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Blood: The Last Vampire is a 2000 anime film produced by Production I.G and Aniplex and directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo. The film premiered in theaters in Japan on November 18, 2000. A single-volume manga sequel, titled Blood: The Last Vampire 2000 and written by Benkyo Tamaoki, was published in Japan in 2001 by Kadokawa Shoten, and in English by Viz Media in November 2002 under the title Blood: The Last Vampire 2002. Three Japanese light novel adaptations have also been released for the series, along with a video game. It also spawned a fifty-episode anime series set in an alternate universe titled Blood+. A live-action adaptation of the film with the same title was released in Japan in May 2009.
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The story is set in 1966 in and around the American Yokota Air Base located in post-World War II Japan, a few months before the beginning of the Vietnam War. Its main protagonist is a girl named Saya, who hunts hematophagous bat-like creatures called chiropterans for a secret organization known as the Red Shield.
At the Yokota Air Force base in Japan, a nervous American military is on the brink of the Vietnam War. But a greater threat exists within the walls of the heavily guarded compound: Vampires. A team of top-secret agents dispatches a mysterious young woman to destroy them... she is the last remaining original.
- Saya (小夜 Saya?) hunts chiropterans using a katana. It is implied that she is the last remaining vampire and called "the only remaining original." Saya has no weakness to sunlight, although it is unknown if she has any of the other vulnerabilities often attributed to vampires. She does, however, become distressed when she encounters religious paraphernalia and angry when people mention God in her presence. Saya displays superhuman senses and strength, as well as cunning, resourcefulness, and skill. The manga series suggests she was a human-vampire hybrid. Her age is unknown, but a picture of her with nine other people is shown in the film with the date 1892 and the word "vampire" attached to it. Though she holds most humans in contempt, she seems to have some sort of respect for David. Voiced by Youki Kudo.
- David is a man working for the U.S. government organization called the Red Shield. He relays the missions to Saya and helps her at various points in the film. Voiced by Joe Romersa.
- Chiroptera, Greek for "hand wings" and translated as Template:Eigo in Japanese, are hematophagous bat-like creatures. They are extremely long-lived individuals that are comparable to humans in intelligence. Their natural appearance is much like a large, monstrous, long-limbed bat. Chiroptera live by feeding on human blood. They possess extraordinary speed, strength, and supernatural healing abilities and can heal almost instantly from any non-lethal wound. Because of this, the only way to easily kill them is to cause them to lose a sufficiently large amount of blood from one attack.
Production I.G's president Mitsuhisa Ishikawa wanted to produce a new project that was an original concept rather than being an adaptation of an existing anime or manga series. He approached Oshii Mamoru, who ran a series of lectures known as the "Oshii Jyuku" for teaching new filmmakers how to create their own projects, about his idea and asked him to have his students submit ideas. The submissions of Kenji Kamiyama and Junichi Fujisaki became the basis for the upcoming film: a girl in a sailor suit wielding a samurai sword. Ishikawa suggested Yokota Air Base for the film's setting, referring to it as the "state of California within Japan". Hiroyuki Kitakubo was selected as the film's director, a position he accepted on the condition he be given artistic license with the material.
After titling the work Blood: The Last Vampire, Kitakubo chose video game designer Katsuya Terada to work on the character designs, and Kazuchika Kise as the animation director. When asked why he chose Terada instead of a regular character designer, Kitakubo stated "I personally felt he had an amazing talent; his characters have a feel to them that is universal and that is probably why he has drawn characters for video games played by people all over the world." He goes on to note that he wanted both Terada and Kise together, and would not have hired Terada had Kise not agreed to work on the project. The resulting film uses completely digital animation. Rather than following the tradition of using animation cels, the entire film was inked, colored, and then animated with computers. It also uses primarily "low light" settings, with much of the film featuring large amounts of grey and brown.
In directing the film, Kitakubo notes that his having read Dracula and watched the American television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they may have had some influence on the film as the rest of his life experiences have. Production I.G broke new ground in Blood: The Last Vampire by being the first company to film an anime series almost entirely in English, with Japanese subtitles, feeling that it would help the film reach foreign markets more easily.
The resulting film is very short for a theatrical work, spanning only 45 minutes. Kitakubo stated in a 2001 interview with Animerica that he had the remaining story of "Saya's past present and future [sic]" in his own mind, but that it was up to the others involved in its making as to whether there would be a sequel. Production I.G noted that they deliberately intended for it to be a three part story, with the rest of Saya's story to be carried through in a light novel trilogy and a two-volume video game.
Produced by Production I.G, SPE Visual Works and Sony Computer Entertainment, Blood: The Last Vampire was directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo. The film's characters designed were crafted by Katsuya Terada. The original screenplay was written by Kenji Kamiyama, while its musical score was composed by Yoshihiro Ike. Before the film was completed, it was licensed for release in North America by Manga Entertainment.
It first premiered at the 5th annual International Festival of Fantasy, Action and Genre Cinema, nicknamed Fantasia 2000, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada where it was screened for attendees on July 29, 2000. The film aired in Australia on August 26, 2000 at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival. It made its theatrical debut in its home country of Japan on November 16, 2000.
Manga Entertainment released the film theatrically in North America in the summer of 2001, followed by VHS and DVD releases on August 26, 2001.
Using a concept from Mamoru Oshii, Production I.G had Benkyo Tamaoki write a sequel to Blood: The Last Vampire to complete the story. It brings Saya to the year 2002, with a new generation of handlers and continuing her quest to destroy chiropterans. Appropriately named Blood: The Last Vampire 2000 (ブラッド ザ・ラストヴァンパイア2000 Buraddo Za Rasuto Vanpaia 2000?), the single-volume title was published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten on May 1, 2001. It was licensed and released in English in North America by Viz Media under the title Blood: The Last Vampire 2002 on November 5, 2002. In the manga, David has retired and Saya has a new handler who sends her to Jinkōsen Shūritsu Valley High School under the name of "Saya Otonashi". There, she learns that chiropterans co-existed with humans, until humans began experimenting on them in the 19th century to try to gain immortality. The experiments increased the chiropterans' killing instinct and removed their former regard for humanity. Scientists, in turn, developed twin anti-chiropteran weapons. Maya, a prototype, still required blood and could transform like other chiropteran. The second, Saya, did not need to drink blood and had no transformation abilities so she was considered the perfected weapon. Maya searches for Saya, desiring to have Saya eat her so they can become one pure-blood chiropteran. After this meeting, Maya's body cannot be found, but it is never shown if Saya granted her request. Saya kills her handler and walks off into the night.
A trilogy of light novels have been created in relation to Blood: the Last Vampire and published by Kadokawa. Published in Japan in October 2000, Blood: The Last Vampire: Night of the Beasts (ブラッド・ザ・ラストバンパイヤ 獣たちの夜 Kemonotachi no Yoru?) was written by Mamoru Oshii. It was published in English in North America by DH Press on November 23, 2005.
The second novel, Blood: The Last Vampire: The Blood Which Invites the Darkness (ブラッド・ザ・ラストバンパイヤ 闇を誘う血 Yami o Izanau Chi?) was written by Junichi Fujisaku, who also directed the spin-off Blood+ anime series. This was published in January 2001.
The third novel, also written by Fujisaku, is Blood: The Last Vampire: A Tragic Dream in Shanghai (ブラッド・ザ・ラストバンパイヤ 上海哀儚 Shanhai Aibyō?) and was published in July 2001.
In 2000, Production I.G and Sony Computer Entertainment Japan co-produced a two-volume Blood: The Last Vampire video game. The game features a musical score by Yuki Kajiura with Youki Kudoh reprising her role as the voice of Saya, and over two hours of theater quality animation. It is a graphical adventure that brings Saya and her hunt for Chiropterans to Tokyo in 2000. There she meets a seventeen year old boy who begins wondering about Saya and the history of "Blood". Both volumes of the game were released to the PlayStation 2 in Japan on December 21, 2000. Animerica's Dr. Brown called the game "boring", but did compliment it for having "beautifully animated sequences".
In 2006, Production I.G and Sony re-released the game. Both volumes were combined into a single game for the PlayStation Portable (PSP). The game was called Yarudora Series Vol. 5: Blood: The Last Vampire (やるドラ ポータブル Blood the Last Vampire?) and was released in Japan on January 26, 2006. The combined game included new cover art and additional features, including a strategy flow chart, a digital art gallery, and some exclusive films.
In 2005, Sony and Production I.G announced the creation of Blood+, a fifty-episode anime television series. It is held to be an alternate universe telling of Blood: The Last Vampire; it has only minor connections and similarities to the film, and many differences. Blood+ premiered in Japan on October 8, 2005 on MBS/TBS and aired until September 23, 2006. The series was directed by Junichi Fujisaku and features original character designs by Chizu Hashii. Through Sony's international division, Blood+ was licensed for distribution in multiple regions. In the United States, the series was broadcast as part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim from March 11, 2007 until March 23, 2008. The anime became its own franchise, with two light novel series adaptations, three manga adaptations, and two video games.
Live action film
In May 2006, Bill Kong, producer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, announced that he was producing a live-action film adaptation of Blood: The Last Vampire, directed by Ronny Yu, and, like the source anime film, primarily filmed in English rather than Japanese. The film's setting, however, will be shifted to 1948 at a United States Air Force Base in Tokyo, shortly after the conclusion of World War II during the American occupation of Japan. Early reports indicated that the film's plot will feature Saya as a 400-year-old half human-half vampire who hunts full blooded vampires, both to rid the world of them and as they are her only source for food. She works with an organization known only as "The Council". Normally a loner, Saya forms a friendship with a young girl she meets at an American military base while preparing to battle Onigen, the highest ranking of the vampires.
Kong and Yu originally planned to finance the project themselves, but in November 2006, Production I.G officially consented to the film and began offering financial support. Through ties to Manga Entertainment, the French company Pathé became the film's production company. Yu was retained as its producer, but Chris Nahon took over as the film's director. Korean actress Jun Ji-Hyun, who adopted her English screen name Gianna Jun for the release, plays the role of Saya. Rather than being paid a straight license, Production I.G will receive a percentage of all revenues generated by the film.
Originally slated to be released worldwide in spring 2008, the film premiered in Japan on May 29, 2009 under the title Last Blood (ラスト・ブラッド Rasuto Buraddo?). The film was released in the United Kingdom on June 26, 2009. Sony Pictures licensed the film for release in North America, where it was released to theaters by Samuel Goldwyn Films on July 10, 2009.
Blood: The Last Vampire received multiple awards at various film festivals around the world. In 2000, it was selected as "Public's Prize Best Asia Feature Film" at the Montreal Fantasia Film Festival where it debuted, it won the Grand Prize in the animation category at the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs' Media Arts Festival, and it won the Ofuji Noburo Award at the Mainichi Film Competition. In 2001, it won Special Prize at the akasaki Film Festival and it was selected as the Best Theatrical Feature Film at the World Animation Celebration. Director Hiroyuki Kitakubo won an award for his work on the film at 6th Animation Kobe. It received the Grand Prize for animation at the 2000 Japan Media Arts Festival.
In the first week of its North American release, more than 70,000 DVDs and 30,000 VHS copies of Blood: The Last Vampire had been sold. Within the first month after its release, it became Manga Entertainment's top selling title in the company's history. The film also appeared on both the Video Business, Billboard, Video Store Magazine and Entertainment Weekly lists of top DVD sales. The company attributes this success to their use of two unconventional marketing methods: a limited theatrical release before the DVD release to market the title and offering the entire film for free on the day the DVD was released through a streaming video broadcast on Sputnik7.com where it was downloaded by more than 61,000 viewers. Marvin Gleicher, then president of Manga Entertainment, stated that the film's "success has proven to be a landmark time in the history of Manga Entertainment."
Michael Stroud of Wired News praised the film's blend of 2D and 3D elements and quoted Academy Award winning director James Cameron as saying: "Digital imaging has entered a new era. The world will come to consider this work as the standard of top quality in digital animation." In The Anime Encyclopedia, Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy praised the film for its groundbreaking use of English, its "stunning animation" and its high end action sequences, but criticized its short length and lack of a conclusion. Animerica reviewer Urian Brown called it a "piece of superb animation" that a "pretty and gritty...sleek, dark, and sexy" film that will make a viewer forget its lack of "story, depth, and character development."
According to Electronic Gaming Monthly, Blood: The Last Vampire was one influence behind the "striking visuals" of the video game Crackdown.
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- Official Production I.G Blood: The Last Vampire website (Japanese)
- Official Aniplex Blood: The Last Vampire website (Japanese)
- Official Production I.G Blood: The Last Vampire English website
- Sony Pictures official Blood: The Last Vampire live action film website
- Blood: The Last Vampire (film) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Blood: The Last Vampire at the Internet Movie Database
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