Eight years ago an anime appeared that has stood, and even reverberated, the test of time. Blood: The Last Vampire was a groundbreaking and engrossing effort that clearly left virtually everyone who saw it wanting more. Clocking in at a breathless, seemingly unfinished, forty-eight minutes (just enough to fill a network TV hour slot), it showcased a pretty, young high school co-ed who swung a mean samurai sword against vampires at a Vietnam-era military base.
It was so well done and memorable that the sequel clamor has rung loud and steady to this day. Now, finally, a box set of the first twenty-five episodes of the follow-up television series, cleverly titled Blood+, is ready to slice into U.S. stores. For all those readers who are cringing at the thought of a TV continuation, you obviously don’t know Japanimation. Although there have been a few near misses, generally the small screen adaptations of major action anime have been well inside the strike zone (Ninja Scroll, R.O.D. [Read or Die], and especially Ghost in the Shell have all nimbly survived the transition).
Blood+ may head that list, since the skeletal original has been nicely filled out with a backstory and mythology which deepens and broadens the story — aided and abetted by a design and animation style that can’t match the cgi-ness of the original, but more than makes up for it with blood-splatteringly good direction, editing, and an exceptional soundtrack produced by Hans Zimmer. It’s just a shame for me, personally, that the box set was seemingly created to delight the more superficial anime fan and not the movie lover.
The big box contains three slim cases for the six discs, an even slimmer twelve page preview of the Dark Horse comic book version of the translated manga, and a black t-shirt (size: L) boasting the series logo. Once the apparel is removed, the rest rattles a bit. Five of the discs contain twenty-five half-hour episodes. The sixth contains something they’re calling “Inside Blood+” – which is interviews with a whole bunch of the original voice actors.
Not a director, not an animator, not a producer, not even an in-betweener. Every single interview is with a nice actor who supplies the original Japanese-language voices, answering questions like “what was your favorite scene” and “how do you like Okinawa” (the usual response was “I’ve never been to Okinawa”)? In other words, there’s not a hint nor hair of a “making of” doc or “behind the scenes” featurette. The actors are all very pleasant and forth-coming, but they know about as much as the viewer does, and even occasionally refer to the unseen or unknown Blood-letters just on the other side of the camera.
So, pretty box, good show, pretty disappointing extras. Human Giant, Season One, however, is rated “not-so-pretty-box, good show, great extras.” Human Giant is MTV’s smart new comedy sketch show, having learned from the major mistake of their original milestoned (sic) comedy sketch show, The State. The State had a cast of about a dozen. That’s a lot of paychecks. Human Giant has a cast of three (Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel, and Paul Scheer). But those three have enough comedic spirit to more than make up for what they lack in number. The show’s anarchic, pop-cultured spirit clearly oozes Monty Python-by-way-of-SCTV DNA.
The transfer to the “Uncensored 2-Disc Set” eliminates the bleeps, so you get the trio at their profane best, which is also reflected in the special features. Although the “Best of Human Giant’s 24 Hour MTV Marathon” comes first on the extras disc, I recommend you watch it last, since it is the one extra that requires the viewer be totally on their side. The nearly two hours worth of deleted, alternate, improvised, unaired, and up-coming Season Two sketches more than hold their own, however, with either fans or newcomers. They are all imaginative, entertaining, and often laugh-out-loud funny.
After all that (not to mention the eight episodes of the show itself), you’ll be ready for the home video showing the first collaboration of Aziz and Rob, as well as the clips from the marathon, which was a publicity stunt in which the group were allowed to improv their way through a day of MTV programming, with the help of comic actors from SNL, The Upright Citizens Brigade, The Daily Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Arrested Development, and The Office, among others.
After all that, you may find it hard not to be an ardent fan, and therefore will not only want, but be anxious, to listen to the audio commentary featuring the cast, their director, their producer, and guest stars fromThe Sarah Silverman Show, 24, The King of Queens, and more. Distilled down, an appreciation ofHuman Giant Season One is like being inducted into the cream of the modern Manhattan comedy crowd. Enjoy it while it lasts … or at least until the Season Two DVD set arrives.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon, a new book by Wizard contributor Jake Rossen. Although he doesn’t always go for the verbal disembowelment I feel some of these mythmakers deserve, Rossen has written an eminently readable tome about the media Man of Steel, from the initial 1940 radio show to the abortive Superman Returns(Poorly).
Much to his credit (I suppose, grumble, grumble) he keep his editorial estimations diplomatic and lets the dopey, disrespectful, disingenuous behavior of the idiots-that-were speak for themselves. I’d also be remiss not to mention that I’m in the book’s bibliography since I spent a month on the set of the Christopher Reeve/Richard DonnerSuperman as a Starlog reporter. While I’m at it, let me say for the record that in addition to everyone else, I found Ilya Salkind to be nice and enthusiastic.
Now will someone please corroborate the fact that originally Peter Boyle was cast and filmed as Luthor’s hulking assistant, and was only replaced by Ned Beatty as the bumptious, unbelievable Otis when the film went over schedule?!?
Ric Meyers is the author of Murder On The Air, Doomstar, The Great Science-Fiction Films, Murder in Halruua, For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films, Fear Itself, and numerous other books and has (and sometimes still is) on the editorial staff of such publications as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Starlog, Fangoria, Inside Kung-Fu, The Armchair Detective and Asian Cult Cinema. He’s also a television and motion picture consultant whose credits include The Twilight Zone, Columbo, A&E’s Biography and The Incredibly Strange Film Show.