First Impressions – Blood Lad

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Let the comparisons begin…

OP: “ViViD” by May’n

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At first – and even second and third – glance, there are a striking number of parallels between Blood Lad and Hataraku Maou-sama.  In addition to a regular guy demon lord as the main character, there’s a machine-gun humor derived from a combination of snappy dialogue and pop culture sight gags, and a story that seems destined to split its time between the human and demon worlds.  We also have Ohsaka Ryouta playing that MC, and more personally, this is another show that was more or less off my radar screen going in that received a lot of support in the season poll and was the subject of considerable positive buzz.

As is usually the case in these situations a closer look shows that the similarities are mostly skin-deep and I certainly don’t think there’s any plagiarism going on here, but rather a shared sensibility and overall theme.  But for the record Blood Lad was created first, if it matters.  And the similarities are a good thing, because like Hataraku, Blood Lad hits the ground running with a very funny and smartly directed premiere.  If the most important link between the two shows is that they end up being the surprise hits on my anime calendar, you certainly won’t get any complaints from me.

Blood Lad (which is reportedly only 10 episodes) represents a welcome return to form for Brains Base. I like it when this studio tackles seinen – Kamisama Dolls being a recent example – they fare well with concepts that have a little bite and sharpness to them.  Oregairu certainly has that, but Blood Lad is a much better-looking show – fittingly for a pop-culture obsessed premise it really has the look of a manga come-to-life, with outrageous character designs and the best use of the Brains Base pastel color palette for a good while.  It seems Ohsaka Ryouta is just about the hottest male seiyuu in the business at the moment, and while overexposure is a concern the fact is that he’s been good-to-great in every appearance so far.  His Staz is a somewhat snarkier and higher-strung character than Sadao Maou – a bit of a perv, certainly an otaku, with a creeper edge that Maou-sama definitely lacks.  Again – the similarities are skin-deep.

Generally speaking the premise seems pretty simple.  Staz is a vampire who longs to be an individual first, and a vampire second – he eats garlic and likes crosses (bot not as much as “Dra-gunball” manga and phone straps and “I Heart Sushi” T-shirts).  When we meet him in fact he’s dressed as a sort of hikikomori trying too hard to be an LA hipster, in a bowling shirt and ratty trousers.  Staz is a territory boss in the demon world who’s obsessed with the human world – specifically Japan (sort of a Haiyore! theme here), so he’s naturally thrilled when Yanagi Fuyumi (Nomizu Iori) shows up out of nowhere with no idea how she got there.  Sadly she gets eaten by a sort of Audrey II plant and turns into a ghost, which somewhat sours Staz’ initial infatuation with her – but he vows to turn her back into a human somehow (though researching it via “Dra-gunball” doesn’t seem too promising).  When Fuyumi remembers how she got to the demon world – via a magic curtain that should have disappeared as soon as its summoner used it – Staz jumps at the chance to go to Japan, even if it means giving up his job as a territory boss.

This is a pretty stock and silly plot (Staz is thrilled at the notion of going to Japan to shop, so just how did he get all his otaku goods in the first place?) but as is so often the case, it’s all in the execution.  Staz is immediately likeable and funny – in a completely different way than Maou.    Fuyumi’s confusion and embarrassment is played very smartly, and the episode is peppered with solid gags and interesting supporting cast members.  My favorite of both was the introduction of the “Cat Third Eye” cafe and its proprietor Mamejirou (a very funny Saitou Chiwa) a magical beast that seems to have some sort of symbiotic connection with a silent humanoid called Saty and acts as a kind of bartender/soothsayer.  We also meet Staz’ loyal second Deku (Komesu Taichi) and the mimic who ends up impersonating Staz so he can leave his territory and visit Japan, Yoshida (Yamamoto Kazutomi).

I hate to revisit the comparison, but it seems very possible Blood Lad could fill the same slot for Summer that Hataraku did for Spring: the well-executed, smart character-comedy that simply delivers the entertainment value without being too flashy about it.  There were no red flags in the premiere for me – the pacing was excellent, the visuals were good, the cast is superb – and while the premise doesn’t seem as interesting as Hataraku’s it feels as if there’s enough here to drive a cour at least (and certainly a 10 episode one).  A viewing of the OP/ED indicates there are several major characters still to be introduced, so we’ve barely gotten started as far as the overall story is concerned.  Sundays are busy this season, but this one looks like a good bet to stick on the blogging schedule.

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ED: “BLOODY HOLIC” by Yuuka Nanri

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  1. r

    I've noticed a lot of people referring to this as a "shounen" or "battle shounen" despite the fact that it doesn't even present itself as one and is in fact a comedy-action series published in a seinen magazine. So good on you for actually making the distinction.

    I decided to blast through all the current manga chapters after I saw the PV for this a few weeks ago. It's now probably my number 1 for the summer season. The manga is just a lot of goofy fun and Staz is great.

  2. I admit that when I first heard of this I guessed it was shounen, but any study at all reveals that it's as seinen as it gets. And seinen anime tend to be winners for me, so that's a good thing.

  3. G

    I enjoyed this 1st episode and will continue watching it.

  4. f

    very glad to see you blogging this. After running through the first week of the new season premieres, I was skeptical as to whether there would be a good one from an otherwise lackluster lineup. My immediate thought while watching this didn't jump immediately to hataraku, but after taking the witty lines and the cleverly placed parody jokes, I can definitely see the resemblance. But hataraku had less outrageous humor, and the story kind of lulled after the first several episodes. With a more compressed episode count and source material available, I have high expectations for blood lad.

  5. i

    I don't really feel Blood lad and Hataraki Maousama are the same, not even on a skin deep level. Stylistically it reminds of those Gurren Lagaan Parallel works and story wise it feels like a comedy version of Soul Eater or Beelzebub or Zombie-loan. Staz maybe an Otaku who likes Japan but Maou-san was more just a fish out of water learning about the intricacies of life in Japan. I expect as Fuyumi is a HS student a take on school life from Staz and a look at Otaku life but not really the RL experience that made Maou-sama great.

    That said if it can be as funny, I don't really care what its similar to.

  6. K

    "Maou-san was more just a fish out of water learning about the intricacies of life in Japan"

    I am not sure if I agree with this as Maou adjusted to life in Japan fairly quickly in the show.

  7. i

    The last episode was about being taken in by a shady scam, that normally no one falls for.

  8. R

    I was curious about why this show got so many votes and therefore checked it out — indeed, it's quite entertaining. I also thought of Hataruka, but it's probably because of the comedic dialogue and Ohsaka Ryouta. Man, I really like his acting — he's so full of energy and quirks bringing the character from scripts to life. I think the idea of a vampire-turn-otaku is executed well here — it's actually quite funny. However, I am not intrigued by the female lead yet — she's more like a cardboard female figure with big boobs walking around. I may be a bit skeptical, but I do hope that the show will change my impression in the coming episodes.

  9. S

    I don't know why I can't like this first episode. It just rubbed me all wrong but none of the content was different from anything else. I really hope other people enjoy it. It is a popular manga series and it deserves its right for an anime.

  10. M

    I wasn't that hot on the episode either. Something about the the MC being an Otaku and the ham-fisted references induced eyerolling. The rest felt like it was trying too hard. The animation looked pretty shoddy by BB's usual standards too. Like a cheaper version of Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera thrown in a blender with Hataraku-Maou and Soul Eater. I did get a GTA/No More Heroes vibe from Staz's pad though. Good OP/ED.

  11. N

    But…the anime is like combined. the 8th episode is another story. they did not even finish the last part of blood lad. (not revealing what happened if you haven't watched it yet.) blood lad is supposed to be about a vampire but then episode 8 comes out and its about some girls in high(?) school. its so fustrating cause its like a cliff hanger.

  12. N

    *on where i watch blood lad
    it might be different on yours…i hope so…

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