An Anime Review – TRINITY BLOOD

How do I talk about TRINITY BLOOD (TB)?   I can say that the credits are gorgeous, the credit music (especially the ending) worth hearing, and the artwork elegant. This is one of those “end of the world” “And then came…” tales, at least at the beginning. Three forms of humans have survived. We have those who think of themselves as humans, called Terrans; we have the long-lived Methuselahs, “evolved humans”, who are vampires that do not need to feed on humans, but the amoral ones still enjoy the slaughter – and we have still a third form of humans, the Crusniks – people who prey on vampires. They all look like the same species until they get mad – then, you end up knowing what you’re facing.

(Minor spoiler alert – something in the first episode that won’t spoil the story, if you watch the opening credits.  If you want to be really surprised, stop reading and when seeing the first disk jump to the first episode itself.)

The Terrans mostly hate and fear Methuselahs, who view Terrans with contempt.  Most “people” do not know about the third small group, the Crusniks, which is convenient since a Crusnik is trying to help out the Terrans. Add a “Vatican” as a major player in the undeclared war, currently using both intelligence-gathering and inquisition to control Terrans and Methuselahs, and you’ve got a lot starting up here.  We also see an intriguing group of fighters for the Vatican (AX) – nominally priests and nuns but not like any you’ve met – and they seem to have limited, if extremely powerful and useful genetic modifications.  Whether these changes were intentional or nature-derived, and whether these priests are all Terrans or come from the Mars Force attempting (sub rosa) to keep the peace on Earth, we are not told.

The Vatican is not the only major player.  The tripod of power includes the eastern Empire, where Methuselahs live and reign, and Albion, the island kingdom that so fears Methuselahs the queen of Albion must hide the vampire families from most citizens.  Albion is acknowledged as a leader in using “lost technology” I.E. pre-Armageddon/Mars Colony knowledge, and is important to the balance of the current world order.

Two important things to know about this series:  The first is that the anime, the manga, and the actual Japanese novels have parallels and overlaps, but they are at some points radically different in how they tell and arrange the stories. Important minor characters in one mode may not even appear in other modes, and major characters may show up early just to try and explain why they’re so important later. The drawing was done by a different artist in each medium, although I believe the anime artists went for the style of the original creator.  The second thing is that the creator died in 2004, his complete, planned series cut short. A friend of the author continued some plot elements, and then there are all the story variants.

The story line attempts to blend fantastical action (and the artwork is phenomenal) with political intrigue and a “fall and redemption of mankind” thread that weaves slowly but steadily through the full package of TB.  Major reoccurring characters include Father Abel Nightroad (who is a Crusnik, but you find it out in the first episode, so we’re mentioning it); Sister Esther Blanchett, the “Star of Hope”; the cardinal and duchess Caterina Sforza, head of AX; the treacherous Dietrich, who plays all sides against each other, and many other characters, including Nightroad’s siblings, several Terrans and Methuselahs who desire peace between Terrans and Methuselahs, and a human-looking robot priest named Father Tres who at times shows the ability to make decisions and judgments based on his own initiative.  We also see members of AX, the Vatican’s secret spies and troubleshooters.  They are in an undeclared war with Rosenkruz, a terrorist group advancing a “new order” by attempting to destroy the current nodes of civilization.  This is a plot by the Contra Mundi, the Enemy of the World, and foiling its many attempts is what our small band of heroes sets out to achieve.

There are several good synopses of the TRINITY BLOOD series posted on the Internet, so we’ll leave the rambling plot here.  But several things about the anime are interesting to me not only as a new anime fan, but as a writer who might one day see my works converted into another form.  Fans constantly comment on the seeming schizophrenia of Father Abel, because he takes on the Crusnik form and kills vampires whenever things get black, and then agonizes over it and says he won’t kill again.  This decision thrills Rosenkreuz, since without the vampire blood as fuel, the nanotechnology that allows the crusniks to exist will respond feebly at best.  Also, Sister Esther seems to flip from assassin to pacifist and back to AX spy and enforcer, but in several episodes she does a lot of screaming and little else.

I wish to suggest that these fans are not thinking through what transition from one medium to another can mean.  TRINITY BLOOD suffers from massive compression and compartmentalization.  The anime designers first created a smorgasbord of story offerings in the first few episodes, which in some ways can stand alone, and then other episodes that need to stand on certain continuing plot elements to make sense.  They also tried to have a character other than Father Abel that traveled through the rise of Rosenkreuz.  (Cardinal Caterina is there from Abel Nightroad’s decision to aid the Terrans, but she seems passive compared to most anime heroes and heroines.  She is a strategist, neither assassin nor spy – but she has many trained in those skills who work for her.)

Sister Esther is all over the map mainly because she doesn’t belong in many of these chapters/episodes.  In the Japanese light novels where the story originated, Esther is in the second six-book series, and has nothing to do with many chapters/episodes where the anime designers inserted her just to make sure she didn’t appear to pop in out of nowhere.  Of course, squashing two six-book series into one season of anime was bound to make the characters a bit stiff and cartoonish (as opposed to individuals who grow throughout the series).  Without reading the novels, or even the manga from the novels, we see her competence and then bipolar behavior as ridiculous instead of seeing the hidden heir the world awaits that was her initial place in the story.

The same cut and paste techniques are used with Father Nightroad.  Abel is not being schizophrenic about killing.  In his dark past centuries before AX existed, he killed more humans than can easily be imagined.  He often travels alone, with nothing more than his wits, a service pistol and of course the Crusnik nanotechnology in his DNA.  The Methuselahs are also a part of his heritage, and he has no desire to injure any more of them than necessary.  He’s reached the point where he abhors killing, and is constantly agonizing over decisions he might once have made swiftly and flawlessly.  He’s learned to think of those who kill randomly as sinners, and he is perfectly willing to kill them and then pray for their souls.  His other form now seems to him to be a curse.  But through all this flip-flopping, there is a note of consistency.  Father Abel learns at a crucial point that he must have access to the Crusnik powers, no matter what the morality of using them may be, and once again is willing to absorb the blood of killer vampires to fuel the technology that makes him a super-vampire.  His enemies make this easier for him by killing their own people, turning them into a mindless yet powerful army.  Father Abel does not hesitate to kill these puppets – in reality, they died long ago.  He is merely taking what remains of the husks of Methuselahs.

And one important, unstated part of the anime — Terrans are outnumbered by humans 2.0 and have less technology than the vampires from Mars.  We don’t see all the engagements being fought across the world.  We’re following a single near immortal who believes he must redeem himself in the eyes of the Universe and his god.  Father Abel often uses the Crusnik technology to mop up enemies flushed out during the stories.  Very few know of his Crusnik side, even among the Terrans, and the vampires seem to have no memory of such a thing.  His destruction of select Methuselahs must remain secret.  One way the leaders of Rosenkruz reveal their contempt for the vampires who choose to help them is that they do not warn the Methuselahs that Crusniks exist.

So, the bottom line is, TRINITY BLOOD is flawed, and doesn’t quite reach the storytelling strengths it might have originally hoped for, but even with the plot compression, it’s interesting and I wanted to know how it turned out.  I have watched TB more than once, attesting to its beauty and interesting weave of thematic elements.  I’d call this PG-13, because there is a lot of blood, and the crusniks are even more frightening than the vampires.  Children who have trouble seeing that something that looks completely human can abruptly become alien and dangerous will probably have nightmares from this anime.  So make them wait!

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About Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Cat Kimbriel is working on a a contemporary fantasy about curses, ecological change, and very different ways of looking at the twilight worlds. She's still working on a short Nuala piece and mulling over a new Alfreda novel. You can find her fantasy & science fiction, including free samples, at her Book View Café bookshelf. These books can also be found at major online booksellers. Her personal blog is here, and you will find her on whatever social media currently interests her. Cat builds worlds that contain compassion and justice -- come join the journey.

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