BTLV is the first anime to be created using a blend of 2D and 3D animation (a technique which has been used in the West since Disney's Beauty and the Beast in 1991) and was hailed as creating a new standard in animation.
The story is set in 1966. Its main protagonist is a girl named Saya, who hunts bat-like creatures or vampires called chiropterans. Saya works for a secret government agency to eliminate Chiropterans.
Saya is introduced on a subway train, where she assassinates a man in a suit. Her American contacts or handlers arrive. One of them, David, begins to brief Saya on another mission, while the other, Louis, discovers that the man Saya has just killed was probably not a chiropteran.
Saya's next mission begins at the American Yokota Air Base, which is active in the buildup to the Vietnam War. At least one chiropteran has managed to infiltrate the air base, and it is only a matter of time before they feed again, go into hibernation, and become untraceable. Saya is to pose as a school girl, infiltrate the high school adjacent to the base, and then track and kill the chiropterans.
At the school, Saya runs into a meek nurse, Makiho Amano, on the eve of the school's annual Halloween party. Two of Saya's classmates, Sharon and Linda, make a visit to Makiho at the nurse's office. Suddenly, Saya bursts into the room, killing Linda and wounding Sharon, breaking her sword in the process. Both girls are revealed to be chiropterans. Makiho goes into shock at the revelation. Meanwhile, a third chiropteran reveals itself and begins making its way to the base. Back at the school, Makiho regains her nerve and pursues Sharon into a room full of dancing Americans in costume, where she finds Sharon transformed. Saya saves her and both flee into a nearby motor pool. The chiropterans trap them inside and attack.
David delivers a new sword, and Saya uses it to kill Sharon. The final chiropteran then decides to flee, attempting to stow away on a departing cargo plane. David and Saya give chase and she manages to strike the chiropteran and mortally wound it. She then stands over the dying creature and lets some of her blood trickle into its mouth. Louis arrives and recovers Makiho before the local police reach her.
Afterwards, Makiho is seen at an interview with government officials who question her about the night's events. However, it's revealed that all evidence of the battle between Saya and the chiropterans has been covered up and both David and Saya have disappeared, leaving Makiho with nothing to prove the veracity of her story. Her interviewer then asks her to identify Saya in a picture which has a girl that looks identical to her, except the picture was taken in 1892. The only other description of the picture is the word "VAMPIRE".
Makiho then returns to the school, where she narrates that she never really discovered the full truth behind Saya and the chiropterans, and wonders if she's still out there fighting them.
Saya is the primary character and is, as the movie describes, the last 'original' vampire. Saya's personality is dark, mysterious and frequently threatening. She prefers solitude over the company of others, regardless of age. At first she does not appear to have any supernatural powers. She is not weak against sunlight, cannot transform and does not even have large fangs. However she does show an aversion to religious icons, can hear the roars of the chiropterans when no-one else can and shows superhuman strength - at one stage she grabs Lewis by the face and holds him in the air. Despite this she is not without feeling, as she saves nurse Makiho(though why is never found out). Though she holds most humans in contempt, she seems to have some sort of respect for David. In one of the most memorable scenes in the OVA, Saya stands over a vampire she has just attacked which now lies dying in the middle of a runway. She stretches out her bleeding hand and allows the monster a few drops of her blood before it expires. This is the only time in the movie Saya smiles.
Nurse Makiho Amano is the second main character. She is a friendly, plump woman who gets on well with the students, though as a mere nurse is not given much respect by the school's principle. Although obviously an American the nurse speaks fluent Japanese. Throughout the movie she remains terrified and even considers committing suicide. However Saya urges her to help by breaking down the doors. After doing this the nurse faints and is left on the grass while Saya and David take the army vehicle. David stresses that they must get to her before the police do. However she is next seen reporting the incident to the authorities. What happened to her between these two incidents is unknown.
David is Saya's primary handler. Despite their formal appearance the two have developed a subtle but strong bond of trust. One of the most striking scenes in the movie was Saya's fight against the vampire which pinned her down in the burning building. Once nurse breaks through the locked doors using an army vehicle she manages to kick the vampire off her and David rushes to her aid - with the vampire rushing up behind her Saya cries "Sword!" and David throws it towards her. In a single swift movement Saya grabs it by the handle and slices it straight through the Chiropteran. Thus a combination of her skill and David's quick-thinking saved her life.
Blood: The Last Vampire received multiple awards at various film festivals around the world.
- In 2000, it was selected as "Public's Prize Best Asia Feature Film" at the Montreal Fantasia Film Festival where it debuted.
- It won the Grand Prize in the animation category at the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs' Media Arts Festival.
- It won the Ofuji Noburo Award at the Mainichi Film Competition.
- In 2001, it won Special Prize at the akasaki Film Festival.
- It was selected as the Best Theatrical Feature Film at the World Animation Celebration.
- It received the Grand Prize for animation at the 2000 Japan Media Arts Festival.
In the first week of its North American release, more than 70,000 DVDs and 30,000 VHS copies of Blood: The Last Vampire had been sold.Within the first month after its release, it became Manga Entertainment's top selling title in the company's history. The film also appeared on both the Video Business, Billboard, Video Store Magazine and Entertainment Weekly lists of top DVD sales.
Marvin Gleicher, then president of Manga Entertainment, stated that the film's "success has proven to be a landmark time in the history of Manga Entertainment."
Academy Award winning director James Cameron said: "Digital imaging has entered a new era. The world will come to consider this work as the standard of top quality in digital animation."
In The Anime Encyclopedia, Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy praised the film for its groundbreaking use of English, its "stunning animation" and its high end action sequences, but criticized its short length and lack of a conclusion.
The most common rating for BTLV was 3 to 3 (1/2) stars.
- Fantastic animation quality (which even today is still unsurpassed)
- Excellent musical score
- The mysterious aura surrounding Saya's character
- Use of both English and Japanese
- Lack of character development and relationships
- English appeared slow
- The biggest critisism of all was the fact the movie was very short - only 48 minutes long, including the opening and closing credits.