on, to give method to the existence of vampires in the series – which are the result of hosts being reshaped by nano-technology designed in a Mars cultivation project from centuries ago (which has further significance in some of the characters’ backstories). This being as much akin to magic as science, it doesn’t really change the way they behave, or how they’re likely to be perceived, by the majority of viewers, or by those within the story.
For generations the Vatican have thought not only of vampires, but of their mere existence as a sin, and to an extent, this is the view we’re also raised to at the beginning of the series, as they seem to form an all-too-familiar predatory elite. Rogue vampires stop being of much concern almost from the off, however, not only because the Vatican in Rome is dominated by saps, but because the wider story focuses rather on the schemes of the Rosenkreuz organisation – who are trying to engineer a war between humans and vampires for the sake of their ‘New World Order’. What inevitably springs from this, however, is a story about overcoming prejudice, with the two races struggling not to be dragged into the trappings of open conflict by their pride, politics or paranoia, while the ‘puppet master’ pitches their tensions and suspicions against one another.
At the centre of this conflict are two brothers, Abel – a priest of the Vatican who functions more like a military agent than anything else, pouring his efforts into whatever mission is handed down to him by the Cardinal Alessandro – and Cain – the arch villain of the Rosenkreuz conspiracy. Other characters join both sides, of course, but beyond Esther Blanchett (a nun overcoming her prior wish to see all vampires extinguished), few warrant mention beyond critique, with one featured quite prominently in official art (and seemingly forming a trinity with Abel and Esther) having no significant role, and the only other principal character joining midway through the series.
On two strands mentioned earlier, that tie neatly together, it’s important that viewers actually enjoy the series, and Trinity Blood’s greatest failing is in its unoriginality – borrowing its fights (or at least their mechanics) from Hellsing, its subjects, as I mentioned in the introduction, unscrupulously from wherever they might be found, and the general treatment of them from the conventions of anime in general. That the Vatican is dominated by saps, and that too few characters are worth mentioning beyond critique, are strongly related, both to each other, and to this unoriginality.
The Pope is a young, completely indecisive and easily bullied fool (typically getting rendered mute in trepidation, rather than making tough decisions), who then can have no place occupying the throne on which he is artificially seated, while brother and sister Cardinal Francesco di Medici, and Cardinal Alessandro XVIII, pull him toward military and diplomatic approaches respectively (with the diplomatic Alessandro winning almost unfailingly). That the Vatican is dominated by saps, then, seems quite evident, but is all the more obvious in Abel Nightroad, the vampire killing Crusnik, who can neither justify this devilish alter-ego that he transforms into, nor sustain it, as he falls into long periods of washed out melodrama and self-doubt. The over-reliance on young people in positions of power, a few families and their members artificially belonging to the crux of the story or providing its revelations, the fights borrowed from other series and young people in seats of authority are unoriginal parts of anime.
What Trinity Blood lacks in originality, however, it makes up for in emotion. Despite being far too sentimental and naive in its outlook, it is nonetheless quite affecting at times, and this usually correlates with the moments of greatest aesthetic coordination, which can only be appraised in those terms. That is, if viewers appreciate the ornate backgrounds, and superlative animation of these scenes, then I have no doubt that this will work on them to the effect of increasing susceptibility to the dilemmas of the characters. But if the reader doesn’t tend to be of that persuasion, like myself, then Trinity Blood would lose what was perhaps its most redeeming quality, for me, at least, which, in effect, is its ability, at points, to capture the nature of the gothic, which many more artificial anime series fail to accomplish, or more generally, to have a consistently gratifying aesthetic.
The appeal of the series isn’t just for those willing to dip their toes into Gothic drapery or sensuality though, and as a series, it works incredibly well, I was surprised to find. I watched the entire thing in one sitting, not because it was such compulsive viewing, but because it didn’t particularly bore me, like even the best series are almost bound to do over such a long time. In this sense, the lack of originality doesn’t harm Trinity Blood as much as you might suspect (indeed, in most cases its quite well hidden or padded), but the issue of the Gothic atmosphere – its most affecting quality – not being sustained during most of the second half of the series, and the fact that the story doesn’t amount to anything, could leave many viewers feeling empty.
On this note, I’d say that prevailingly, my experience of Trinity Blood was quite positive, but largely only because I was willing to accommodate its sentimentality in a trade off for the Gothic qualities I crave, and which were better handled here than in many other series. Those who aren’t in the business of perusing these kinds of qualities might still find Trinity Blood a good addition to their collection, but the terms by which to otherwise recommend it largely escape me, but I do suspect that most anime fans would enjoy it in one sense or another, which is why I would recommend it to anyone who likes what has been said about it here.
Trinity Blood feels unoriginal at points, and its story doesn’t amount to anything (even if it doesn’t feel completely without direction), but playing host to beautiful animation and mostly achieving a good feel, it succeeds in general, at being better than its competition. I’d have given it an 8, if only it weren’t quite so flawed in the ways I’ve described, which, individually, might be deal-breakers for some viewers, and together, undo whatever effect the series would have hoped to achieve.