I figured going in that it was a mistake to watch Blood Lad later in the same day as the most recent episode of Uchouten Kazoku, which was so brilliant and profound that it pretty much left me bled dry of emotion. It seems as if a much more modestly-aspiring show like this would naturally pale in comparison, but in hindsight Blood Lad was actually the perfect choice for a follow-up. In the first place almost anything was going to pale in comparison to that Uchouten ep, but Blood Lad is so unpretentious and content to be exactly what it is and do a damn good job of it that it was the perfect complement.
I’ve said from the beginning that Blood Lad wasn’t quite in the same class as Hataraku Maou-sama, the show I originally compared it to, and while that’s probably still the case I have to give this show its due. Unlike Hataraku this series has consistently gotten better week after week, and seems poised to end with the best run of episodes in the entire series. The plot gets bigger and bigger without being a jumble, more and more characters are introduced without resorting to bland archetypes or losing touch with the cast that’s already in place, and the whole experience is a ridiculous amount of fun. There’s great imagination in place here – a fully-realized fantasy world that’s a funhouse-mirror reflection of our own, every nook and cranny imbued with a good deal of sardonic wit.
There was certainly a full-on explosion of development this week, both in terms of plot and new characters. There’s Beros (Asano Masumi) the cop from Demon Acropolis who uses Liz’ arrival to get at Braz, who she needs to arrest him under the orders of the King, Wolf Daddy (he’s going to be played by Wakamoto Norio). It’s certainly not hard to imagine a connection between Wolf Daddy and Wolf Boy, but that’s a matter left for another day, at least for now. Meanwhile, Fuyumi’s kidnapper has been revealed to be Hydra Knell, none other than the younger brother of Bell, who seems not to have been in on Fuyumi’s kidnapping. In fact that appears to have been ordered by their mother, Neyn, played by yet another huge name in Mitsushi Kotono (Misato Katsuragi herself) who even Hydra is afraid of. And then there’s Snowman (Tsubayaki Shiro) the boss of South Demon World, who tips Staz off to Knell’s identity. I love the fact that South Demon World is a riff on Miami Beach, just as West Demon World had a Wild West feel to it – it just adds to the wry atmosphere that pervades this show.
Much of the episode, though, is built around the confrontation between Bell and Staz. It’s certainly no surprise that Bell is in love with him, but we saw quite a different side to her as she dealt with that. His obsession with Fuyumi understandably rubs her the wrong way, especially when he dismisses her as a treasure hunter while Fuyumi is a one-of-a-kind collectible. And there’s the simple, practical matter that she isn’t going to sell out her brother, which leads to a duel with Staz she would likely have pushed for anyway. It’s both sad and quite funny (and brilliantly drawn, with a ton of clever wit), especially when she has to surrender her nether clothing (including usagi panties) to escape Staz’ magical trap. I’ve said for a while that these two have much more chemistry than Staz and Fuyumi, and it’s really on display here – they’re awesome to watch going at it. Their interplay is hilarious but Bell’s dismay over Staz’ lack of feelings for her – and the notion that he might become aware of hers for him – is quite genuine and even emotionally powerful.
The only downside to all this, really, is that we only have two episodes left in this ridiculously short 10-episode run. As the cast and story expand without losing a step it becomes clearer and clearer that Blood Lad could easily support two cours or more, never more one full cour – and it’s not even getting that. What a shame – there’s no way all these loose threads can be tied up in a satisfactory way in two episodes, and the 10-episode commitment (or lack thereof) exposes a pretty strong belief on the part of the production committee that the show isn’t going to be a hit on Blu-ray and DVD (and in fact, by only greenlighting 10 eps they effectively create a self-fulfilling prophecy by sending that very message to potential buyers). One need only look at all the terrific characters who didn’t even make the screen this week and the fact that it was a stellar episode in spite of that to realize just how much potential Blood Lad is going to leave unfulfilled. It’s certainly a common story in today’s anime environment, but no less frustrating for all that.