24.8.09

Blood: The Last Vampire

This is about the anime film. Apparently, a live-action version has been made recently, but I haven't seen it. I doubt whether it can really improve on the original.

Which is, I gotta say, a great little action/horror film. Or maybe that should be horror/action, because one of the interesting things about it is the way it builds ze tension. The opening credits sequence is masterful -- still shots capturing little details of a train journey, intersected with smash cuts to black. It lasts for-EVER. You are practically squirming by the time the super-speed, barely visible action climax comes along. This method is repeated throughout the film, and I admire the way it takes its time. There are long periods of background shots, people talking, planes flying. But you know something big and nasty is coming. And so... tension.

And it's an interesting little film in other ways. The mayhem takes place in a US airbase in Japan, a few months before the beginning of the Vietnam war. I don't think this is entirely random. Japan's relationship with America is a strange one. The US dropped two nuclear bombs on the Japanese, only to turn around and become their best friends. Their perpetual presence in the country can easily be interpreted as vampiric. And from Japan, they are moving on to Vietnam. From one victim to another.

Moreover, the film gives you a glimpse of the bars and brothels that line the periphery of the base, and service US airmen on R&R. The grimy, sexy underworld is prime breeding space for vamps. What's notable is that Americans are the ones who are mutilated in the most gruesome way. There may be an element of revenge fantasy at work here.

Then, there's the hero of the piece. Saya is a Japanese teenage girl, who can never be separated from her trusty katana. She works for some US secret agency hunting vampires. Her orders are given to her by her 'handler' (I'm using Dollhouse-speak) David. She doesn't look at all happy about this. Already, this is interesting, in that it seems to embody the strange power relationship between Japan and the USA. Japan is young, female and inferior, the USA is old, male and superior.

And yet, Saya is the only one capable of dispatching the monsters. Why? Well, have you seen Blade? Yeah, that's why. Saya is being made to hunt her own kind. And in her final scene, it's obvious that she feels some kind of sympathy with her victims. Saya embodies the true fighting spirit, the energy, the danger, of the Japanese. But she is forced by the Americans to turn around and exterminate these very elements from her environment.

Finally, we have the nurse, who gets caught up in the madness of the film. She is a thoroughly Americanized Japanese -- speaking English, working at the high-school attached to the airbase, even practicing Christianity. When Saya sees her clutching her crucifix in despair, she rips it away and angrily throws it on the ground. At the end of the film, everything is covered up and the nurse gets no answers. She sits staring at the cross, beginning to doubt her faith. And also, perhaps, her comfortable life working under the shadow of the Evil Empire.

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