There’s just no two ways about it – Blood Lad is good. Really good. It connects all the dots: it’s funny, the plot is clever and coherent, the world-building excellent. It’s blessed with a superb cast, directed with wit and creativity and of late, even the animation has been very good. Best of all it possesses one of the most likeable and entertaining casts of any show this year, and it gets bigger every week. So why in the world is it ending almost a month before any other series?
A popular sentiment around the discussion of Blood Lad lately seems to be “whoever decided this was only 10 eps is an idiot”, and it’s one that’s hard to disagree with. I harken back to Seinfeld, though, and I remember that when the pilot aired, no one at NBC wanted to give the show a second thought and were ready to write it off. There was only one guy (Rick Ludwin was his name, as it happens) who wanted to see it become a series, so in an unheard-of move he diverted some of his own budget (he was in a different department) to fund a four-episode run – a ridiculously short commitment for any TV series – which led to the series striking a nerve with the public and getting a full-season run. I wonder if Blood Lad was a property no Production Committee wanted to fund, and there was some mid-boss who nagged and persuaded with such patience that he finally dragged a 10-episode budget out of one just to shut him up.
Sadly, in this instance is appears the suits were right, and Blood Lad – like most really good anime – isn’t going to sell very well. And therefore, it’s pretty safe to assume next week’s finale is going to be the finale. That sucks, but at least it seems as if the anime staff have laid out this adaptation with note-perfect pacing – every ep has been a self-contained success that drives the story forward, and we’re set for a bang-up conclusion. Things are happening on several fronts, one of them the introduction of the Demon King Wolf Daddy (who has exquisite taste in wine – Romanee-Conti). It goes without saying that Norio Wakamoto rocks it hard here, and his scene on the driving range with Kimura Ryouhei’s Braz is pure seiyuu bliss. Braz is the King when it comes to ulterior motives, and his plan all along has been to use Akim to create the being that will replace Wolf Daddy on the throne – revenge, it seems, for Wolf Daddy having killed Braz’ father to take the throne himself.
Along the way, we also meet Goyle (yet another hilarious performance, this one from Kishio Daisuke), Beros’ boss and the head of the Palace Guard. Goyle is a megane otaku (the megane koohi kappu really should be available for sale) just like Braz, and while they share a bonding moment over their eyewear the two are fated to be enemies, and it’s Goyle who pursues Braz after he cleverly tricks Beros and escapes back to Demon Acropolis. Meanwhile, Hydra has taken Staz back to her home in pursuit of Fuyumi, with a plan in place to trick her mother (though there are plenty of ulterior motives her too) in pretending to be madly in love with Staz. Mom, as mentioned here last week, is played by the great Mitsuishi Kotono and she delivers the goods here. She also delivers a major bombshell – she and Fuyumi’s mother are doppelgängers, and because of a chance meeting at an okonomiyaki place in the human world they’ve merged into one being. How all this doppelgänger stuff works is a bit of a mystery, but for certain Neyn doesn’t want to give up Fuyumi now that she has her back.
All of this is brought off with great with and style – stuff like Goyle’s “Angry” magic with its trademark “Yah!” (which he creates by barfing fire – loudly) and Braz’ cute little blood grim reapers and ice cream cones – and the delivery by the cast is top-notch. I’ll say again that it’s remarkable we’ve had so much happen in nine episodes with so many characters, yet things don’t feel at all rushed or remotely confusing. Despite all the threads it’s very clear what’s happening on all fronts, and the fact that it’s so easy to keep all the names and faces straight is testament to just how distinct the characters are, even the secondary ones. Blood Lad is just really good, straightforward anime, plain and simple – inventive and smart and cleverly genre-referential without being precious about it. I wish we had more shows like it, and I wish the ones we had were more commercially successful – that they aren’t, I suppose, is the reason we don’t have more of them. Most of the anime that really rake in the yen seem to either insult the intelligence of the audience or engage in pretentious pseudo-intellectualism – sadly, Blood Lad lies squarely the space in between, which is mostly a commercial wasteland.