Like a vampire from the crypt, I rise again! To talk about vampires! And ghosts! Blood Lad!
Blood Lad is the story of Staz Charlie Blood, lazy vampire gang leader and owner of the most 90s name in existence.
Staz is the leader of a section of the Demon World, a parallel universe to our own which all supernatural entities call home. Staz occupies his time giving little thought to the management of his realm, instead opting to indulge his obsession with humans – specifically the Japanese, because of course – playing video games, watching anime and dreaming of meeting a real human.
As it turns out, his wish is granted, when Japanese high-schooler Fuyumi Yanagi unexpectedly finds herself in the Demon World. Staz, naturally, is overjoyed, but when an assassin attempts to murder him, accidentally killing Fuyumi in the process, Staz vows to bring Fuyumi – now a ghost demon herself – back to life, mainly so that he can be enthralled by her again. Because let’s face it, ghosts are pretty boring compared to humans, and they wear stupid triangles on their heads.
Thus begins a tale of magic, mystery, sibling rivalry, and over-the-top fanservice the likes of which have… well, actually, all those things have been seen before. A lot. This is anime we’re talking about here.
Though it would be inaccurate to call Blood Lad a totally original series, it has enough personality that it is still very endearing to watch. Staz (played magnificently by Bryce Papenbrook) is lethargic, sarcastic and generally hilarious to watch, and Fuyumi (Xanthe Huynh) is entertaining as the viewer surrogate, reacting to the weird and wonderful events of the series as an outsider would. She’s also one half of the token fanservice team, usually finding herself in skimpy costumes because apparently we’ll lose attention otherwise. Oh, and she needs to keep consuming Staz’s magic-rich blood or she’ll disappear, leading to scenes like this:
But the real strength in Blood Lad lies in the supporting cast. Staz and Fuyumi work as a main pair, but they’re not big contenders for a favourite character. Bell Hydra (Kira Buckland), who can control space and time to a certain degree, is a cheeky laugh riot, even if she does fall into cliché “unrequited love with the protagonist” territory, and some of the most creative moments in the series are directly tied to her. Most notably, she can teleport anywhere as long as she has a frame to pass through – and if she makes one with her fingers, she can spy on anyone from anywhere.
Staz’s relatives are also entertaining. While his brother Braz (Johnny Yong Bosch) is a bit vanilla, delivering most of his dialogue in a bored drawl, sister Liz (Sherry Lynn) is the token adorable character, who forms an instant bond with Fuyumi. The episode focusing on their fledgling friendship is easily one of the best in the series.
Then again, it’s not exactly hard to pick out the good episodes in the series, because there aren’t that many episodes in general. At ten episodes (plus one OVA), Blood Lad‘s length presents its own set of problems. Many characters go undeveloped, like Staz’s rival, Wolf (Ben Diskin), and the bubblegum-blowing demon cop (whose name I can’t even remember, she was in the show so little).
Worse yet, the series has no ending. Seriously, the show ends seemingly out of nowhere leaving several important plot threads hanging, and while the OVA episode begins immediately after the end of episode 10, it still doesn’t resolve any loose ends, and even serves to create more! In fact, the OVA episode ends teasing a fight between two characters, before rolling credits as if to say “Screw you, buy the manga.”
All in all, though, I can’t say that what we did get of Blood Lad was bad. Like a cheap advent calendar chocolate, it satisfies for a short time but leaves you wanting more. Animation studio Brain’s Base clearly put the work in – everything is colourful and flows nicely, and I especially like the scenes where the colours invert for emphasis.
But in the end, it all just feels like an extended advert for the manga, which makes this series incredibly difficult to rate. While I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching Blood Lad, I can’t recommend seeing it without a hefty preface warning: this series is an incomplete story, and will leave you wanting more.
While Blood Lad impresses with its strong visual style and interesting characters, the extremely short ten episode runtime leaves many plot points left unresolved and taints the series with a generally slapdash feel. However, viewers who understand this should be able to enjoy the series for what it is.