This is the third version of the same concept I’ve seen, following some years after the first animated version (released in 2000), but a couple of years before the live-action movie from 2009. What they both had over this was commendable brevity. If I’d realized the degree to which this was true, when I started the series on Netflix, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. The main problem, for anyone who has seen the other two takes, is that you know what’s going on. You’re well aware that the heroine Saya is a human-vampire crossbreed, who has now sided with humanity and dedicated her life to taking out the monsters. This was taken care of, quickly and efficiently, in the alternate versions, and we could move on to the kicking of vampiric ass. Here, however…. Not so much.
After 25 episodes – eight hours of story, even discounting credits – I still haven’t seen Saya in full-on attack mode. Indeed, I really don’t know a great deal more than I did after the first two parts, because the story unfolds at a glacial pace. A military group is trying to weaponize the “Chiropterans,” alongside a shady industrial conglomerate, Cinq Flèches. Opposing them is the Red Shield, dedicated to wiping out the Chiropterans, who can only be killed with a sword dipped in Saya’s blood. And then there is Saya’s own history: she may be a teenage girl in modern Okinawa, but she gradually remembers that she goes back through the Vietnam War, all the way to pre-Revolution Russia. Of course, telling this in chronological order would be too simple: not when she can have dramatically convenient amnesia, and recall things at whatever leisurely pace is needed by the plot.
Instead, we get a lot of chat about her not being fully “awakened” and, even more irritatingly, all the characters seem to know what’s going on, they just refuse to enlighten the audience. For instance, there’s a diary, started by the founder of Red Shield, Joel, which contains all his research; successive generations have kept it, to share with those who commit their lives to Red Shield. Do we get to know what’s in it? No, not even after Saya’s brother Kai is given the diary to read. It’s something which can be sustained for a short time, but as the episodes roll on, and information continues to be dribbled out, the approach becomes increasingly irritating. It’s a shame, since the core idea is imaginative, with scope for plenty of development, and the animation is solid, and better than I expected. There’s one wonderful episode in the middle, where an attack on a research facility unleashes children which turn into… things. I was all ready for this to be Saya’s blossoming, and the next dozen episodes to hurtle towards a thrilling conclusion. Didn’t happen.
Instead, we got more in the show’s ongoing series of inconclusive battles, with the villains muttering something dark and meaningful, before flying off into the night, and Saya recalls another incident from her past. By the time episode #25 rolled around, with the heroine finally getting to face off against the uber-mysterious Diva, I was wondering how it would all be wrapped up, but hardly unhappy to have finally reached the en… What? There’s another 25 episode chunk hidden elsewhere on Netflix? You have got to be kidding me. And, from the reviews I’ve read, these make the first batch look like masterpieces of storytelling. Don’t expect a review any time soon. Life’s just too damn short.
Dir: Junichi Fujisaku
Star (voice): Eri Kitamura, Akiko Yajima, Hiroyuki Yoshino, Junichi Suwabe