So, alright, this isn’t a straight review. I watched episodes
of CLAMP and Production IG’s new joint Blood-C. When I finished the three episodes at the time of their airing, I went to Otaku USA (probably just hitting newsstands as you read this) with a pan: the show was a fluffball, a nothing. Every episode was the same! What was I even doing watching this? Today I finished Blood-C, sort of, and I’ve come here to write this. I can’t not write it. Nobody’s paying me this time, but I have four times as much to say. This won’t work, but I have to keep you from watching Blood-C.
Blood-C is another reboot of Production IG’s Blood vampire franchise, except this time full creative control has been handed to CLAMP, the veteran team behind big titles like Card Captor Sakura, X, Tsubasa, and too many others to list. The key phrase here is not one of those titles, but “full creative control”. Blood was completely handed over: I guess you could only make a show like Blood-C with a franchise that not too many people care about.
I don’t believe that anybody but CLAMP was behind this anime, because I don’t believe that much of this show would have made it past any editor. For better and worse– mostly worse– Production IG has made exactly the show that CLAMP asked for. Gen Urobuchi toned down his shtick for Madoka, and CLAMP has done the opposite for this show. We at Colony Drop often complain that anime creators don’t get to unleash their uncompromising vision on the screen anymore, but there was certainly nobody in CLAMP’s way on this one.
To be completely frank, it’s a wonder that Blood-C was aired on television at all. I assume that sponsors were only given the key words “vampires and CLAMP” and signed off on the deal right away. I assume that the contract read “no backsies”.
The first episodes of this show are, as I said, identically shaped fluffballs. The first half of each episode has secret vampire hunter (and half-vampire herself, as is the rule) Saya and her friends being adorable, while in the second half has Saya sent off to dispatch some monstrous threat (vampires come in many, very creative forms) by her father.
When the second episode was the same as the first, I got the feeling that something was up: that the routine the show was plodding us through was in fact very important and that it was preparing for a critical turnaround. When the third episode was the same as the second, I knew something was up, but I didn’t care anymore. Despite consistently delivering with the amazing fights stuffed into the last three minutes of every episode, the show had utterly failed as entertainment. I stopped watching about ten minutes in. Upon hearing from others that the fourth episode was the same as the third, I put Blood-C completely out of mind.
As the series ended, though, I was goaded by a friend into “finishing” the show. It’ll be easy, he said: just watch episodes six, nine, and twelve. That would do it. He was right, that was enough. I could have even skipped the sixth episode and called it enough. I could have skipped the ninth episode, even. By the final episode, I wanted to skip the final episode, but that was the kind of disaster one can’t look away from.
Episode six is when the show starts killing off the main cast and telling the viewer directly that everything they’ve seen is a lie. That’s not much of a surprise, of course, but at least the show started to move at all. The first to drop are the twins, who have been purposely one-note characters up until this point.
IG provides stunning battles every episode between Saya and the vampires. The animators are absolutely on their A game here– Yasuomi Umetsu is a beast on the opening sequence– and from what I saw it doesn’t slip. When the vampires turn their attention to helpless bystanders, though, the killings go from a vicious fight between closely matched opponents to simple slaughter.
A normal human body, after all, can’t stand up to a lot of paranormal damage before it tears up. People are gutted, torn apart, eaten onscreen. This is where the censor bars start to come in. It’s one thing for it to rain blood after Saya tears apart a monster, but the destruction of the human body in Blood-C is simply too much for broadcast television.
By TV anime standards, the censored Blood-C is still very violent, but the show wants more than that. It’s on more of a Shigurui level. The censors often cover over half the screen with “sylistic” bursts of white and black that block out all the flying entrails and lingering shots of human remains that the show wants to focus on. A few scenes employ mosaics that cover nearly the whole screen.
A video release will eventually put all the guts back in: having only just finished on TV as I write this, Blood-C has not yet arrived at its most disgusting form.
In the ninth episode, the vampires step it up and massacre Saya’s entire high school class in front of her. This sequence plays out like a slasher movie, with Saya mostly ineffective as a frog monster impales, chews up, and has its bloody way with the students.
The violence is more brutal here than before, as while these people are mostly nameless extras, they are closer to Saya and the show wants to salt the wound by crushing them slowly, letting them scream. It’s still hard to care much at this point, though, because everybody is so comically bad at running away from a giant frog monster. Some of the students just magically pop up from under him and die there.
At this point I was merely surprised by Blood-C. I thought that if the show hadn’t taken its sweet time and come out with the extreme violence a week or two early, it would have been a huge hit in the West with the fans who ate up shock-value crap like Elfen Lied. But Blood-C is an absolutely uncompromising work. It isn’t this gory and cruel as some ploy to get viewers: Blood-C is like this because that’s what’s in it’s heart.
If I’d known what the final episode was going to be like, I would have just packed it up and quit right there. I still wasn’t ready, though. I didn’t think this show would top itself, and I was wrong. The final episode of Blood-C is one of the most incredibly nonsensical, absurd, and outright distasteful half-hours anime has ever put me through. It was fascinating in its repugnance.
At the first moment, the villain– as was made clear from the very first episode, he was the obviously sinister man at the cafe who poured Saya’s coffee and made her favorite candy– reunites Saya with the classmates we saw slaughtered onscreen. He then tells her that her entire life (this entire show that you’ve wasted six hours on, dear viewer) up until this moment was a fiction. The entire cast of this show, excepting Saya and the villain, were hired actors playing parts that yes, included magic death-faking with talismans.
Let’s think about the magnitude of this plot twist. Blood-C spent an extravagant amount of time setting up its world and characters at an excruciatingly slow pace that turned most of the show’s large potential audience away in the first month or so of its run. Anybody who stuck with Blood-C was implicitly asked to really give a damn about it, and of course CLAMP seizes this naive trust by the legs and pulls like it’s trying to split a wishbone.
A while back, we were talking about anime TV series’ unfortunate tendency to disappoint with final chapters so bad that they ruin the rest of the show retroactively (see Eden of the East). Blood-C has that kind of ending, but with the specific intent of ruining everything in retrospect. It’s an incredibly evil plan foiled only by the fact that nobody in Japan or the West actually watched this show for long enough to find out.
When the trick is revealed, the actors all drop character and reveal in passing that while they appeared to be one-dimensional anime archetypes, they’re actually one-dimensionally cynical, stupid, and awful human beings. The show takes intense glee in what it’s about to do to these people.
Immediately after pulling out this “are you fucking kidding me” twist in the first thirty seconds of its finale, the show dares to top itself. It launches into 25 minutes of progressively more ridiculous plot revelations about Saya’s past and true nature that amount to “the villain set all of this up just to see what would happen.” All of this takes place amidst the slow, brutal murder (all over again!) of every single named cast member, including Saya’s father, who of course wasn’t Saya’s father at all but another half-vampire. The nice young man (one of two) who’s harbored a crush on Saya all series is machine-gunned down by soldiers as he confesses to her that really, despite the act, he truly did come to love her—bangbangbangbang.
Unsatisfied with the volume of this sacrifice, the show proceeds to unleash vampires upon the entire town Saya lives in, destroying and devouring every innocent citizen slowly, in crushing detail. These last ten minutes or so are the point at which the extent of the violence begins to feel uncomfortable: these scenes are completely gratuitous, more pointlessly cruel than ever, and absolutely interminable. A scene involving a blender the size of a building crosses the line into Go Nagai territory– yes, CLAMP were probably thinking of Violence Jack for this whole sequence– and delivers the only laugh in the entire joyless finale. The screams, howls, and moans of of the dying persist through a conversation as the villain escapes in his car, chuckling as he denies this story an ending.
Ultimately, the score between Saya and the villain is left unsettled, as there’s to be a movie in June of 2012. I have no idea who would go and pay money to see Blood-C in a theater after a series that regarded the audience with such contempt.
Though it’s phenomenally unsatisfying, we can’t actually call this ending a cop-out. This is not a case where the writers pulled it all out of their asses. The entire show telegraphs that something is wrong while not giving away the real secret: a secret so phenomenally dumb that a viewer might guess it as a joke, a move so stupid and so unkind to the viewer that they’d never possibly go for it. If the intent was to make a show that would reel in anime fans gently, only to shock and disappoint in grand style– and I believe they did– CLAMP did precisely what they wanted to do here. That’s the really creepy part about Blood-C.
Blood-C’s C-word is actually “Cruel”. In every moment of this final episode, CLAMP is taking particular care not just to degrade and tear apart the characters (they weren’t likable, but I hope you didn’t like any of them) in the cruelest way possible, but also the viewer. In every spot that CLAMP can twist the knife, they go for it. The extent to which this show is committed to destroying everything a viewer might have enjoyed about it is– and as a guy who eagerly watches Kamen Rider every week I can’t believe I’m criticizing anime with these words– absolutely juvenile.
Read the following paragraph in the voice of a petulant teenager. Or maybe Nyanners.
It was all fake. They were all actors. The actors were assholes, too. They’re all dead now. Here’s a bunch of unrelated people being tortured and torn apart and eaten. No, we’re not resolving anything. Saya’s adoptive dad was really a vampire Thundercat, so she has to kill him, but he really did love her. Let’s kill everything else in the town slowly. The actor who had a crush on Saya confesses to her immediately before he’s torn apart by gunfire. The villain shoots Saya point-blank in the face. The coffee was drugged. The candy was made to taste like human organs. That’s why she could never put her finger on why she liked it so much.
By the final blow– the bit about the candy, one of the last things said in the show– one starts to feel exhausted at having been insulted so many times. It’s like the show is scolding the viewer who actually enjoyed the terrible beginning episodes enough to stick with it. Again, I don’t know who would go pay money to watch a sequel movie to a finale this ridiculous. Don’t movie tickets cost $20 in Japan? Couldn’t I just eat for a couple days on that instead? Couldn’t I at least just put down enough juice-box whiskey to forget Blood-C?
There’s a tangible misanthropy running through Blood-C: after the final massacre scene, I dare speculate that the whole show the product of a mind that truly hates people and simply wants to see them suffer. Watching Blood-C is the fictional equivalent of hearing on the news that the victim was stabbed 87 times, and wondering to yourself how a human being could bring themselves to that terrible excess.
I’m really glad I came to this show with a mixture of detachment and disdain from the first three episodes (and from being Colony Drop). I can’t imagine how some new, young anime fan would take it if they happened to come upon it on Niconico or some such and fell for the characters. (Though such viewers are in the minority in Niconico comments, the anguished, enraged, and dumbfounded comments throughout the final episode say that such a viewer would be very upset.) Maybe they’d give up on anime altogether. Maybe that was the idea. Leave while you can, kids. You wouldn’t want to grow up and turn into CLAMP one day.
Spoiler Warning: this article spoiled the entirety of Blood-C and I moved the spoiler warning to the end, because I didn’t want you to feel like you needed to watch this fucking awful show. Please only watch Blood-C– and only then the final episode, even the show doesn’t think you’ve missed anything– as a historical footnote.
Either that or it was driven by 'old playbook' thinking about what the American market wants. Sounds like this would be a BIG hit for the 'where's my new Ninja Scroll fap bait?' customer in 2002. Those people wouldn't care about 'story' or 'plot' as long as they could toke up and watch lots of blood.
Sometimes I'm glad I don't give a shit about current anime :)
But, hell, you could watch Natural Born Killers and get the same sort of appeal in a lot less time.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
It is too bad that you let the fact that CLAMP hates the world bother you so much. If only you could see it my way, you would hate the world too. After all, X remains incomplete even though it has been ten years since the last chapter. :(
Oh and I've seen Shoujo Tsubaki. I would not really recommend it to anyone. Ever. Unlike Blood-C, where it is clear the creators just hate humanity, I'm pretty sure the author of Shoujo Tsubaki also hated himself, and his dog, and his parents. It's pretty... out there.
Also, thank you for slamming Elfen Lied. I'm glad there are other anime fans out there besides me who weren't suckered in by that worthless pile of dross.
Some of us Americans liked Ninja Scroll because it was violent yet enjoyable and the main character was cool. Dare I say that some of us Americans still care about 'story' and 'plot' in our anime as well. Please don't lump all of us into a simple category like that.
I highly enjoyed Ninja Scroll yet my favorite anime of all time is Legend of the Galactic Heroes. So, I don't exactly fit in your box, do I?
@Yanki My Chain
I agree with you on all counts. The only anime involving vampires that I ever truly enjoyed was Vampire Princess Miyu. As for Vampire Knight, I don't understand the fascination either. Then again, with the exception of a few titles, I don't really care for anime and manga catering to the shoujo demographic anyway and prefer seinen.
The question isn't "do you enjoy Ninja Scroll", the question is did you spend time frantically searching for another show that was different yet JUST EXACTLY LIKE Ninja Scroll?
If you prefer you can mentally substitute 'Akira' for Ninja Scroll. Or even Dragonball Z. The key being claiming to want something new and different but in reality wanting something JUST EXACTLY LIKE (name). This is the stereotype I throw out to the world and if it doesn't fit you then go with God my child and be at peace.
I'm pretty sure the CD bros know exactly of what I speak.
You are right about not recommending Shoujo Tsubaki, though I personally like some of Maruo's illustrations. I tied the two shows together due to both having the villain's revealing that what had happened up to a certain point was a ruse all along, in spite of the heroins best intentions, at least that's what I recall in the final scene of Shoujo Tsubaki.
(Ninja Scroll, Ghost in the Shell, Dragonball Z, Robotech, Gundam Wing, Evangelion, blah blah blah)
It's not so much the physical production so much as the mindset, the perception, the impression.
One can either spend one's time seeking to re-experience that first kiss and always be let down, or revel in the act of kissing for the enjoyment of the kiss, each different and all unique from the last.
(note that I obliquely refer to fans who got their anime addiction from an Americanized Japtoon, the whole 'infection vector' or 'catalyst anime' thing which is, ultimately, what drives the entire point. See also 'First Kiss')
I think you go too far, Dave, in saying that the ending means its creator must hate people. I think what it really hates are the stale character stereotypes it graphically slaughters, and that anything like those jokers could ever pass for "characters." And it's rage feels justified to me, since I've often felt just as angry about the sorry state of anime writing. I agree that the joke was botched, and there are infinitely better ways to meta-critique cartoons, but the joke itself isn't something to get angry about. In fact, I'm kind of mystified that you and a lot of other people who hated the characters in the first place feel like the joke is at your expense at all, since you weren't attached to any of these stereotypes. Ga-Rei Zero had a very similar joke in its opening episode that it executed much better, and don't remember anyone giving a damn about that.
Really, I think it's the heightened level of violence that undermines it. The sadistic glee it takes in murdering is just too much. If the last episode had toned the violence down to the level of the first few episodes- better yet, had kept it at that level the entire time- I think you might have written a different review.
I sat a buddy down and watched the first Evangelion movie with him. Afterwards he promptly told me to fuck myself for wasting his fucking time with such a gay ass whiny bitch movie. I said "coming of age story" he said "punch me in the dick with your mouth". Yeah.
I sat him down and watched an episode of Blood-C. He liked! Wanted to know why it was censored. I promised him we'd watch the uncensored BD's eventually. He was down.
HMMMM. Non-anime fan entertained. Mission accomplished I guess. I imagine he'll be humming Saya's fucking song whilst taking a carrot peeler to his Johnson one day, but whatever.
My point being that ya, it's crap, but it's sure a hell of a lot more enetertaining and less offensive than alot of the drivel the japanese animation industry shits out. You want to rage at shows? Hanasaku Iroha anyone? WTF was that episode 3? Oh, that's right, potential bondage rape of teenage girls is all the rage these days! Who the fuck comes up with that kind of shit??
Well, yes, but I don't think that's a very novel or clever statement to make. Anime parodies this constantly. If that was all they wanted to say, they could have gone to a lot less trouble to do so. This isn't really a "statement" show first and foremost.
The level of violence wouldn't have made the core idea any less hackish.
The level of violence wouldn't have made the core idea any less hackish."
I'm not saying the meta-commentary ending was a good idea or that it was done well. I'm just saying that I think you're mistaking incompetence for malice.
Whatever is in the show, good or bad, is by clear and careful, to an almost cynical degree, intent. Misguided? maybe. Uncomfortable? unquestionably. I can't call it incompetent, as CLAMP is VERY VERY careful to craft their product. They did what they wanted to do.
As for CLAMP, I think they can create an effect when they want to, and one of them can draw quite well (the rest are pretty generic as far as art goes), but I don't think they know how to plot or pace a story and I don't think they really care about those elements in their work.
The main point I want to make here is that you're seriously selling Go Nagai short. I assume this is because you've only seen things like the Violence Jack OAVs rather than reading the manga (to be fair, the ammount of Nagai manga in English is quite limited). Nagai doesn't do things just to shock people or to be "dark". He either has a very clear message behind the attrocities he's portraying (Devilman, for instance, is a commentary on the cold war) or he's writing a horror story (or at least a story with strong elements of horror). His work is far crazier than anything CLAMP could ever come up with (or anything that would be allowed on Japanese TV, for that matter) but he never approaches the kind of misanthropy that's on display here.
Honestly, Nagai's serious work is a lot smarter than anyone seems to be willing to give him credit for, to say nothing of the risks he was willing to take with his art. There's a reason why he got picked by Ishinomori and why even Tezuka would write things in response to what he was doing.
Blood-C was everything a hardcore CLAMP fan like me could possibly want in an anime. It was quintessential CLAMP in concentrated form. Which I presume makes it everything a CLAMP hater hates. Sorry if you went in expecting CLAMP not to be CLAMP.
Blood C has NONE of those.
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