Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blood+: Mediocrity, sadly...

Ten episodes away from the end, ten away from what will likely be a lackluster ending. Even after all this time, watching the characters go through struggle after struggle, I can't connect. I've felt this way for a long time, watching this show, and I've been contemplating what might be the cause. Anime, unlike typical film or American cartoons, relies upon the characters above all else to propel the story, often at the expense of realism. Blood+, unfortunately, appears unable to suspend realism long enough for the characters to grow.

It's an inevitable trade-off. While there are plenty of anime and manga that deal with "realistic" situations (Karekano, Jin-Roh, Genshiken), every single one must utilize an exaggeration of personality or circumstance to incite growth and interaction between the characters. Karekano uses a cast, all of which have great talent in one or more areas. Jin-Roh uses an alternate reality where the Nazis won WWII in order to create a compelling environment for character development. And one will be surprised to hear me say that each character attempts in some way to exploit a generally accepted otaku personality trait. Blood+ tries to avoid these exaggerations, and in doing so fails to do anything well. Rather, it settles for mediocrity.

In many ways, this is the fault of the series director and the director (both of whom happen to be the same person in this instance: Jun'ichi Fujisaku). Prior to this, Fujisaka worked on Ghost in the Shell: SAC as a screenwriter, however here in Blood+ he shows his weakness in the art of character development. Part of the problem is that in Ghost in the Shell: SAC, he had established characters with strong background development already in place. For Blood+, he had to do this from scratch, and for a much longer series.

The best episodes, in terms of character development, all involve Kai. Unlike the other characters, who either remain static and relatively two-dimensional (like Saya, Lewis, Joel, and the majority of the cast) or fall only to return to their previous level (David), Kai undergoes actual growth throughout the series. In many ways, for what began as a story of a girl's coming of age story, this story has centered very much on how Kai has come into his own as a man. His struggles to overcome how he feels about Saya and her role, and his apparent helplessness result in a strengthening of his resolve.

Just as surprising is that the characters aside from Kai who grow the most throughout the series are those without futures - the Sif. They are the few who actually change as time passes. Their affliction with the Thorn, and its ever-present promise of death, forces them to change. The Sif, above all, present humanity at its most desperate. The Sif prefer to characterize themselves in terms different from humanity, because of their disease. Much like cancer victims, who feel isolated and lost, the Sif feel a sense of hopelessness which overcomes their lives. However, as they meet with Kai, Saya, and the humans of the Red Shield, they come to understand a sense of hope which they never knew before, and a sense of trust.

But these two examples are the exceptions, rather than the rule. Blood+ is marked by long, drawn-out episodes that stagger along, attempting to prevent the attainment of resolution. With the amount of "dead time" (long pauses, unnecessary angles) that the series utilizes, it never manages to get in the necessary time to develop its immense cast (Diva, four chevaliers, Saya, two chevaliers, Joel, David, Lewis, Kai...that's twelve characters already).

Blood: The Last Vampire, upon which Blood+ is loosely based, showed so much potential. Unfortunately, differences in budget, combined with the difference in directorial talent has led to this unfortunate result - Blood+ is a shadow of the potential of its predecessor.


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