Marvel comics and Japanese anime have been two of my favorite entertainment mediums. So It was a good bet that I would be checking out any production that would combine the two. I enjoyed the anime series “X-Men” and had mixed feelings about the “Iron Man” anime series. My expectations have been tempered with director Mitsuyuki Masuhara’s “Blade the anime series. In a nutshell, there are many elements that made the series quite creative that it proved successful when it came to its ambition, but there were certain things about its execution that proved to be somewhat of a letdown.
I have decided to view the series in the English dubbed language because it gives the characters personalities that somehow comes closer to the original characters.
The basic origin of “Blade” stays true to the source material as Eric Brooks (voiced by Harold Perrineau) is revealed to be young man whose mother was bitten by a 4-fanged vampire while she was pregnant. As a result, Eric’s genes has become bonded with the vampire gene permanently and this has given him all the powers of a vampire but none of their weaknesses. Under the guidance of Noah Van Hellsing (Troy Baker), Eric has become a vampire hunter in his mission to destroy the vampire called Deacon Frost (J.B. Blanc). Also, joined by a beautiful vampire hunter named Makoto (Kim Mai Guest), the two travels to different locations in Asia, even Madripoor (a Marvel comics fictional country) to find Frost. Along the way, the two finds both new friends and old foes alike, as they close in on Deacon Frost. But Frost himself has his own agenda, and his plans include Blade himself.
This anime series based the Marvel comics character “Blade” gets a lot of things right, and gets inspiration from all three mediums, the comic series, the first “Blade” movie and even the recent TV series. These things did not bother me at all, I thought the storytelling by Kenta Fukasaku was pretty competent in the way it was structured. What I liked the most about this anime series is the fact that it bothered to include Asian vampire lore in the first 6 episodes. I liked the way that it manages to touch upon Japanese water vampires, the Philippine lore of the Manananggal, Mandungo, and even Sumatran and Malaysian versions of the vampire legend. I admit, while the writing merely touches upon those legends, and true, they were more in the way of flamboyance, I liked the clever manner in how they became inserted into the main story. I was also quite surprised to see that the writing portrayed an area in the Philippines and how poverty affected that said area quite accurately. The series was not afraid to get a little darker and a little unnerving than your average animated series.
The other thing that the series was able to expand on was Eric’s childhood in the form of flashbacks. It was something that made his origins feel a little more real and admittedly, easier to be invested in him. I also appreciated the effort made by the writing in introducing new characters from the countries Makoto and Blade had visited. Lupit, Hagibis and Cimaron were heroes of their native land. Agus presented a conscience in how to deal with the vampire virus and was handled competently into the script. Of course, if there is Deacon Frost, there is also group of the vampire pure bloods called the ‘High council”. In this anime series, Deacon Frost was a more complex character than the one portrayed in the first “Blade” film. He was a man whose drive made him a man of conflicts, his all too human emotions drive him to his agenda, and it may lead to his eventual destruction in spirit.
By episode 7, the series becomes to feel more like a Japanese manga inspired by Marvel comics. This is not a negative comment but rather more of a statement. Of course, everyone’s favorite mutant “Wolverine” (Milo Ventimiglia) makes a guest appearance. I know it felt like a cheap play for ‘fan service’ but his part does make sense. The two part stories in episodes 8 and 9 revealed more of Blade’s origins, as we get to meet the men who made Eric the swordsman that he is. Eric’s sensei, Master Yagyu and former rival Kikyo Mikage brings more depth into Eric’s character, though admittedly, this area felt a little too cliché. I enjoyed their encounters, but I had mixed feelings on the drama it added on to its narrative. Makoto and Noah presented the side that Eric fights for. I really am uncertain as to how I felt about the Noah character, but I enjoyed Makoto’s role in the script. This is a Japanese production after all, so there may be something in the way of ‘hidden love’ around its themes.
I suppose while I liked many things about this “Blade” anime series, it was ambitious and definitely wanted to be different and original, for some reason, it wasn’t as fun and as immersive as I could’ve wished. Yes, it had blood and even some gore, it had several mature themes going for it, but the animation work was very lacking. I am not sure, the animation felt very low budget, and their quality was not consistent. Eric’s character designs felt more inspired by the American TV series than the comics, while the creature and monster designs felt more influenced by the Western audience than something much more geared towards the Japanese. I also have to note that the animation wasn’t as fluid as I would’ve wanted and several action scenes felt awkward. There were also times when it felt like a digital comic when it does those ‘freeze frames’. Yes, the series had a lot of action to spare, and action junkies would be satisfied, but they lacked emotion in several scenes that they ended up failing in terms of excitement. Soundtrack has a lot to do with this also, and the series fails.
The music did not feel “Blade”, it lacked the attitude and pure toughness of the character. The voice acting was decent, but they were nothing to be proud of. I was a little hesitant with the English dubbing, but despite the differences in the original language, they both kept its narrative intact. Of course, this series was intended for the Japanese language, so expect mild synching issues when viewing the series in the English dub.
“Blade the anime series” was something that I really wanted to see, being a fan of the character and the first two movies, I hoped for the best. Yes, I wasn’t disappointed in the screenplay, I enjoyed the way it added elements of different vampire lore and I liked the ambition it had, but the action, the animation quality was well below par than the “X-Men” anime series. This was surprising since the work was done by Madhouse studios, but it felt very low budget compared to their other attempts in Marvel anime. “Blade” is a mixed bag, which was too bad since the story was solid by itself, but as a whole the series was wanting. The direction and the animation work left something to be desired that I can only give this series a light recommendation to anime fans.
Timid Recommendation to anime fans [3 Out of 5 Stars]
After being hugely disappointed with the third Blade film and then seeing the character get an interesting treatment in his own short-lived TV series, I'm really excited about the prospects of a dark anime series that could further explore the Marvel Comics character's past and the world of vampires that he lives in. Hopefully this will be faithful to the character and keep his edginess intact.
Blade, a "Daywalker" vampire hunter who was born with human and vampire blood in his veins after a vampire attacked his mother, is visiting Japan on a mission. There, not only he confronts Deacon Frost, the vampire who killed his mother, but he also faces up against "Existence", a mysterious organization of vampires modified by Frost.