Blood: The Last Vampire [2000]

Saya, the last true vampire, battles the bloodthirsty demons attacking an American base in Japan during the Vietnam War. Much of the story takes place during the late afternoon and evening, and the artists use shadows, reflections, and light with exceptional skill: the look of the film is more interesting than the underdeveloped story. Saya wields a deadly sword and pursues her foes with chilling ferocity, but she's silent and sullen and fails to develop as a character: the viewer has no idea how she views her deadly occupation. Albeit a visually striking film, this dark, violent work fails to live up to its billing as "Japan's first fully digital animated feature film": the three-dimensional objects and effects are digital, but the two-dimensional characters are hand-drawn. Nor is the film really "from the creators of Ghost in the Shell." Blood came out of a group that Ghost director Mamoru Oshii organized to encourage young talent, but he didn't direct it. And at 48 minutes, it's very short for a feature, although this edition includes a rambling 21-minute making-of film and a 3-minute trailer. It seems unlikely that Blood "will transform Japanese animation," but other artists may use its visual style to tell more compelling stories with better-developed characters. Unrated; suitable for ages 17 and up for profanity, brief nudity, and considerable violence. --Charles Solomon

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