Sunday, January 4, 2009

Black Blood Brothers (anime TV series) on Hulu.com

I've been seeing ads for this show for some time now and hadn't really sought it out because it looked like a pale imitation of Hellsing - heck, the main character is even a long-haired vampire dressed in red with a distinctive hat, just like Alucard.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently discovered Hulu.com and found that it has a selection of anime. True, the selection is limited, but it's good, which is more than I could say for the anime the SciFi Channel had been showing before I moved and lost access to cable TV. One of the shows on Hulu.com is Black Blood Brothers. Since I don't know when I'll be able to afford to buy it (and I will buy it), I'll just write up a post for what I've seen so far. Once I actually own it all, I can write another post or something.

Hulu.com has only the first 9 episodes of this show, in English dub, with no signs that I can see that they'll ever be posting more than that. Since the show is only 12 episodes long, this is a little confusing - why post 3/4 of a show and then stop? I can only assume that they couldn't get FUNimation to agree to let them post the final 3 episodes. Hey, FUNimation! Are you listening? Just so you know, even if Hulu.com had the entire series, I'd still plan to buy it!

Anyway, the show focuses on Jiro and Kotaru, two vampire brothers. Jiro is the one with long black hair dressed in red that I mentioned - from what viewers are shown, he seems to be pretty powerful and a decent fighter (although he also seems to have a habit of failing at protecting people). He doesn't do well in sunlight or water. Kotaru, on the other hand, has no problems in sunlight or water, but he also doesn't seem to have any vampiric powers (except for being hard to hurt).

The two of them are on their way to Japan to go live in the Special Zone, a place where vampires and humans live together peacefully. Right away, they run into trouble. Apparently things are not as peaceful as the world is led to believe. Vampires are killed if there's even the slightest suspicion that they might have among them a Kowloon Child. You see, regular vampires (called Black Bloods - humans are Red Bloods) can only turn a human into a vampire if the human drinks their blood. However, Kowloon Children can turn anybody, even other vampires, into Kowloon Children just by sucking that person's blood. The only reason the world isn't overrun by them is because the Kowloon Children almost always kill when they feed (in the series, people say they always kill when they feed, but it only takes a little observation to see that this is an exaggeration).

Ten years before in Hong Kong, Jiro took part in a war against the Kowloon Children and killed their king. He has a hatred for the Kowloon Children. He also hates Cassandra (called Cassa), who apparently at least had a part in killing Alice, the woman (and vampire) Jiro was charged with protecting and also the woman Jiro loved. Now Cassa (who is a Kowloon Child, even though she doesn't act like most of the ones in the show) is trying to get into the Special Zone and stir up havock with the Kowloon Children - the first 9 episodes don't explain her reasons. Helping her are her two brothers, one a Kowloon Child and the other a human.

Jiro and Kotaru travel around the Special Zone with the help of Mimiko, a "compromiser" for the Company, which tries to keep order in the Special Zone. For some reason, none of the vampire clans in the Special Zone seem to want to take Jiro and Kotaru in (although they have no qualms about asking Jiro to help them with their Kowloon Children problem, the ungrateful wretches).

I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this series is. Yes, I can think of tons of other anime series that seem to have inspired this show - Hellsing is only one. However, even though I can't say that this show is very original, that doesn't keep it from being fun. Kotaru is probably the most adorable vampire ever (although the only reasons he's shown so far for being called a vampire are his pointy teeth and durability) and the source of much of the show's humor. My favorite episode so far is probably the first - I especially like the scene where Jiro is punishing Kotaru for not doing as he's told (it's funny, even if Jiro is brutal).

I like Jiro, too. I'm always a big fan of romantic storylines, and the bits of his backstory with Alice are sweet. I was watching the ending credits (with Loveholic's beautiful song "Shinkirou") when I had an epiphany while staring at Alice's hair. She has a weird little curl, in just the same place that Kotaru has a weird little curl. I'd sort of suspected that Kotaru is actually Jiro and Alice's child, but it could also be possible that he's Alice's reincarnation - after all, child Sei is the reincarnation of the older Sei that appeared in the first episode.

The romance and odd reincarnation stuff is only a small part of the show, though. There's also quite a bit of really fun fighting. I love the fight scenes! When Jiro cuts loose, he's pretty cool, but there are plenty of other vampires who are fun to watch as well. Cain, for instance, seems like he might be more bark than bite until episode 9 - then, viewers get treated to a view of his true abilities.

The one thing I haven't really liked about the show so far is how confusingly some of the information about the past is presented. For instance, the show begins with a scene from the war in Hong Kong, and then jumps forward 10 years to Kotaru and Jiro on a ship. There's no indication that this is a jump forward in time, however. When I saw child Sei, I immediately wondered if that very first scene wasn't actually a scene from the future. The characters on the show are also annoyingly closed-mouthed about the past and how it relates to the present - what exactly happened to Alice, who is Kotaru to Jiro really, what are Kotaru and Jiro doing in the Special Zone, and what does Cassa want?

Those who aren't fans of English dubs may be turned off by the idea of watching this show on Hulu.com, because Hulu.com only has the English dub. However, the English dub is actually pretty good (unbend, give it a try!). Child voices can be iffy in English dubs, but Kotaru's voice is decent and usually not annoying. Jiro's similarities to Hellsing's Alucard actually kind of extend to his voice - his English VA isn't Crispin Freeman (the man who voiced Alucard) but rather J. Michael Tatum, who, it turns out, tends to sound a lot like Crispin Freeman. I don't consider this a bad thing, since Crispin Freeman happens to be one of my favorite male VAs. Colleen Clinkenbeard, one of my favorite female VAs, voices Mimiko, and I'm loving that - the emotions she projects are perfect. Christopher R. Sabat, who voices Cain, also caught my attention - I looked up other roles he's had and was shocked to discover that he voiced Ayame Sohma in Fruits Basket. Man, this guy has excellent range!

For me, the VAs that throw me off the most are Luci Christina (Cassa) and Brina Palencia (Yafuri, Cassa's little brother) - they both have a bit of surfer dude in their voices, which doesn't seem to fit with who they're supposed to be. Carrie Savage (Sei) also took some getting used to. Finally, Zelman Clock was driving me crazy - I knew his voice sounded familiar, but I couldn't think who is was. I eventually guessed Jerry Jewell (I was right), and now I get distracted every time Zelman comes on screen - I can't help but picture Kyo from Fruits Basket, only with better diction. It makes me laugh, which is sad, since I know I'm not supposed to laugh at Zelman Clock (if he were real, he'd kill me...).

Oh, I should mention that this show isn't for everyone - in order to watch it through Hulu.com you have to sign up (free), because the show has a Mature rating. This rating may or may not be for violence - I didn't really see anything that I considered to be over-the-top. I think the Mature rating might be more due to the fact that being fed on by a vampire is apparently very... orgasmic. There's only a couple scenes of this in these 9 episodes, one between Mimiko and Jiro and one between random vampires and a random girl (this one was even more uncomfortable to watch, since it would, I guess, count as rape, and the scene made use of some Japanese porn cliches).

Well, I like this show enough that I'm going to get it once I have enough disposable income and Rightstuf.com has a satisfactory enough sale. Before then, however, I might have to see about hunting down the final three episodes somewhere else, if possible.

Update: I just found out that I can watch the final 3 episodes on Joost.com - hurray!

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Hellsing (anime TV series) - This bloody and action-packed series focuses on the two non-human members of the Hellsing Organization, an English vampire-extermination group: Alucard, an anti-hero and ancient and powerful vampire, and Seras Victoria, a police officer-turned-vampire. In the anime series, the Hellsing Organization deals with random murderous vampires and tries to stop someone who is creating artificial vampires. Those who'd like something else with vampires, action, and a bit of humor (less light-hearted and humorous than Black Blood Brothers) might enjoy this series. This anime was inspired by a manga series, and there's also an anime OVA that is more closely based on the manga than this TV series - be warned, however, both the manga and the OVA glory in bloodshed even more than the TV series does.
  • Soulmate (book) by L.J. Smith - This is the 6th book in Smith's Night World series. Hannah thinks she's going crazy - she keeps finding notes she doesn't remember writing, written in her handwriting, telling her that she's going to die before she turns 17. What she discovers is that she's an Old Soul, someone who's been reincarnated many times. In many of those times, she fell in love with a vampire (named Thierry in her most recent lifetime), one who also may possibly have had a hand in her deaths. Those who'd like another story dealing with vampires and reincarnation, with more romance than Black Blood Brothers, might enjoy this book.
  • Kyo Kara Maoh! (anime TV series) - Yuri Shibuya, a Japanese student, gets flushed down a toilet into another world (seriously, this is what happens) that kind of resembles medieval Europe. Yuri is told that, because of his black hair and eyes, he must be the Demon King. All Yuri wants is to go home, but he soon finds himself accidentally engaged (to another guy, who hates him) and deeply involved in various strange and often dangerous crises. Those who'd like another show that deals a bit with reincarnation and has lots of action and humor (heavier on the humor than Black Blood Brothers) might enjoy this series.
  • Chibi Vampire (manga) by Yuna Kagesaki - Karin is a misfit in a family of vampires - rather than taking blood, she must give it (she really has to or she gets the most horrifying nosebleeds of all time), and she is unable to mind-wipe humans, can go out in the sun, and can tolerate garlic. A new boy named Kenta comes to her school and suddenly Karin's body is reacting to him, producing blood much faster than normal - what's going on? Those who'd like another story with an adorable vampire who doesn't act very vampiric might enjoy this cute romantic series.
  • Blood+ (anime TV series) - Although most humans don't know it, humankind and Chiropterans, monsters that feed on the blood of the living, are at war. An organization known as the Red Shield tracks down Chiropterans and exterminates them. Saya believes she is an ordinary high school girl until she comes upon several Chiropterans at school one day and is encouraged to fight them by a mysterious man named Hagi (sometimes spelled Haji, which I prefer) who claims to be her Chevalier. Saya, who had had no memory of her life beyond the past year, begins to re-discover her past and her role in the fight against Chiropterans. Unfortunately, her formerly peaceful and idyllic family life is gradually destroyed beyond repair. Those who'd like another story with lots of action and highly infectious monsters who must be stopped may enjoy this series. Also, like Black Blood Brothers, there are some interesting guardian characters (the Chevaliers) who are really powerful.
  • Demon Diary (manhwa) by Lee-Hyung Lee (script, vol. 2+), Lee Chi Hyong (story), and Kara (art) - Lord Raenef is supposed to be a Demon Lord, the reincarnation of one of the most powerful ones in existence. Unfortunately, even with an exasperated and frustrated Eclipse tutoring him, he's less powerful and terrible and more cute and cuddly. Even if he does become a better Demon Lord, do Eclipse and Raenef's friends really want him to be that way? Those who'd like another series that deals with reincarnation and supernatural stuff and has a cute boy protected by a powerful (and pretty) older guy might enjoy this series. In addition, the demons in this series remind me a lot of the vampires in Black Blood Brothers, with their clans, powers, and behavior.

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