Anime box-sets for 2010: Part Eleven

Trinity Blood Complete Collection

Trinity Blood
Label:
MVM
Certificate:
15
Format:
DVD
Discs:
6. (24 episodes)
Running time:
400 mins approx
Subtitles:
English
Video:
16:9 Anamorphic
Sound:
English 2.0, Japanese 2.0
Release date:
15th November 2010
RRP:
£39.99 - Amazon - Play - MVM

Overview

Based upon a series of popular Japanese novels, Trinity Blood is a fast paced action/mystery series blending elements of the supernatural, futuristic sci-fi and Gothic horror.

Almost a millennium after a nuclear armageddon left much of the Earth's surface destroyed, the last remnants of humanity has turned to the Catholic Church for strength, pulling itself out of the ashes and back to a life resembling that of early 20th century Europe.

The Church may have helped bring humanity back from the brink but it's own corruption and infighting weakens it from within but now they have more pressing issues to deal with as they now face a deadly threat from without. Previously believed to just be the stuff of legends, Vampires walk the Earth scheming to feed on the blood of an enslaved and subjugated human race. While many on both sides wish to live in peace and cooperation, forces from both camps threaten this uneasy truce. A secret society known as "AX", formed deep within the Vatican, works to defend this delicate peace as their investigative & tactical team strives to protect the Church's interests at all costs. Their most powerful agents are Father Abel Nightroad, himself ironically an ungodly Crusnik, a shape-shifting being capable of feeding on the blood of vampires, and Father Tres Iqus, a deadly and seemingly unstoppable cyborg priest created using long forgotten "Lost technology".

Trinity Blood
When a Vampiric splinter group known as the Rosen Kreuz forms a terrorist legion intent on claiming sovereignty over the Earth it's up to the AX to defend not just the Church but also the whole of humanity from destruction. Can Father Abel defeat not just the hordes of the undead but also an insanely enemy from the days of Armageddon all whilst attempting to atone for his own past transgressions?

Comments:

If the overview sounds somewhat familiar to many of you it’s because, put bluntly, it is very familiar. So let’s get this out of the way; Yes, this series is basically Trigun meets Hellsing with smatterings of Chrno Crusade and draws heavily on each of these for it’s settings, basic plot, and character makeup. If you want to go looking for similarities then you’re going to find them in droves and if that’s going to bother you then don’t buy this series. So, with that out of the way let’s move onto what the show itself.

Trinity Blood starts out pretty formulaic for the first few episodes. Our bumbling lead, Father Abel Nightroad, is sent out to investigate a mystery wherein he uncovers that either an unspeakable monster is at large or heinous conspiracy is afoot, or sometimes both. Once the villain has been uncovered Abel then reveals that the "bumbling fool" persona is all a ploy to throw people off guard (yes, very much like Trigun's Vash the Stampede) before removing his restrictions to become of monstrous inhuman killing machine that kicks evil’s arse in the name of the Lord (yes again, very much like Hellsing's Alucard). Once the series has carried on like this for almost a dozen episodes and all the characters have been moved into place we switch into the big politics/mystery arc that continues until the end of the series. To be honest, while it’s all very enjoyable, there's nothing ground-breaking going on here and there's certainly no Earth shattering revelations to be found. You can pretty much predict where it's going, who's about to end up dead and just who that mysterious bad guy really is. The clues are all there right from the start, some subtle and some, well if they were any further away from subtle they'd need to hail a cab to get back again.

One thing I did notice about this series is that you need absolutely zero knowledge of Japanese culture and customs to enjoy it. In fact I would go think that there’s much about this series that western audiences would catch that the original Japanese audience may have missed. There’s references to many western action movies, such as Equilibrium, the Terminator series and the Matrix Trilogy to name but a few, sprinkled liberally throughout this show as well as a number of allusions to both modern and more classical western literature as well as religious scripture. On top of this, many of the locations used are based on real European locals such as Budapest, Venice, London and the Vatican. All of these are beautifully drawn and at times there’s a danger of the viewer being distracted by the scenery and missing out on some plot.

Trinity Blood
This nicely brings me onto the animation quality, which is not only impressively high, far superior to most anime movies even, but amazingly consistent throughout the entire 26 episodes. The producers of many anime series will choose to occasionally sacrifice the animation quality during a number of episodes in order to allocate resources to other episodes, generally to either the debut episode or the finale. The likes of Samurai Champloo, MoonPhase and Sousei no Aquarion are good examples of this. Trinity Blood however doesn’t seem to have fallen into this pitfall but where it does slide somewhat is with it’s conclusion… or lack thereof. This is unfortunately where it all goes a bit wrong. I was really enjoying this show and then it was suddenly over leaving me terribly disappointed with the anticlimactic “non-ending”. Rarely have I ever seen a series that cries out so desperately, and so obviously, for a second series. Much of the problem it seems is that the original novels on which this series is based were only part way through publication when the anime went into production. It also didn’t help when the creator & author, Sunao Yoshida, tragically died before he could conclude the story leaving the plotline sadly orphaned. Add to this the fact that the animation company behind this show, GONZO/GDH, are limiting the number of shows they’re committing themselves to each year in order to cut their costs and stay afloat during Japan’s worst recession in history and it looks like that second series may never come. It’s not all bad news though; A good friend of the original author has stepped in and completed the novels which have been picked up for translation in both novel and manga form by Tokyopop, should you wish to see how the story actually ends.

Musically this show is very impressive. The first half of the series sounds very reminiscent of the likes of Cowboy Bebop and various other series previously scored by Yoko Kanno. As the series moves into it’s second half it moves more towards grand orchestral or sweeping choral pieces. After watching the first few episodes in both English and the original Japanese I opted to watch the rest of the series in English. This is because, for the most part, the dub version has been very well handled. There are a few characters where the choice of vocal talent wasn’t the best but on the whole the rest of the voice cast more than compensate for them.

Ultimately if you were the kind if person who hated RahXephon because on first inspection it seemed like a pale clone of Evangelion, or avoided Madlax as it was essentially Noir all over again, then this show isn't for you. But if you're able to enjoy a show on it's own merit then this one to check out both for it's sheer entertainment value and eye pleasing animation.

Extras:

Here’s where this box set falls down somewhat. Apart from a “Tarot card gallery” on disc one, all you get as extras is a pair of trailers on each disc. No art galleries, no commentaries and certainly no behind the scenes features.

The Trinity Blood Complete Collection is available now from most high streets and online retailers.

Black Cat Complete Collection Collection

Black Cat Complete Box Set
Label:
MVM
Certificate:
15
Format:
DVD
Discs:
6. (24 episodes)
Running time:
552 mins approx
Subtitles:
English
Video:
16.9 anamorphic
Sound:
English 5.1, Japanese 2.0
Release date:
15th November 2010
RRP:
£39.99 - Amazon - Play - MVM

Brief synopsis:

A third of the world’s economy has come under the control of a secretive organisation known as Chronos, who maintain order and control though the use of their elite “Chronos Numbers“, specially trained enforcement agents both famed and feared for being ruthless, emotionless and, above all, deadly. One of these operatives, Train Heartnet, codename “XIII”, is tasked with the eradication of a new bio-weapon before it can be used to threaten Chronos's position of power. But when XIII finally comes face to face with his target, and realises that it's actually a genetic experiment in the shape of a young woman, his resolve wavers and he allows the girl to escape. Chronos are understandably unimpressed with this sudden change of heart in one of their trusted agents and soon the hunter soon finds himself becoming the hunted.

Black Cat
Enter Sven Vollfied, a former agent for the International Bureau of Investigation turned bounty hunter for hire. Sven would have all the qualities necessary to make quite the name for himself as a successful bounty hunter but for one major problem; Sven’s strong sense of chivalry and personal pride just keeps getting in the way of him actually making any money. When Sven takes the newly independent Train ain as his new partner they make quite the team, even more so when they’re joined by Eve, the shape-shifting bio-weapon earlier saved from certain death by Train. This highly resourceful, though permanently penniless, team of bounty hunters is ready to take the city by storm, but the city may never be ready for them.

Comments:

Based on the highly popular manga by Kentaro Yabuki (who would go on to use a number of the characters again in his later work ToLoveRu), according to US distributor Funimation, the Black Cat anime was their most profitable and sought after anime release of 2006. This box-set includes all 24 episodes including the elusive fifteenth episode that was only broadcast in its native Japan by a single broadcasting station.

Animated by production studio GONZO in a age before they started stuffing CGI into every scene of every show, whether it needed it or not, Black Cat is a visually stylistic comedy thriller which takes what seems to be quite a tight budget and really makes the best of it. While the animation hasn’t aged as well as many of it’s contemporaries, it’s unconventional use of scene composition and limited colour pallets to indicate moods and lighting schemes keeps this show looking, if not 100% fresh, then at least interesting to the eye. Both the English language version and the original Japanese version have some strong voice acting (eagle eared listeners to the Japanese version will be able to pick out Oh My Goddesses’ Belldandy and FMP’s Teletha Tesstarossa) but both versions, the dub especially, do at times bounce rather erratically between the serious and silly ends of the vocal spectrum which can be quite jarring at times.

Black Cat
And this really is where Black Cat fails to fall on it’s feet in that it doesn’t seem to know if it’s a serious neo-noir thriller or romantic action comedy and clumsily tries to mix the two together. When asked the big question, i.e., “will it blend?” the answer seems to be “not very well, no”. The main villains, the “Apostles of the stars”, come over like a bunch of weirdoes with even weirder powers engaging in plenty of over the top posturing in impractical costumes and it can be rather hard to take the heroes seriously during their moments of pathos when you know that in a few minutes the ending titles will kick off with chibi cat versions of the main characters dancing about to a rather silly song.

This is a shame as the original manga managed to blend both the serious and comedic elements convincingly without detrimentally affecting either. However, even when all’s said and done, this show does still make for a entertaining viewing experience with lots of action and plenty of character driven storylines.

Extras:

Text-less opening and closing animations, Trailers.

Black Cat Complete Collection Collection is available now from most high streets and online retailers.

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