Trinity Blood: Chapter 1

Trinity Blood: Chapter 1 (2005)
FUNimation Entertainment
Extras: Historical Artifacts, Textless Songs, Trailers

Vampire lore has inspired countless stories, novels, films and TV series through the ages, maintaining an undying fascination for curious aficionados. The mythical creatures have indeed acquired immortality through their constant reinvention and adaptability to changing times. In the gothic anime series "Trinity Blood," vampires are still going strong even as the human race dies out. Based on a novel by Sunao Yoshida, the series pits humans against the evil forces of the dark in a post-apocalyptic world where mankind must rue the consequences of its destructive ways. The first four horror-filled episodes have been brought to DVD by FUNimation Entertainment.

Centuries after the Earth is ravaged by international war, a race of vampires emerges from the darkness to take what little power humanity still holds. That power is in the delicate hands of a child Pope, who rules from the Vatican with the assistance of his elder brother and sister, both of whom have ulterior motives. Traveling the world in religious service is Father Abel Nightroad, a humble, bespectacled man who faithfully represents the Vatican.

What His Holiness is unaware of is that Nightroad is not human at all, but a crusnik—a creature of super strength that feeds off of vampires. Nightroad is actually the chief agent for a secret group called AX, headed by the Pope's sister, Cardinal Caterina. Their mission is to discover the means by which to destroy the vampire race once and for all and restore peace to humanity. What keeps them from achieving their goal is the lack of unity among the human race, which is divided into small sects each holding different remnants of past knowledge that are vital in overpowering the vampires.

Featuring a clever blend of traditional animation, live action and computer effects, "Trinity Blood" is a feast for the eyes. The bleak society depicted bears an overriding feeling of despair and hopelessness. Although there is some occasional humor, this is a generally somber program. There are some terrific action scenes throughout, but the main attraction here is the dense storyline and unwinding mystery that suck viewers in and keep them lingering for the next episode.

FUNimation presents the first four episodes on one disc. They are "Flight Night," "Witch Hunt," "The Star of Sorrow I: City of Blood," and "The Star of Sorrow II: Hunter's Banquet." The story is serialized and must be seen from the beginning to make any sense. However, I cannot conceive of one reason why anyone would want to skip a single moment.

The show's 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio is preserved in an anamorphic transfer. Overall, the picture is free of blemishes and artifacts. Occasional bright colors pop out through a generally muted color palette that is served well. Some scenes are a little soft, but this is most likely intentional and typical of anime series. Black levels are good, with excellent contrast, most evident during the pivotal opening scenes of episode 1. FUNimation has really done a fine job presenting the splendor of this series.

Three available audio tracks include a Dolby Digital 5.1 English Surround track, an English stereo track, and the original Japanese in stereo. Naturally, the 5.1 track is the best, with a marvelous mix of sound effects, music and dialogue. Action scenes are greatly enhanced, with the sharp audio flying around on all sides with great precision. You can almost feel the explosions of the opening scenes. Voices are warm and natural, and the English dub is pleasantly tolerable. The English stereo track is good, for what it is, with surprisingly dynamic surround quality and aggressive action sequences. Unfortunately, the Japanese track does not fare nearly as well, which is quite a disappointment for language purists. The sound effects are curiously subdued, while voices lack the clarity of the English tracks. English subtitles are provided for the Japanese track.

First up on the bonus features are a gallery of Historical Artifacts. They are basically brief write-ups for the many historical and biblical references made throughout the episodes, adding to our appreciation of the writing.

Next we come to something I always look forward to on anime series DVDs—textless versions of the opening and closing sequences. The beautiful artwork and evocative music make for a great after-viewing treat, especially for a series as dark as "Trinity Blood."

The disc is wrapped up by a gallery of trailers for this and other FUNimation titles.

Incidentally, this series is also available in a limited edition "Chapter 1 Starter Set," which comes in a large box to hold future chapters and contains four tarot cards.

"Trinity Blood" continues the long line of blood-soaked legends of vampires, offering a stylish twist and some intriguing commentary on human behavior. The heavily dramatic material is accentuated by violent action and sleek animation. The gothic atmosphere makes this ideal for fans of traditional vampire lore while anime enthusiasts should take to the energy and complex storyline. This series is off to a promising start that will hopefully lead to a long-lasting run.