The setting is idyllic. The old temple overlooks a peaceful lake and the priest’s daughter and shrine maiden, Saya Kisaragi (Nana Mizuki/Alexis Tipton) sets out singing every day on her way to school in the nearby town. She often stops off on her way for black coffee and breakfast at the Café Guimauve run by smiling proprietor Fumito (Kenji Nojima/Robert McCollum), an old schoolfriend of her father Tadayoshi’s. Sometimes Fumito gives her pink guimauve (marshmallows) to counter the bitterness of the coffee. And at lunchtime she usually shares her bento box (prepared by Fumito) with her friends: identical twins Nene and Nono; solicitous megane class president Itsuki; chic Yuuka and class rebel Tokizane. Their homeroom teacher is the impossibly gorgeous Miss Tsusutori, who takes a special interest in the gentle-natured Saya as well as in the local monster legends.
But when the sun sets, the peaceful lake is transformed into a dark and threatening place. Saya takes the special ceremonial sword from her father and sets out to slay the terrifying bloodthirsty monsters, the Elder Bairns. These monsters, Saya is told, killed her mother – and if they are not slain, they will devour any humans they find. (Attack on Titan, anyone?) And with a sword in her hand and the desire to protect her friends at all costs, the gentle, klutzy Saya is transformed into vicious, red-eyed killing machine. Blood spurts in fountains. When she wakes, she’s always back in her own bed, clean and uninjured. And so Saya goes back to school, singing merrily about her happy domestic little world…
So why is she troubled by strange visions? Memories so vivid they make her head hurt? And what about the mysterious little dog that’s been watching her? The dog that no one else can see… but which begins to speak to her? Something is far from right in Saya’s life. Does the answer lie with the Elder Bairns, an ancient covenant, and their brutal hunger for human flesh?
The answers, when they come, are not at all what the viewer has been led to expect. There’s a lot of blood. An awful lot of blood and brutal carnage.
Blood-C is a twelve-episode TV series that is the result of a collaboration between the celebrated four-artist mangaka team CLAMP, Production I.G. and the makers of the earlier Blood series about Saya. Nanase Ohkawa (the member of CLAMP who does most of their story-boarding) is responsible for the story (with Jun’ichi Fujisaku from the other Blood anime) and the characteristically long-limbed character designs come from the rest of the team (think xxxHOLIC, Code Geass, X.) I’m a committed fan of CLAMP’s work but I can’t ignore the fact that when it comes to delivering satisfying endings – let alone any kind of ending – to their series, they often seem, quite literally, to lose the plot. (Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle?) And this can leave the reader/viewer feeling cheated, disappointed and let down. As happens here, I’m sorry to say. CLAMP abandoned X the manga because (one of the main reasons they gave at the time) the publishers received so many complaints from readers about the brutal and depressing nature of the story. Just because they are the creators of the delightful Cardcaptor Sakura and the optimistic, upbeat Angelic Layer, doesn’t mean that they don’t do dark, morbid, and downright depressing. Crossover is one of the most intriguing features of CLAMP’s work and here the mysterious little dog Saya encounters is voiced by Jun Fukuyama and Todd Haberkorn who play Watanuki in xxxHOLIC. When he talks of wishes being granted, we know we’re revisiting one of their favourite tropes. CLAMP are also the Queens of Tease, planting hints and implications, which are often nothing more than that… but keep the viewer hooked, only to be bitterly disappointed by the lack of resolution.
The second problem with Blood-C is that if you’ve already come to know Saya in Blood +, or Blood, the Last Vampire, you’ll be cruelly disappointed to find that this is not the same Saya. (And there’s no Chevalier Hagi either; boo.)
The banal Opening song, “Spiral” by DUSTZ, doesn’t help improve matters, especially as the instrumental introduction is used to accompany the menu, creating an atmosphere more suited to a shopping mall than a hack ‘n’ slash monster movie. BondxL!TH!UM are credited with the arrangement of this song, so it’s more likely to be their bad that this intro is so disappointingly lame. The Ending theme, “Junketsu Paradise,” is sung by Nana Mizuki who also plays Saya, and it’s turbulent, moody, and much more appropriate in echoing Saya’s predicament.
This series just doesn’t work for me. You can see – in a way – what the production team were aiming for: lull the viewers into a sense of false security then whip the rug out from under their feet! (“They won’t have seen that plot twist coming.”) But the plot twists only serve to make the viewer feel confused and cheated. And yet it looks so good – the fights are spectacularly well animated – and the powerful orchestral soundtrack from Naoki Sato (who also did such a great score for X) matches the changes in mood extremely effectively, offering a wide range of variations of Saya’s theme. No anime composer does better ‘catastrophe’ music than Naoki Sato! (Except, possibly, Taku Iwasaki.)
For some viewers, however, the thrillingly-animated monster-fights, the excellent soundtrack, and the distinctive quality of the character designs and backgrounds may well be enough to compensate for the disappointment generated by the imbalance in the plot.