Blood-C Ep. 9: “The end is close.”


But seriously, I’m not going to approach this week’s episode of Blood-C with my usual attitude of incredulity, i.e. “Why is this so bad?” Instead, let me lay down some real talk (I’ve been listening to too much radio) and explain what I find to be Blood-C‘s biggest failure. No, it won’t be about how boring the anime is or how slow the anime is. There are plenty of slow films and series out there that are nevertheless masterpieces. To simply call Blood-C boring doesn’t get us anywhere either. Why do we find it so boring?

A story’s point of reference
In almost all of these strange and crazy stories, there’s always one guy or gal who is willing to question the fantastic. Take Han Solo, for example. He’s the everyday man trying to make a buck in the galaxy. We can identify with that. And when Obi-wan Kenobi starts talking about the Force and all this hocus pocus, Han Solo is like, “C’mon, man, I’ve been all across the universe and I’ve never ever seen anything like the Force. All I need is my trusty blaster.” He’s the character that counterbalances the fantasy in the original Star Wars movies. Sometimes, if a character takes a step back and questions the reality of which he or she exists in, the audience doesn’t feel so lost and disconnected from the story. If you’ve seen the Star Wars prequels, try to identify the analogous character to Han Solo. You’re not going to find one and that is why those movies (among other reasons) are horrible.

From Mawaru Penguindrum

Now in anime, the medium reflects a different culture but the general idea is the same. In Mawaru Penguindrum, we have Himari who is completely oblivious to what’s going on around her. We have Ringo who is obviously insane. As for Kanba, he’s not hesitant to break the law, delve into the underbelly of society to procure some money, etc. He’s not really one of us. He’s someone we might want to be, but suppose we are in the characters’ shoes, who would most of us be? Our Han Solo character — believe or not — is Shouma. We may think he’s a little wimpy and uncool compared to Kanba, but Shouma is the character in Mawaru Penguindrum that most reflects the show’s audience. When we’re thinking, “Aw hell, Ringo, don’t rape your sensei,” Shouma goes and stops the crazy girl from carrying out her plans. When Kanba is like, “Yeah, let’s just break and enter someone else’s home,” Shouma, i.e. the audience, is the one who has qualms about transgressing society’s rules.

Now, I’m not saying that all of us are Shouma or want to be like Shouma. I’m not saying that most of us even respects the guy. But he’s clearly the most realistic character in an anime where crazy stuff happens all the time. And how many of us are space-faring smugglers like Han Solo? But he’s also the most “real” of the Star Wars characters. Now, here’s the problem: who is that character in Blood-C? Who sits back and asks, “What the hell is going on?” It can’t be Saya; she’s the clueless farm boy shrine maiden who fights the Empire Elder Bairns. It can’t be any of her classmates since they’ve all been slaughtered like pigs. The dog? He’s from another damn dimension for Christ’s sake! Tokizane? He would be the most likely candidate, but he’s rarely ever onscreen.

Where is Blood-C‘s Han Solo?
As a result, there’s no one in Blood-C to serve as an intermediary between the audience and the fantasy onscreen. There’s no one who embodies the audience’s curiosity for answers.

  • Why are the classmates not running away?
  • Why do the run up to the roof?
  • What is in those guimauve that the cafe owner keeps feeding Saya?
  • What are the Elder Bairns talking about?
  • Why is Saya’s “dad” so ineffectual?
  • Why does the town feel so empty?
  • What is an Elder Bairn?
  • Why are they even called Elder Bairn?

No one asks any of these questions in the anime. Tokizane questions Saya a few times, but he’s been in less than half of the series’ current episodes. Anyone else? Maybe Saya, but now you have a single character attempting to fulfill two conflicting roles. She’s supposed to be clueless and yet simultaneously curious. She’s supposed to be an innocent-minded, demon-slaying shrine maiden and yet a real character all at the same time. As a result, Saya doesn’t often ask the questions that we, the audience, are asking. And when she does get around to asking those questions, she is often very late in doing so. For instance, we asked last week, “Why is the school so empty? Why is only Saya’s class in session?” By the time Saya catches up to the audience’s thought process, an entire week will have passed. Now, if Saya’s thought process doesn’t align with how the audience is thinking once or twice, it’s no big deal, but this has regularly occurred since the anime started.

So there exists this disconnect — this gulf — between the story’s characters and the audience. For some people, they can get beyond this chasm and enjoy the anime anyway. I can’t and I suspect there are a lot of people who are in my boat. The biggest gulf, of course, is that the audience has known that something was off about Saya, the village — everything — for weeks now and we are only now nearing some answers. If people don’t find this to be frustrating, they are very, very patient.

Everything else
• When the dog starts questioning Saya’s identity and such, the anime cuts to an empty glass that had previously been filled with guimauve.

You just start to wonder how short this anime could be if Saya didn’t eat whatever people handed her.

• Someone smeared Vaseline on my screen:

Either that or Production I.G. is rendering this anime on the Nintendo 64.

• The rule of the game is fight or flight. I can’t understand why everyone tried to run away from the danger one-by-one instead of all trying to scatter at once. Oh wait, yeah I do. Gotta make it easy for the monster to kill them. Still, it just feels so dumb.

• I don’t understand how Saya’s weapon can strike this episode’s Elder Bairn and constantly make metallic sounds, but blood nevertheless sprays indiscriminately from the monster. It really does sound like someone’s banging on pots and pans.

Then when Saya gets mad, all of a sudden, her blade can cut through the monster like butter. Does her weapon’s sharpness depend on Saya’s mood or something?

• When the Elder Bairns do talk, I really wish it was in an indiscernible language and the anime would give us subtitles or something. Something just takes away from the tension of a fight scene when a toy-like monster starts talking in a human voice.

• The Elder Bairn seemed to wonder why Saya would actually be mad about her classmates dying.

Are her classmates not human either? Are they evil? Should Saya hate them?

17 thoughts on “Blood-C Ep. 9: “The end is close.”

  1. Mira

    Blood-C is kind of painful to watch now. I don’t find it boring anymore but I question the show’s purpose and whether it’s necessary to drag it this much.

      1. Mira

        Only hardcore fans of CLAMP will probably enjoy Blood-C now. I admittedly like CLAMP and I think there are a few shows this summer I dislike more so than Blood-C but this show has pretty much hard to salvage from this point onwards.

        1. E Minor Post author

          For some reason, the whole thing just doesn’t feel very CLAMP-ish to me. I guess I’m not exactly a CLAMP expert, but other than the gratuitous insertion of an xxxHolic character, what makes this anime particularly CLAMP-like? After all, xxxHolic was actually somewhat interesting to watch.

  2. Naota

    I think this is an observation that holds true most of the time, especially to underline things that are supposed to be out of the ordinary in an otherwise fictional setting. After all, how else is the audience supposed to know what is or isn’t normal or socially acceptable when they have no frame of reference? Even if we personally know the time and place of the setting, someone to ask these questions and react in these ways lets us know that it’s still the other characters doing peculiar things.

    If not as a supporting character then this comes from the faceless masses and side characters, other times it may even be the villains (say, in the case of a roguish main character on the run from the authorities).

    Is an audience-insert character is strictly always necessary, however? What’s your opinion on things like, let’s say… Sweeney Todd, where a moral compass is nowhere to be found, yet the resultant black comedy is (arguably, of course) carried across perfectly well regardless?

    1. Naota

      (For lack of an edit function, allow me to append the last question that was cut off)
      Does the eponymous Mr. Todd represent what may be the the viewer’s reaction to an ostensibly corrupt and evil world, or is the premise itself devoid of a stand-in for the viewer because it is, by its own admission, ugly, objectionable, and morally ambiguous?

      1. E Minor Post author

        Is an audience-insert character is strictly always necessary

        Looking over my post, I wrote:

        In almost all of these strange and crazy stories, there’s always one guy or gal who is willing to question the fantastic.

        I was being sloppy in using two rather conflicting terms, i.e. ‘almost’ and ‘always.’ What I mean to say is that most of these successful stories will often have someone the audience can identify with. So no, I don’t think it is always necessary to have what you would call an audience-insert character. I just think it helps to bridge the gap between our normal human experiences and the stories we see onscreen. And if we’re not going to have such a character, then the story better be captivatingly outrageous. I think your example of Sweeney Todd is that sort of fantastically arresting tale that even if we can’t really relate to any of the characters onscreen, we are nevertheless unable to tear our eyes away. I think you answered your own question, honestly: the world is so “ugly, objectionable, and morally ambiguous” that when we watch Sweeney Todd, we’re actually reveling in exploring something so different from ours.

        Now, I think the same can’t be said about Blood-C because it just isn’t out there enough to grab most people’s attention. The anime’s universe is honestly not that weird as far as storytelling goes. Even if I can’t relate to Sweeney Todd‘s universe, I can’t look away. On the other hand, I can easily look away from Blood-C. There needs to be something that bridges the gap between the anime and the audience — something human that I can relate to — and I don’t really see it. Saya’s purpose in the show is to be slightly “off-human,” after all, and there’s no one to counterbalance her child-like behavior.

        1. Naota

          I think that lack of weirdness is possibly the worst part of the series. It could easily have been a compelling pseudo-Lovecraftian premise, what with the sleepy, isolated mountain town that’s just a little too nice for its own good, but it simply lacks the atmosphere, pacing, and perspective. Higurashi did much more compelling things with the same idea.

          If the point is that Saya is living in a constructed, artificial town that is not what it seems, making her complacent, obedient, and childish sinks the whole idea. She should have grasped the same feeling as the viewers and been investigating why the whole town feels so wrong, maybe chasing some elusive crack in the facade (the dog) or trying to run away (assuming this place is not real, can she?) to test its boundaries.

          On the other hand, if Saya’s perspective is less important, I think Blood could have done with exactly what you describe: an outsider who finds the town just as peculiar as we do and gives us perspective for Saya’s actions (or lack thereof). Perhaps we could follow this person between scenes rather than having the fact that Saya’s everyday life, sans-Bairn attack, is distressingly boring drilled into our heads for the umpteenth time?

          It’s telling that I spend more time trying to fathom what purpose all of the torpid drudgery of the first 4-6 episodes served than I do actually paying attention to the “slice of life” segments when they occur. Somehow even The Beast of Yucca Flats was less vacuous!

          1. E Minor Post author

            Higurashi did much more compelling things with the same idea.

            I feel as though Higurashi’s greatest strength was its ability to “reset” the story. This way, you kept seeing the characters break down over and over as the series progressed. Since Blood-C is one continuous story, we can’t have Saya break down after just three episodes when there are ten or so left to go. Unfortunately, the writers can’t seem to prolong the story and maintain a captivating momentum at the same time.

            She should have grasped the same feeling as the viewers

            I agree. We should feel as if the characters are moving though the plot along with us. When Saya drags her feet this much, it just makes us lose respect for the character.

  3. Mira

    I can’t claim myself to be a CLAMP expert but Saya is very much like their ‘pure-hearted’ leads and the characters from Saya’s school are very CLAMP-ish to me except they don’t have any real motivations or interesting quirks. Even the Tokizane and Saya pair is very typical of CLAMP’s main couples. The excessive blood use is reminiscent of CLAMP’s X/1999 too.

    The story itself, isn’t very CLAMP at first glance. But it does make use of wishes, dreams and alternate dimensions which is a prominent theme in all CLAMP works. If Watanuki is in Blood-C, I’ll assume that this Watanuki is the one in xxxHolic Rou, so now he’s the one running the shop and granting wishes instead of Yuuko. If he’s in the form of a dog, then I think he did this by travelling inside someone’s dream or something because Watanuki cannot leave the shop.

    In short, it’s CLAMP using their crossover universe thing to make things as convoluted as possible. That’s never a good thing.

    I have a recent theory that this isn’t even happening in the real world and is taking place in a dream where one of the conditions is that Saya must be able to protect everyone (or anyone– because her saving count is like 1) if she wants to ‘wake up’. This could tie in as to the possibility that Saya loathed humans, but Fumito and Saya made a deal that Fumito could override those emotions of hate with love so she can go back to slaying Chiroptera in the real world and protecting humans. I don’t know if the grimauve does anything, but it could be part of the conditions to suppress Saya’s real memories and for all I know everyone’s actually inside the dream ala Inception. Which sucks for Saya’s classmates because who knows how many times they’ve died haha. So now she’s repeating what could be her made up background story in this dream simulation and finds a anomaly– she doesn’t know who her mother is.

    And yet, even if there is some amazing twist backing up Blood-C I can’t see the point of dragging it this long unless, yeah– it’s an advertisement. A frustrating one.

    1. E Minor Post author

      I guess I didn’t look at it from a character standpoint. I just feel as though the plot-wise, Blood-C is rather uniquely horrible.

      the theory

      Of course, if it is a dream, then it’s really horrible because none of the characters are worth giving one damn about. I mean, if I had been emotionally invested in, say, Saya’s friends, became sad when they died, only to then find out that — surprise! — it’s all fake, well, that’s just bad storytelling. And if this is some sort of trick to get Saya to overcome her loathing of human, I guess I wonder why one of the flashbacks required Saya to be in chains. I mean, is this happening against her will?

      or anyone– because her saving count is like 1

      And that’s the thing. She does show the desire to protect people. Sometimes she seemingly fails because she just sits on her, but she has saved one person. So if it’s a numbers thing, it would be really strange to me because it isn’t as if she has consistently failed to save people due to a lack of desire. Sometimes, the people she’s trying to save are just really goddamn stupid and get themselves killed anyway when she’s given them a chance to live. For example, almost everyone in this episode.

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