Blood-C: The Last Dark – Review
Tokyo, Winter. Despite the use of the Youth Ordinance Bill to enforce curfews for minors and regulate the use of the Internet, young people continue to fight for their own freedom through underground methods. One such group calls themselves Surat. They have decided to take on Fumito Nanahara, a man who has great influence on the political world, and basically controls Tokyo with an iron fist. While using the Internet as a weapon to discover more information about Fumito, they learn about “Tower”, the secret organization behind Fumito, which engages in human experimentation. When members of Surat attempt to set up an ambush in the subway to expose the truth behind “Tower”, mysterious creatures suddenly appear and attack the passengers.
Anyone who doesn’t think animation can be gruesome and buried in subtext clearly hasn’t seen Blood-C: The Last Dark. Naoyoshi Shiotani directs this manga-adapted work that was written and created by CLAMP an all female manga clan. Nanase Okawa of CLAMP penned the screenplay along with writers Junichi Fujisaku and Kenji Kamiyama. The line that circled the Concordia University theatre exhibited eager fans ready to catch up with Saya, a teen slayer, who saves the younger Mana from an immortal train attacker. Mana then pulls Saya into a society of hackers, the Surat, who seeks to overthrow the corrupt government, led by Saya’s nemesis Fumito.
Blood-C: The Last Dark isn’t the first of the Blood series. Before the film, the manga was made into a popular TV show, Blood+, and it’s easy to see why. The story is gripping, and Saya, whose demeanor channels Batman, has eyes made so hypnotizing it’s hard not to wonder if the animators were sober throughout the duration of the project.
Here, Japanese animation has a proven evolution, yet without shedding its original aesthetic. This contrasts with an American attitude that has the tendency to place 3D tangibility above style. Whereas moments prove cars and buildings surprisingly realistic, there are still charming inconsistencies in the illustrations of characters such as Iori, of the Surat. Rather than being a detriment, this lack of flawlessness was a rather relieving reminder that the film was perhaps a labor of love.
I have never seen lighting play such a large role in animation, and cinematographer Eiki Arai created a notable display which heightened not only the artistry but also helped these animated figures become that much more authentic; their emotions corporeal.
Despite the male director, it’s clear that this is a story created by females, partially because it subverts the “girl walking alone at night” mythology. In Blood-C: The Last Dark ‘s Tokyo, the government has put into place a “Youth Protection Act,” providing all minors with a 9pm curfew. Thus, Saya, who disobeys this law in order to kill off lurking Elder Bairns, or humans who have been molded into monsters, has become that which we fear. For Saya is not only stronger than any possible attacker, but she shows no mercy toting her samurai sword, even in the most harmless situations.
While Saya has been ridiculed by critics for being ice cold, her frigid air only strengthened the narrative. In fact, because her voice (Nana Mizuki) brandishes no trace of emotion, I wanted to learn more about her. This seems to be what Mana feels, as she becomes so obsessed with Saya the film eventually morphs into a homoerotic love story. In one scene Mana apologizes to Saya for an injury and falls onto her crying and holding her tight, and lingers there for a while. While yes, this could be sisterly love, there is an underlying sexual tension that simply can’t be ignored.
It’s not surprising that Mana is attracted to such a strong and stern young woman, as these traits could be mistaken for masculinity. However, a scene where the two are relaxing together in a nude bath is even more assuring. Mana regards Saya in awe, and speaks to her with the tremble of a nervous schoolgirl crush.
The nudity brings me to a major befuddlement, however. It seems that despite the empowerment of these female characters, they are still objectified to elicit pleasure out of audience members—their breasts are large, perky, and perfectly sculpted. “Was this the decision of the writers or directors?” I can’t help thinking to myself in the presence of such a sultry scene. The toplessness also proved that despite the theme of a suppressed youth, the film was clearly aimed at adults.
This thread of adult enjoyment also weaved through the film’s humor. As we are introduced to Surat, we meet a little girl named Hiro that is one of its best hackers, as she works the computer keyboard with both her fingers and toes. We laugh because this indeed not a stretch in today’s technology-infused age. While the female characters are headstrong and smart, even the benevolent males appear blundering and foolhardy. Most comedy was derived from Sarut’s Iori and Shun, who gape at and poke fun at the girls but remain background boneheads, who love downloading kitty videos off the Internet and are more terrified than any of their female counterparts.
A heightened soundtrack of original music by Naoki Sato made the action all the more palpable, as Saya slashes and slays, blood squirting from the limbs of the warmish monsters that dominate the frame, Sato’s tunes pump in the background and we are submerged in retro B-horror meets contemporary action. I sigh, as I relic in Kill Bill moments that are wrongly attributed to Americana.
Where the film succeeds beyond it’s eyeball-tearing violence is in its social commentary. One that pushes a future that is entrusted to the youth, frowns upon government marriage to corporations, and that hails the bonds between females as the strongest out there.
Author: Olivia Saperstein
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