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Blade: Marvel Animated Series (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 19, 2012 by  



Marvel Comics’ well-known vampire hunter, Blade, gets the anime-style makeover with Japanese sensibility, samurai-action in a modern setting with vampire antagonists that should surely appeal to Marvel Comics and Blade fans (as well as those who enjoy vampire-related storylines).  Action-packed and a thrilling series overall, “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2011 Superhero Anime Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Blade: Marvel Animated Series

TV EPISODE RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 12 Episodes (282 minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: MADHOUSE/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASED: July 31, 2012

Directed by Mitsuyuki Masuhara

Series Composition: Kenta Fukasaku

Story by Warren Ellis

Music by Shogo Ohnishi, Tetsuya Takahashi

Originally Created by Gene Colan, Marv Wolfman

Character Design by Cindy H. Yamauchi

Art Director: Katsushi Aoki

Anime Production: Madhouse Studios

Featuring the following voice talent:

Akio Ohtsuka/Harold Perrineau as Blade

Hiroki Touchi/Christopher Smith as Lucius Isaac

Maaya Sakamoto/Kim Mai Guest as Makoto

Masato Hagiwara/Steven Jay Blum as Kikyo Mikage

Osamu Saka/Troy Baker as Noah Van Helsing

Tsutomu Isobe/Bryce Papenbrook as Deacon Frost

Atsuko Tanaka/Nayo Wallace as Tara Brooks

Rikiya Koyama/Milo Ventimiglia as Logan/Wolverine

Eric Brooks – known as Blade – seeks revenge on Deacon Frost, the vampire who killed his mother while she was still pregnant with Eric. With all the powers of a vampire and none of their weaknesses, Blade’s quest leads him throughout Southeast Asia in search of Frost. In the Golden Triangle, he discovers a vampire plot that threatens to take down the whole world.

Back in 1973, a vampire slayer named Eric Brooks a.k.a. “Blade”, would make his debut in Marvel Comics’ “The Tomb of Dracula”.

A man that is a Daywalker, born half human and half vampire, Blade would become popular thanks to the”Ghost Rider” and “Nightstalkers” comic books of the 1990’s and would eventually lead to a popular live action trilogy and a television series.

In 2011, to help introduce the backstory of several popular Marvel characters to Japanese audiences, such as “Blade”, “Iron Man”, “Wolverine” and the superhero team, “X-Men”, Marvel collaborated with popular Japanese animation studio Madhouse to create a series.

Marvel gave Madhouse to have free reign with the series to appeal to Japanese audiences, as long as it remains connected to the original history of the characters/group.

The series would be directed by Mitsuyuki Masuhara (“BECK”, “Shigirui”, “Chobits) and series composition by Kenta Fukasaku (“Battle Royale”, “Yo-Yo Girl Cop”).  The English dub would feature the voice of Harold Perrineau (“Lost”, “Oz”, “The Matrix” films) and Kim Mai Guest (“G.I. Joe: Renegades”, “Ben 10”, “Avatar: The Last Airbender”).

For “Blade”, the story revolves around Blade going to Japan to hunt down Deacon Frost, the vampire responsible for killing his mother.  Throughout the series, we learn of Blade’s thirst for revenge but also his past as a young boy and as a Daywalker.  As well, as learning the challenges he faced in life as a vampire child.

Joined by a female vampire hunter named Makoto, the two find trouble in Japan,the Philippines, Madripoor and Cambodia, as both will go against the Existence, a secret organization of vampires, as Blade continues his thirst of revenge and will do all he can to find Deacon Frost.  As for Deacon Frost, he is trying to create a new vampire breed which may change the hierarchy of the vampire species.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Blade: Marvel Animated Series” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital with subtitles in English.  And as expected from a major anime studio such as Madhouse, the character designs look very good, the art backgrounds are well painted. But very cool emphasis on the actual character designs, especially close-up of the characters faces.  There are some moments throughout the series where I felt there were better art backgrounds utilized in this anime series compared to “Wolverine: Marvel Animated Series”.

DVD quality for the most part is good, but as expected on DVD, you are going to see banding and slight softness.

As for audio, both are presented Dolby Digital 5.1 and both sound great, but it all comes down to preference. Both Japanese and English voice acting are well-done.  While I watched the series in Japanese, I was also excited to see “LOST” star, Harold Perrineau doing the voice of  Blade.  And Harold does a fantastic job of doing the voice of the vampire slayer.

Good use of the surround channels for the more action-based sequences.  Dialogue is clear and understandable.

Subtitles are easy to read, thick yellow subtitles that don’t necessarily stay in the bottom center but also are seen wherever the characters face is located. So if the character’s mouth is high, the subtitles will appear in the top. So, the subtitles remind me of closed caption subtitles in terms of subtitling placement.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Blade: Marvel Animated Series” includes the following special features:

  • Special Talk Session: Marvel Anime’s Blade and Wolverine – (32:56) Featuring interviews with director Mitsuyuki Masuhara and Kenta Fukasaku (series treatment), along with “Wolverine” director Hiroshi Aoyama and Kengo Kaji (series treatment), plus a few crew members who worked on the anime series.

Back in the ’90s, I was caught up in all the Marvel Comics hype surrounding Blade, Ghost Rider, Spirits of Vengeance and suffice to say, when the live action films came out, Blade was one of the most popular characters from the Marvel universe.

An African-American hero with the stoic, no-nonsense style of Wolverine and the Punisher, a man with a black trenchcoat with an assortment of weaponry and this guy took on the most powerful vampires.  And literally, he kicked ass!

And while the hype around Blade has died down quite significantly  since the completion of the live action films and TV series, with a lot of vampire films and television series making its way not just in the U.S. but all over the world, why not take advantage of the situations by showcasing Marvel’s most popular vampire hunter.

And theme of a vampire slayer works well in Japan as there have been plenty of vampire hunting anime series such as “Vampire Hunter D”, “Blood the Vampire Hunter”, “Hellsing” to name a few.

But what I enjoyed about “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” is how the story is setup to introduce the past of Blade, his relationship with his mother and her friends and his thirst for revenge in getting back at Deacon Frost.  Also, the attention to detail of his swordsmanship.

Instead of going for a bloody, dark vampire anime series, Madhouse Studios made the series accessible by using dark elements but not having to showcase so much violence.  Yes, there are people who die, are bit by vampires and are slayed by Blade and Makoto, but the emphasis is not on gore, the anime series showcase on their abilities to fight.

In the Marvel series, there was a focus of Blade using a variety of weapons, but in the anime series, the focus was more on his swordsmanship.  For example, in the anime, Blade is a master of Yagu Shinkage-ryu, a kenjutsu (Japanese schools of swordsmanship) in which Blade utilizes three secret Yagyu techniques.  The techniques include “The First Blade: Residual Moon”, “The Second Blade: Phantom Moon” and the third technique, “The Third Blade: Chaotic Moon”.

In the special feature included on the DVD, many of the creators weren’t familiar with “Blade” as much as they knew the X-Men, Iron Man and Wolverine and their first exposure was through the Wesley Snipes live action films.  But an importance for both “Blade” and “Wolverine” was tying the stories to Japan.  Wolverine already had a tie in Japanese culture with his relation to Mariko Yashida, for “Blade” it was known that he was fluent in a variety of languages and also had learned many fighting styles.

For the Japanese version, there was an attention to showcasing Japanese swordsmanship.  From the way the character holds the sword and thus showcase Japanese action.  So, in a way, “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” becomes more of a samurai-style of storyline which Kenta Fukasaku wanted to incorporate into the script.

As for the DVD, you get all 12-episodes of “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” and the anime looks great.  You have one of Japan’s top anime studios working on these four Marvel anime series and Madhouse did a wonderful job not only in anime production but the series composition was also well-done.  As with the voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks.

While Blade may not be as well-known in Japan compared to Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, Iron Man to name a few.  Because it does deal with vampire hunting, I’m sure the series definitely introduced anime fans overseas to the character.  While not as violent or bloody compared to other Japanese anime series featuring vampire slaying, it’s still a good story and an interesting take on the Blade character.  In fact, I enjoyed this storyline compared to many of the Blade comic books that I have read.

The anime series goes into detail of Blade’s past but also features good pacing and a very good buildup of its characters leading to the final battle between Blade and Deacon Frost.

Overall, Marvel Comics’ well-known vampire hunter, Blade, gets the anime-style makeover with Japanese sensibility, samurai-action in a modern setting with vampire antagonists that should surely appeal to Marvel Comics and Blade fans (as well as those who enjoy vampire-related storylines).  Action-packed and a thrilling series overall, “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” is recommended!

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