The story frequently seems to get distracted with a large cast of characters from the lead protagonist Saya, her family, the Red Shield, the Chevaliers, the Cinqfleche corporation, and the Schiff. Saya, herself, struggles to remember her past, what she is, her fighting potential, and her destiny across a painful span of over a dozen episodes. Inconsistencies abound, especially in regards to characters inexplicably seeming invincible until the next encounter where they suddenly have weaknesses. In episodes 20-30, poor Saya exists to be beat up on to show how tough the rest of the crew is. The chiropterans can only be destroyed with Saya's blood giving way to a pointless gun fight once every half-dozen episodes or so. Sometimes the bullets slow them down; sometimes they don't even flinch. It all depends on what characters are in danger.
But long before any faults popped up, Blood+ introduces the ever sympathetic Saya Otonashi, an innocent girl discovering she's an otherworldly warrior. And when her eyes turn red after tasting blood, when she unsheathes her katana for the first time and springs into action to Mark Mancina's adrenaline rush of a score, I knew I was in for something special. Sure, the series would wander into waters I didn't much care for, but on the promise of those early episodes, I stayed with it.
I wanted to stay with Saya.
Despite the action-oriented premise Saya and her sister, Diva, waging war with one another in the world of humans Blood+ remains forever focused on the characters, their relationships, and their individual conflicts. Her 'brothers' Kai and Riku, love her as a member of their own family, wish to help and protect her, but what can they do against creatures Saya, and Saya alone, can destroy? Their conscience tell them to be there, to stand beside her, yet they only seem to get in the way and put themselves in unnecessary danger.
Saya's faithful servant and Chevalier, Hagi, harbors a long held unspoken love for his mistress. Expressing his feelings through quiet, unquestioning, obedience. "When this is all over," Saya pleads in one of the most potent flashbacks, "I want you to kill me, Hagi." He embraces her and answers, "if that is what you wish." But in the meantime, he doesn't hesitate to jump in the line of fire to protect her. Should he need to sacrifice himself, Hagi won't even blink. He'll do it without question nor regret.
The one-armed Chevalier of Diva, Carl has an ongoing blood-feud with Saya. In flashbacks, we discover he lost his limb to her long ago which fuels an obsession-like lust for revenge. But even though early on he outmatches Saya, he refuses to deliver the killing blow. "You don't remember yet" he laments and retreats, vowing to finish Saya after she's regained her memories after she comes to full strength. Anything less would be a hollow victory.
Solomon, another of Diva's Chevaliers, falls in love with Saya, leading him to strive for peace between the two sisters and ultimately forcing him to choose between his mistress and her eternal enemy. Does he side with Diva and murder the woman he loves, or does he betray Diva and pursue an impossible love with she who has no reason to even trust him?
Along this epic journey, Saya and her companions meet up with experimental chiropterans called the Schiff who broke free from their captivity, but face an artificially shortened lifespan. In Saya's blood, they see their salvation, and being created as weapons they seek it the only way they know how: through violence. But then a human shows them another way.
Of course, more allies stand by to assist and guide Saya (David, Julia, Luis, Joel), and others stand to oppose her (James, Nathan, Van.) All are interesting in their own right (David and Joel's heritage interwoven with Saya's history) and have interesting quirks (Van's obsession with candy, and Nathan's flamboyance?) All fight for their own reasons, and those reasons are threaded through the fifty episode span of Blood+.
With so many long-running interesting tangents to deal with, I'm not surprised director Junichi Fujisaku seems to get side-tracked on occasion. But here's what's interesting: though the build-up almost always struck me as mishandled, somehow when it came to the payoffs Blood+ delivered. Throughout the story, characters grow and evolve. Saya and Kai in episode 50 are not the Saya and Kai from episode 1. Characters die, and the tragedy resonates with a very real sense of loss.
The series has plot problems, yes. Pacing issues, faulty logic, and an almost self-parody habit of characters ominously looking out only to say "Saya" or "Diva." But you know what? The strength in its characters never wavers. They're fascinating in and of themselves, and their dynamic relationships with one another only magnifies that fascination.
When Saya and Diva finally stood across from each other, swords drawn and dripping with their own blood for the final battle, I'm glad I stayed with it. Blood+ truly was something special.