“His Name is Blade”
Anime has never been a big passion of mine even though I do enjoy Manga, especially the alternative gekiga stories. With anime though, there seems to be something that’s lost in the translation for me; perhaps it’s the scenes filled with sparse dialogue and a lack of score. Too much is left in the subtext or some symbolism flies by that I don’t have the proper context to understand. I don’t get that same puzzling feeling with foreign films because at some point I can gather what it is that is hidden or get a sense of it by the end. Anime can just leave you hanging at times. I’ll admit, I may not be intelligent enough to understand anime on first viewings; I don’t always go back with repeat viewings to get that comprehensive feeling. Don’t get me wrong, all of it is beautiful to watch and the kinetic action is unparalleled. I feared that I would suffer the same experience with Marvel’s Blade but thankfully that was not the case.
For those unfamiliar with the comics or films, Blade (Harold Perrineau, Lost) is a vampire hunter, a “daywalker” who was born half-human and half-vampire and that allows him to walk in daylight. In this straightforward, PG-13 adaptation, written by fan-favorite comic scribe, Warren Ellis, Blade is hunting Deacon Frost (J.B. Blanc, Wolverine), the vampire who killed his mother Tara Brooks (Nayo Wallace, Speed Racer). Blade has been tracking Frost and his trail of four-fanged corpses across the Asian seaboard.
We also learn how Blade came to be, how his pregnant mother was killed in a London alleyway and how he was ripped from her womb to safety, but not before the vampire blood made its way into the placenta. In present day, Frost’s latest path of killing leads the daywalker to Yokohama, Japan and a blood moon has set into the night, triggering Blade’s worst memories. Armed with an arsenal of silver-bladed gadgets, our lead character can kill vampires by cutting through their hearts.
Meanwhile, another vampire hunter Makoto (Kim Mai Guest, G.I. Joe: Renegades) and her father try to infiltrate an organized syndicate of vampires known as “Existence” at one of their seedy vampire nightclubs, Club Feed. Makoto is successful in taking the vampires at the club by surprise but it’s a different story when they come face-to-face with Frost who arrives shortly after Blade. As the three parties converge, Blade intervenes and Makoto is not happy. It’s evident after this encounter that if either is to take Deacon Frost down, they’re going to need a lot of help.
Blade is the latest Marvel comic book character to make the leap into anime and is directed by Mitsuyuki Masuhara. 12 episodes originally aired on Japanese television last summer. Friday night, Blade finally hit American soil on the G4 network which has already aired three other series that have come from the Marvel Comics and Madhouse Studios partnership: Iron Man, Wolverine and X-Men.
While Wolverine really plays up the mutant healing power to almost horrifying (but cool) action sequences, Blade’s amp up the seduction, the sensual overpowering of the vampires who prey on humans until hunters turn them into a flaming burst of ashes–you know, the essential vampire ingredients. Even off-camera kills look cool when reflections or the edges of flames creep up a wall of storage trailers or in the reflection of Blade’s sunglasses. When Blade makes a special kill move on the club owner, a spectacular kill sequence out of a video game ensued and that looks like something viewers can look forward to in future episodes.
For the most part, Blade is easy to follow serialized cartoon while still being a quality step up from average PG super-hero material in both tone and weight. Like the other Marvel-Madhouse toons, the animation is terrific and is probably the best artistic animated rendition we’ve seen of Marvel characters yet. Perrineau voices a good Blade, and I don’t hesitate to say that he gives the mostly stoic character more warmth and compassion in 20 minutes than Wesley Snipes ever did in three feature-length films. Now that Blade’s basic origin and motivation has been explained I want to see how this hunt will play out and how big the stakes will be raised. This pilot was full of set-up, but as long as the story continues to move forward and there is some eventual conclusion that we’re consistently moving towards, consider me sold for the rest of the dozen.
7.5 / 10