Blood Lad is a sadly under-appreciated series, and something of a poster child for what’s wrong with the anime industry these days. It only got 10 episodes from Brains Base, which was just barely enough time to scratch the surface of what the manga has to offer. The adaptation was stylish, clever, beautifully directed and blessed with a fantastic seiyuu cast – but it bombed commercially. I’m not saying this would have been a hit with a full cour, but I think the 10-episode thing curses a show to fail (like Inari Konkon) before it ever airs – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In any event I sure liked Blood Lad – it barely missed my Top 20 and would have made it some years, despite the short run – and the OVA really lacks nothing in comparison to the TV series. In fact it pretty much feels like the unaired 11th episode, as it picks up where the TV left off – with the exception that for me at least, the animation looks better here than it ever did in the TV series. Sadly it also feels like a TV episode because it makes no pretense at having an ending – it literally stops in the middle of a scene, with no acknowledgement that there isn’t going to be anything to follow, presumably.
One of the great strengths of this series was the cast. For a short series it’s amazing just how many characters managed to be important, and they were pretty much all great. Only Staz and Fuyumi from that group appear in the OVA, and normally you’d think that might be a sore point, but because the one-off characters we meet are likewise hilarious the show never misses a beat. That’s “Team Fearless“, a group of vampire hunters chasing a bounty on Staz’ head. They’re an oddball bunch who’s never actually caught a vampire, and they communicate via the ingenious “chat room” – the ability of team member Roi (Ishida Akira). The leader is Siam Kid (Sugiyama Noriyaki) the only one who seems to have any enthusiasm for the task at-hand, and who spends a good deal of his time posing as (or maybe really being) a cat. Also in the gang are samurai Samu (Kirimoto Takuya) and Jasmine (Zougo Shaeko) as well as the silent and bandage-wrapped Rasodo. The Phantom Troupe this ain’t.
You pretty much know the drill if you watched the TV series. Clever visuals, very funny dialogue delivered beautifully, Staz getting attacked, struggling, then figuring it out and stomping the opponent. The joy is in the execution, and while nothing profound Blood Lad is simply a lot of fun to watch. The ongoing issue is Fuyumi’s unsustainably growing dependence on Staz’ blood (which has a distinctly erotic subtext to it, unsurprisingly) but we aren’t going to see that resolved on-screen so there’s not much point in focusing on it until you decide to read the manga. The hijinks of the hapless Fearless are consistently hilarious, and while it’s clear this isn’t one of the tougher opponents Staz has faced, they do manage to at least get his attention.
It’s too bad the production committee didn’t have a bit more belief in Blood Lad and that more people didn’t buy it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a a charming and funny series – yet another jewel in the crown for Brains Base (if only they’d stay away from the Otomate assembly line, but then, those are the shows that pay their bills). I would love to see where this story is headed from here – a lot of great seeds were planted in the TV finale – but it looks as if we’ll have to hope the manga is fully translated one-day if we’re going to see them brought to fruition.