This Week: Marvel Anime – Blade
“From the Director of pun filled fun at Polar Bear’s Cafe, the healing journey of Kobato., and the cuddly kitten of Chi’s Sweet Home…”
Marvel Anime: Blade
I have only the most baseline familiarity with what this comic book franchise entails. I know Blade is a vampire hunter and has a signature array of sharp objects in his equipment arsenal. I have never read the books, seen the live action films, etc. As the entire idea behind the Marvel Anime initiative is to give new spins on characters for a different market though, I would say I fit quite a bit of what they were looking for. I have no idea what the “canon” would be, or how the character usually operates in other media.
So I can just talk about this series as a television show I drilled through.
The only other Marvel Anime I’ve finished is the Iron Man series, and Blade has some serious differences in scope.
While all these projects aim to take place in and around Japan, Blade sought to make extensive use of the “around” part. Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and so on; the series does a lot of dock hopping, and it helped to keep events varied. At its core, it is a bog standard monster of the week show with a Big Bad target (in the form of Deacon Frost). But, at least the characters aren’t pegged down in the same city at the same time of day all the time. This helps as the animation and backgrounds fall into that area where it rarely goes off model, but can look rather wooden (especially in the set design). So not seeing the same kinds of backdrops all the time, where it would end up being more of a glaring issue, is to its benefit.
I watched the series with the English dub, as Marvel was throwing a fair amount of money at these projects (and I viewed Iron Man the same way). Harold Perrineau (Lost, Oz, Link in The Matrix sequels) voices the lead in his only anime role to date, and I thought he served well. He rarely needs to leave that even-toned hero gruff range, but they fit the script provided and what is happening on screen. I’d like to see him in more anime roles after this, as a matter of fact, but most anime don’t pay as well as his normal live action work. On the villain side, J. B. Blanc gives Frost a low but well spoken “but we aren’t so different you and I” kind of evil drawl.
I figure Blade is the kind of series one just wants to kick back and have on as popcorn television anyway, so this all jives with that.
As I haven’t seen all the Marvel Anime, I can’t fully comment on any “Marvel Anime Animated Universe,” but Blade did try its hand at it.
For a single episode, the story meets up with an iconic character for the entirety of a particular country stop. But (and this is critical) the series doesn’t treat the audience badly during this. Blade and this other character talk like two people who know each other, rather than hedging on “As you know…” expository dialogue. It is a small thing perhaps. But, it makes for one of the best episodes of the whole show, and I have to give it credit for just running with the crossover. It freed them up to sell the character by using them, maximizing on its limited time.
But, I do find the series had problems with the company mandated “insert a Japanese character sidekick” issue. At one point, they’re even called an albatross by another character, and that isn’t far off the mark is a lot of ways. Makoto, our spunky young female vampire hunter, suffers from the quirk where the show is afraid of upstaging the lead hero. So it doesn’t give her a whole lot to actually do.
Even her primary weapon, a set of silver spiked brass knuckles, creates as little visual presence as possible. Her best fight scene in the whole series is pretty much immediately upstaged by Razor the dog doing something far cooler. I imagine the logic there being Razor is A Cool Animal, but won’t challenge an overthrow of the main comic book character. Is Razor even a character in the rest of the franchise? My cursory look only directs me to Steppin’ Razor, a Jamaican former crime lord vampire. Definitely not a canine who sometimes wears a flack jacket.
Her problems go further than this unfortunately, into the narrative they provide her. While I will only go into the first episode, skip to the paragraph after the next picture if you wish to avoid spoilers.
We are to take her as a veteran vampire hunter, and in the first episode she fights a vampire nightclub with her dad and a passing Blade. She and her dad run into Deacon Frost outside, with nobody else around. Her father gives a hero speech and goes on a brash head on assault resulting in Frost feeding on him. She sees this clear as crystal and without distraction, including the bite marks as she sobs over his body. To the point where she does not resist vampire dad then trying to feed on her. Now, I can some nuance in that, being unable to bring yourself to accept the loss of a parent and vampire hunting partner.
Blade kills vampire dad in time, saving her life. This results in Makoto… going on a big You Killed My Father bender directed at Blade for several episodes. It is incredibly jarring if she is anywhere close to being a vampire hunter experienced enough to be fighting them with silver tipped brass knuckles. I can see it being a scene or two of frustrated dialogue, sure. But her response just drags on, giving her a massive starting characterization disadvantage in what is only a twelve episode series.
With all these parts in play the series plays out as one would expect. A competent if never high grade action hero romp through a selection of boss fights, with some narrative problems. Were it a summer movie playing in a theater near you, it’d make for a nice mindless Friday night with friends after work or school, then head out for food or drinks. Like the Marvel movies of the last several years, it even has a post-credits scene after the final episode.
As a TV show though, it works better on, well, your television. It plays well to marathon viewing a few episodes at a stretch while on the sofa, checking your phone or laptop in the foreground. While perhaps unspectacular, I found it an easy thing to keep clicking through while it was happening without needing to exert much effort into one way or the other, in that respect. Which is not terrible trait to have, depending on what you are in the mood for.
I can’t tell you how well it works as a part of the larger Blade franchise, but I found it to be an average enough outing for the character. I wouldn’t watch this or a sequel series weekly, but I’d marathon consume another on a rainy day.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.