the studio gate

the backlot

the screening room
The Screening Room

Anime isn't my favorite form of animation, with the exception of the original "Speed Racer" and some of Hayao Miyazaki's films like "Spirited Away" (2001). I've found it too jerky and the American dubbing is usually pretty bad. Plus the stories aren't very appealing to me. "Blood+" changed my mind, at least for this Japanese epic series.

"Blood+" is now available in a boxed DVD set, which is being reviewed here.  

Epic, poignant and brilliantly animated, "Blood+" is a remarkable achievement in anime. The concept revolves around a young girl named Saya (American voicing by Kari Wahlgren) who holds a mysterious past, and super samurai powers to combat evil creatures called chiropterans. She and a band of mercenaries fight these hideous creatures and other evil minions throughout the episodes.

The initial plot is simple enough, but the series is far more complex and deep than that. Clocking in over 600-minutes running time, "Blood+" is adept at getting you hooked into its characters and storyline. So why is this anime series different for me, a non-anime lover? It's a combination of elements that mesh well together, starting with a strong storyline and characters. Director Junichi Fujisaku carefully guides viewers into Saya's world, allowing them to digest each and every situation with ease. There are many characters, but the filmmakers and animators have handled them with care and have given them distinct personalities. Saya is a sweetheart and we're instantly drawn to her. Typical of a reluctant hero, she only fights when necessary. And when she fights, watch out! She means business with that sword. Her brother, Kai (American voicing by Ben Diskin), is very much from the school of Japanese anime. When he gets frustrated, he hits walls and we get close-ups of his shaking jaw and eyes. But this is all in good fun.

The animation is fairly standard anime, but it's more fluid and colorful than I've seen before. In a word, the anime is outstanding.

The Japanese production crew worked closely with the American dubbing crew. The result is anime that has dubbing that matches the lip movements on-screen. The voicing also fits the characters well.

"We really paid attention to that," says Michael Hack, the American casting director.

In bringing "Blood+" to American audiences, which can also be seen on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, the American cast and crew worked hard in keeping everything about the Japanese program intact. The American crew tried very hard to make the series seamless as possible in the translation of story and dialogue dubbing. As actor Dave Wittenberg mentions, "It was like a giant Tetris game working with the dialogue." He plays the character of Soloman.

In trying to match the Japanese animation, which can be very quick on the mouth movement, both the actors and writers strived for accuracy. Many times, the actors were called on to do multiple voices for different characters. "Imagine having an argument with someone who's not there in front of you," says Wittenberg. The American sound crew would then mix the various voices into the final film. Actor Ben Diskin (Kai) also stressed that dubbing his lines into a Japanese anime series is one of the hardest things to do. Japanese phrases are much different and sometimes longer (or shorter) than American phases. 

"We wanted to stick to the Japanese version," says writer Joe D'Ambrosia. The result is a flawless dub, with scripting that is convincing to American audiences. The show doesn't feel like a dubbed "Godzilla" movie. Outside of the obvious anime style, "Blood+" feels right at home showing on a television in an American media room.

The series in this boxed set runs 25 episodes. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot and allegiances between characters.

"Sometimes the good guys become the bad guys," says writer Tom Teves.

I'm not a big anime fan, as I mentioned before. Yet I found myself engrossed in the action and storytelling that this series has. It's really quite good. There's a lot of stylized gore and action that does get bloody. I suppose that's why they call this "Blood+." The music, by Hans Zimmer, is really good, along with an impressive sound mix. This is presented in 2.0 stereo and sounds excellent. The picture, mastered in high-definition, looks sharp and colorful on DVD. I can imagine a Blu-ray version would simply blow one away.

I took a chance on "Blood+." It's well worth the risk.

Bill Kallay

blood+ team
American "Blood+" cast and crew
(left-to-right) Tom Teves, Joe D'Ambrosia, Michael Hack, Dave Wittenberg and Ben Diskin

Special thanks to Karen Penhale, Ana Lopez, Tom Teves, Joe D'Ambrosia, Michael Hack, Dave Wittenberg and Ben Diskin   

Photo: © 2005-2008 Production I.G. Aniplex, MBS, HAKUHODO/Adelaide Productions/Sony Pictures. All rights reserved.

Photo: © 2008 Bill Kallay. All rights reserved.

Quick Glimpse


Pretty damned impressive anime show

Director: Junichi Fujisaku

Cast: (American voice cast) Kari Wahlgren, Ben Diskin, Crispin Freeman, Dave Wittenberg


Extensive interviews

Not rated (graphic violence)


Picture: Excellent
Sound: Excellent

Superb picture and sound quality on DVD

Lotsa blood!

Aspect Ratio (1.33:1)

Dolby Digital 2.0

March 4, 2008