You know what’s even worse? A story that barely even begins.
That is, absolutely, my biggest strike against Black Blood Brothers. We meet the characters, we set up the situation, we get through the opening action of an extended conflict, and… that’s it. No more.
That’s a particular shame because the story has a fairly interesting premise.
Vampires exist, but they are not exactly like the classic vampire. Some are vulnerable to sunlight, and some are hurt by moving water (how they take a bath, I do not know). Some have special abilities, many can use magic, and they are often the source material for the legends of werewolves, witches, and ancient gods. Some can even age, die, and be born again from their own ashes, like the phoenix. What is consistent is that they have died and come back, they drink blood to survive and get stronger, and apparently they have black blood. Not that we see much of them actually caught in the act of bleeding.
Ten years prior to the main body of the plot, a particularly nasty and virulent strain of vampiric bloodline broke out. There was a war to contain and eradicate said bloodline, but, even so, the city of Hong Kong was wiped out. What made it so dangerous was how even one bite would instantly turn a person, instead of a more intricate and time-consuming mutual exchange of blood, and they could even prey on other vampires. Combine that with an unnatural level of aggression, and they were quite rightly dubbed a vampiric plague.
Ten years later, there is a special zone (called, creatively enough, the Special Zone) set up for humans and vampires to live together. It is run both officially by a council of notable figures and unofficially by high-ranking members of the various vampire houses from around the world. Many of the city’s keepers are heroes of the Hong Kong conflict, and have taken it upon themselves to safeguard a dark legacy of that awful crisis, to keep it from being unleashed on the world once again. The survivors of the enemy side, however, are keen on taking what they guard, and have launched an intricate scheme in order to pull off their heist and get away.
Jiro is one of the chief heroes of the Hong Kong debacle, a vampire swordsman whose skills are geared toward cutting his way through other vampires. He is known as Kin-Killer by the vamps, and Silver Sword by the humans. He is the only vampire who was created by a particular source blood (that would be the progenitor of a bloodline, I believe) named Alice Eve. They met by chance about a century ago, fell in love, then something happened and he was dying, so she turned him rather than watch him die. They lived happily until the outbreak in Hong Kong, when a dear friend and comrade was turned by the enemy, and Alice was killed, then reincarnated in the form of a baby boy, Kotaro.
I am going to just say it has to be a little weird for Jiro to be raising the male reincarnation of the woman he loved for a century.
Filled with the sorrow of loss and the rage of betrayal, Jiro successfully cut down the man who began this outbreak in the first place. Then, still devoted to his love, he took the baby Kotaro somewhere safe, and now is moving to the Special Zone in the hopes that Kotaro will be able to make friends and adapt to the outside world. This is critical, because Jiro’s role is to safeguard, and eventually return, the blood of Alice Eve to her reincarnation. This will awaken Kotaro as the vampire he once was as Alice, her “self” and her memories restored, alongside her wisdom. It will probably cost Jiro his life, but he is willing to do it, and that is why he wants Kotaro to have others around him, who can support him through the loss.
Now, if I thought it was weird for Jiro to be raising his lover who is now a boy, it would have to be especially weird for Kotaro to suddenly have Alice’s memories again, including all the intimate moments she shared with the man whom he regards as his big brother, whom he just killed.
…you know, maybe it’s not an entirely bad thing they didn’t finish this particular story after all, eh?
So, we have Jiro and Kotaro, with a cursed destiny, trying to get along in the middle of an ongoing conflict, with ancient vampires and their human allies on one side, and a new, small, but highly dangerous group of vampires on the other, including an old friend of Jiro and Alice.
That, by the way, is the character that most intrigues me, personally.
Cassandra Jill Warlock is another high-ranking, ancient vampire, possibly a source blood herself, as she is the reincarnation of Morgan the Witch. She is sleek and sexy, hot as Hell in high heels, with a wicked sense of humor and powerful magic, including the ability of illusory shape-shifting. She was the very first vampire turned by the plague-like vampire, there are indications she herself killed Alice, whom she had clearly loved dearly, and yet she also guarded Alice’s ashes and made sure she was reincarnated. Now she leads the effort to reclaim what her new bloodline wants from the Special Zone, and does not hesitate to make sacrifices, and yet she seems oddly fascinated by, and perhaps even protective of, Jiro and Kotaro.
(and, bonus, she is voiced by Luci Christian, who also voices my anime crush, Nami, though Cassandra has a deeper pitch, which suits her perfectly)
I can’t help but think that Cassa, as Jiro calls her, is playing a far deeper game than anyone guesses. How was she the first one turned, anyway, when this new vampire plague broke out? The storyteller in me wonders if, perhaps, she is not actually furthering an entirely different plan, perhaps even one concocted by none other than Alice Eve.
Unfortunately, we never know. Because, once again, they barely even begin the story, let alone end it!
Finally, we have the normal human element. Which consists of the following:
1) The everyday bystanders.
2) The people most vampires feed on when they’re not using blood bags instead.
3) The SWAT-style men with guns who fight fiercely and dirtily to protect their home.
4) The scheming puppeteers, with convoluted schemes that they further with any sort of dangerous, underhanded method they deem necessary.
5) The ferocious warrior who can kill a vampire with nothing more than a stake! …or, rather, can kill the human body that a particular vampire is possessing, with a stake the size an average human leg, at least, so perhaps that a bit less impressive.
6) The gossiping side-character.
7) Finally, the female lead of the show, Mimiko Katsuragi, who is mostly there for moral support, and to act as both an obvious potential romantic interest for Jiro, and also as his emergency living blood bag when he’s otherwise too exhausted to fight in a desperate moment.
…I am a strange mixture of intrigued and annoyed at the pros and cons of the roles that normal people play in this story. They have their redeeming qualities, but they seem to tend towards being ultimately helpless.
It’s even worse when one can easily accuse this anime of making the same mistake that Twilight makes. No, it does not make the vampires sparkle (thank goodness!), but it does make them far too much more powerful than humans, with far too little in the way of weaknesses. I mean, most of them stand in the sun without a care in the world, and that’s supposed to be their absolute kryptonite! Many of them are like gods on Earth, so how is it they don’t simply rule the entire world?
(and what was with the thing where the human senses the thoughts and memories of the vampire that drinks their blood? shouldn’t that really be the other way around?)
I would have absolutely loved to see the humans truly shining alongside the vampires as proper equals, each with their strengths and weaknesses. But I suppose any hope of that went out the window when they ended the anime after the story had barely begun. (Have I mentioned how much that annoys me?) So much epic material to work with, here, and so little actually done with it.
But I must admit, I do enjoy the characters.
Jiro is quite the courteous gentleman, and devotes himself utterly to whatever he sets himself to do. Kotaro might be a touch annoying, but he’s also adorably cute and lovable, and sometimes surprisingly wise. It’s practically a vampiric trait to be a bit proud and arrogant, but they display a good deal of honor and commitment, rooted in a deep compassion for their fellow creatures, human and vampire alike. The humans are likewise lovable for their sincerity, and a surprising cunning which, despite the lop-sided odds, keeps them in the running. The simple caring that Mimiko shows is especially endearing as she tries to juggle normal life with the extraordinary circumstances she finds herself in. And, really, about the only female even hotter than her is Cassandra, who is my favorite character of the show.
It’s not “great,” and it very well could have been, but it’s not so bad. It might feel a bit lackluster, especially for something that had the makings of an epic, but I enjoy it. Mostly for the characters. (And there’s this one song on the soundtrack that is so perfectly sad I can’t help but love it) I just wish they’d actually finished the story, instead of barely beginning it.
Rating: I give Black Blood Brothers 7 stars out of 10.