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The modern take on the vampire myth seems to range everywhere from havoc wreaking bloodthirsty ghouls driven insane by their thirst to the opposite end of the spectrum of brooding, ethereally beautiful and desperate for love types. Either way, most derive their conventions from the Bram Stoker sort of conventions, with holy water, crosses, etc being effective weapons against vampires, and human to vampire conversion conveyed by a bite and perhaps an exchange of blood. Well, now for a completely fresh direction: Trinity Blood (aka Toriniti Buraddo). Based upon a manga (graphic novel) written by Sunao Yoshida and illustrated by Thores Shibamoto, this takes the whole supernatural element and renders it cybernetic. Yes, we have seen this idea explored somewhat in other series, notably Hellsing, but these instances are truly superficial, as they rely on the supernatural transformation existing but additionally being imitated artificially by computer chips.
Forget the supernatural completely, this is pure science fiction. Earth's population increased dramatically to near bursting point, and the United Nations decided to support a full on colonisation of mars to ease the burden. Once there, scientists discovered two alien technologies left behind. These were nanomachines made to be injected into living organisms, that once injected would cause physical changes to be made so that the being could live upon Mars unaided. Excited at the prospect of not having to do costly terraforming and being able to literally jab and adapt colonists for immediate immigration, scientists injected the first of the two nanomachines into chosen colonists. This nanomachine, called Bacillus, created permanent biological changes within the colonists. They not only could live upon Mars otherwise unaided, but it gave them unimaginably long lives, and transformed them into beings with great speed, agility, and strength. Oh yes, and one more thing, that really frightened those back on earth: fangs and a secondary thirst for human blood.
Far from merely making small changes to allow mere humans the ability to settle afar, those left behind on earth saw their darkest fears realised as they understood they had unwittingly bio-engineered real "vampires". Not only that, but these "vampires" passed their traits down to their children. And the other nanomachines? Well, the scientists discovered that not ANY human would do for these. No, they had to be biologically superior and able to withstand the very severe changes that the Crusnik nanomachine would create. Not wishing to kill anyone already living for ethical reasons, they decided to inject these into three human embryos and allow them to develop. Named Seth, Abel and Lilith, these children were the only viable specimens who survived this procedure and it was discovered theyw ere even more formidable. A fourth child, Cain, was injected as an adult after an otherwise fatal accident.Their existence was kept secret from the "ordinary" Mars colonists as well, as tensions were already running high thanks to the politcal backlash on Earth to the original Mars colonist transformations. Seeing as the Crusniks were super vampires, there really was no need to rock the boat, right?
Then it happened. Pointing the finger at each other for what was deemed a catastrophic mistake, the nations of Earth began to quibble. The quibbling escalated, and became an all out war that created a near complete devastation of civilisation . Seeing their families back home in dire straits, after 900 years the Mars colonists decided to return home and offer assistance in rebuilding, only to have the entire world decide that it was their fault it had come to this, and a religiously fueled superstitious fear of mythic vampires allowed for a co-hesive attack against the "monsters". Another all out war ensued, this time between humans and the vampires, or Methuselahs as they called themelves. Looking down upon it all from high orbit were the scientists still working on the project that started it all and the Crusnik children. Seth, Cain, and Abel took the side of the Methuselehs, while gentle Lilith sided with the Vatican, which ruled over the surviving humans. It was a sibling disagreement that was to have far reaching historic repercussions as Cain slew his siter Lilith in what seemed to be a moment of rage bordering on insanity. In grief, Abel took his little sister's body to the Vatican, and sat beside her casket in mourning. He wept for 900 years, and as time pased, the clerics were accustomed to his exsitence as a non threat. At the end of the 900 years, after saving the then child Cardinal Sforza from a vampiric assaination attempt, he adopts the position of a travelling cleric within a special organisation (AX) headed by the now adult Cardinal Caterina Sforza, who is also Duchess of Milan.
During the passing millenia, the Terrans as they call themselves, have changed the papacy to a position of not only political and religious significance, but one determined by heredity. Thus, it is passed along family bloodlines, though still by election. Caterina's allegiance is of course to her younger brother Allessandro, a callow youth somewhat easily swayed due to his own inexperience and fear of making a mistake that will doom the human nation. This is a fact often played upon by his older half brother, Francesco di Medici, who is also Duke of Florence, Duke of Tuscany, and a Cardinal. Francesco could not be elected Pope as he was illegitmate, and his desire to prove his faith is evidenced by his fanatical leadership of the Department of Inquistion, which serves to destroy any Methuselah it encounters and deal with any humans who may be aiding them.
Abel's work within Cardinal Sforza's organisation is not quite so blood thirsty, and is indeed his own private penance to his sister for having personally killed 7 million humans during the Methuselah-Terran war. In his normal appearance, he appears quite human and he displays a genial manner. He is the sort of man people warm to immediately. He is a bit of a bumbler, seems a bit vague and slightly eccentric, and never has enough maney on himself, which is quite the hindrance as he loves to eat and so is often seen eking out his last few pennies buying a cup of milky tea with thirteen sugars to try to sustain himself for the last leg of his journey to wherever he is going. His missions as a travelling cleric tend to have more than meets the eye, with him going as Sforza's eyes to assess arising situtaions between the Methusleh who remained on Earth after the war , now living within the part of the world now known as the nation of Byzantium. It is currently a Cold War type of situation, with each side uneasily holding onto peace while doing cloak and dagger politcal manouevers, and each making use of "lost" technologies provided by the remaining world power of Albion.
This balance of poewer is under threat by a terrorist organisation known as the Rosenkreuz Orden (Red Cross Order) that appears to be Methusleh in origin, though they attack Albion, the Terrans and other Methuseleh at will. Whoever they are, they seem to know the secret about Crusniks, as they deliberately design attacks to force Abel to activate his nanomachines to combat their offensive, though usually the operative involved is himself unaware of the power he faces. It is a fearsome thing to behold indeed, as when Abel utters the words that activate his nanomachines to 40% usage, he transforms into a vampire straight of legend: long silver hair blowing without wind, red eyes the colour of blood, and fearsome teeth, along with a scythe of his own crystallised blood. If that was not enough, as he increases the the power percentage of his nanomachines to 80%, he then sprouts black wings, generates electricity to use as a weapon and his nails become claws. Oh yes, and one more thing... to reach this elevated Crusnik state he must feed, but not on human blood, for Crusniks are vampires that only feed on other vampires...feed enough and he can then try for 100%, which is even more fearsome, with even more elecricity at his command while his gains dark skin with blue markings upon it and his wings go from angelic to bat-like and a second blade appears on his blood scythe. This Crusnik state is of course especially dangerous to any Methuseleh or other Crusnik facing off with him, as in this state, he does not even have to bite another vampire to gain their blood. While in Crusnik form, any spilled vampire blood is literally drawn to him and is actually absorbed by his body, feeding the nanomachines that give him this strength. The questions on the minds of the three world powers are just who are the Rosenkreuz and what is their purpose for all this mayhem and why are they so bent on drawing Abel out? Alas, the past that sems so long ago to humans is not dead, as Abel discovers, and it is inded a face off between Cain and Abel with the fate of two species and the planet they live upon hanging in the balance.
Unusually, this tale of vampire and human enmity is not one of horror, though it is often bloody and violent. Nor is it mere science fiction, as a lot of the plot is driven by politcal intrigue and social commentary. I have to dmit I found the notion of a hereditary type Papacy with medieval and Renaissance overtones in a technological society quite intriguing. Religion is present, but it is a vehicle to drive the plot forward with its main purpose being to provide a believable reason for the non acceptance of the Methuseleh. The art greatly supports the retro historic overtones, with the artist prone to large hats and rich fabrics for the high ranking clerics and a wonderful grasp of sumptuous textures. With the beautifully drawn characters, realistically portrayed political structures, and a well thought out approach to the "science" underpinning the plot, this really has both style AND substance.
The soundtrack, barring one jarring incidence, is also very well considered and adds greatly to the mood of the the piece. At the beginning of each of the 24 episodes, we are given a treat: the theme song for the series is the gothic dance tune Dress (Doresu) in a special remix known as the Bloody Trinity Mix is performed by Japanese visual kei artists Buck Tick. During the episodes, we get instrumentals and voice that blend so perfectly into the scenes that the orchestra and choir offerings meld into a single being. That is until the one clanger. I can only shake my head at the tasteles person who decided during a regretfully poignant scene to insert a rather frothy romantic pop song sang by a female artist. It seemed so completely out of place that I wished for it to vanish.. It was a lone moment of madness that I managed to deal with by turning the sound down until it was over, and just looking at the finely drawn and smoothly flowing animation managed to salve my pains quickly enough.
The only other possible complaint one could lodge at the series deals with the ending, which some see as rather open ended, but if one thinks about the story as a whole and considers it, I actually find a fitting conclusion to the story arc as it seems to end one arc and lead into another. There are no further episodes, but it is also a series of books with both manga and light novels (novellas with occasional illustrated pages). There are 12 manga volumes already and it is still ongoing, so consider the anime a taster and then feel free to dive on in and see where the ride takes you. I enjoyed this so much that I have decided to do just that, and am currently awaiting delivery of the fist two volumes.
Presentation of the DVD set is very well done. MVM presents us with clean and crisp prints, with no dulling of the colours and the sound is wonderfully clear. It has stereo sound, so the fight scenes and the attending sound effects play out very well. The compression rate doesn't compromise the over all quality in any way, as this time, MVM decided to spread all 400 minutes of the 24 episodes across a very reasonable six discs.. The main language is of course Japanese, but there is the usual option of watching it with extremely well translated subtitles that are easy to read thanks to a wise choice of font and positioning. For those who prefer to watch their anime dubbed, that too is available from the menu as an option, though I cannot say that I was overly impressed with the voice acting by the cast. This is not a criticism just of this offering, however as I generally find this to eb case with these offerings. This is because the Japanese voice actors (or seiyuu as they are known) appraoch voice over work in a completely different manner. The seiyuu do not "do" voices for characters, but rather lend their voices to the scripts for which the animation is matched to. The effect is much more relaistic and if I had a recognisable point of comparison, I would have to say it is all the difference between listening to a high quality radio dramatisation as opposed to listening to the soundtrack only to a cartoon version of say, Spiderman. The resulting emotional impact therefore differes greatly, so I really do suggest you try to watch it with the subtitles and discover for yourself the skill that gives a great seiyuu the same status as a rock star in Japan.
This box set is the region 2 release so no special equipment settings are needed for playback, but take care if purchasing as there is also a Region 1 import version by Veridian, which while the content is pretty much the same bar a low quality "extra" that isn't (it is just a textless rehash of the opening and ending parts), the compression rate and resulting quality are defintely lower as the episodes are crammed onto only four discs. If you like well conceived science fiction that has a political twist and considers the meaning of what being human really means, then you will no doubt enjoy this. I certainly did, and place this firmly into the top 5 best anime series I have watched so far this year.