With a slice of heritage spanning over a decade and derived from a well-known franchise that has garnered attention in both animated and live-action forms, character designs provided by infamous manga creators CLAMP and production duties handled by Production I.G, it isn't difficult to see why people have been getting more than a little excited about Blood-C as it rose to the head of a list of high-profile titles for the summer anime season. The trouble with assembling such major talents and putting them to work on a hot title means that expectations quickly soar through the stratosphere, and against such expectations we can't really pretend that these early episode of Blood-C have managed to live up to what was expected of it by fans.
However, we're getting ahead of ourselves, so first a little on the series itself. Blood-C's story is primarily told through the eyes of Saya Kisaragi, a shrine maiden with a relentlessly cheerful disposition despite her frequent bouts of clumsiness. By day, Saya is every inch your typical schoolgirl - always happy to take time out for some snacks or a delicious lunch, easily distracted by cute animals on her walk to her school, and generally the darling of her class with plenty of people around her she can call friends. What these classmates don't know is that Saya lives a double life, and at night she prowls her quiet hometown under the behest and guidance of her father, on the hunt for so-called "Elder Bairns", a variety of monstrous creatures that seem to be dead set upon disturbing the peace for whatever reason.
Much like Saya's life, this leaves much of Blood-C's early narrative split between two polar opposites - some brutal blood and guts action portions as Saya risks life and limb tackling the Elder Bairns, offset against the joys of her everyday life as she blithely snacks in the local coffee shop, hangs out with her friends and unknowingly teases her love interest. While this approach isn't necessarily a problem in itself (indeed, it's clearly very much a necessary part of its wider narrative), the big issue is that the slice of life frolics take far too much precedence over the action portion of the show. This leaves us to sit through swathes of discussion about snacks, how characters take their coffee and what they're eating for lunch to the point where it becomes mind-numbingly tedious, only to be awoken when the katana comes out and the "good bit" starts. The issue isn't exactly helped by the fact that even four episodes in we still don't really understand what the Elder Bairns are or their purpose in life - they don't even seem to be doing any harm until episode three, but even then it's hard to become too emotionally entangled in a fight for such an unknown cause.
It's only when we hit episode four that the series finally threatens to shift up a gear, with suggestions of a darker past hidden beneath Saya's outwardly cheerful surface and perhaps even the revelation that there is more to the Elder Bairns than simply your generic evil-doers. It shouldn't have taken this long for Blood-C to reach this juncture, but we can only be thankful that we got there at all - better late than never, as the saying goes.
This ponderous approach to peeling back the layers of its narrative is all the more frustrating when you examine the rest of Blood-C as a package - those CLAMP-designed characters are all fantastic and striking to look at, with perhaps the best take on the Japanese high school uniform we've seen in quite some time, while the action portions of the show are eye-catching no matter how brief as they're delivered with a visceral slice of blood and guts and a real feeling of peril for Saya's life and safety (even if you find yourself pondering just how many school uniforms she must get through given that she sees one torn to shreds every week). It's a shame that NicoNico's video portal and its low-quality streaming feed doesn't really make the most of the show's visual elements - it really struggles with the darkness-clad fight scenes, and the whole thing looks rather blocky and ugly before you can even moan about the lack of proper full-screen viewing. Certainly, this is a show that would have been served better by a release via Crunchyroll or Anime on Demand.
In conclusion then, even after four of its twelve episodes our feelings on Blood-C remain very much "wait and see" - so much of its running time to date has been frittered away on the frivolous that for a while I became convinced that the "C" in the show's title stood for either "cake" or "coffee" as it served up far too much of its sub-par slice of life fare, lit up with occasional streaks of intense action and bloody violence. Thank goodness then for episode four, which finally seems to have laid some proper meat upon the show's anime plate - it's arrived as late to the party as a distracted Saya on a school day, but now that those additional elements are here we'll be watching very closely to see what (if anything) it can do with them.
You can currently watch Blood-C in streaming form on NicoNico.
A largely mundane opening three episodes give way to glimmers of hope from its fourth instalment - whether Blood-C can recover from a lackadaisical start remains to be seen, but shoots of hope remain.