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'Blood+: Volume Two'
(DVD / NR / 2008 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: They are called Chiropterans, ravenous creatures that can change their form, disguising themselves as human beings. Immortal creatures that feed off blood, they hide themselves among us. An organization called the Red Shield has been waging a private war to wipe them out. Now the struggle has grown. Saya Otonashi is a normal high school student who suffers from amnesia; she can't remember anything before the past year of her life. Then one day, a man named Hagi appears and gives her a katana, and her destiny is only partially revealed. The journey for the truth begins...

DVD Verdict: Monstrous vampires, blood, war, phantoms and revenge. The next round of "Blood+" takes this story into even darker territory. In fact, the episodes on "Blood+: Volume 2" are where the story really takes off, wrenching Saya's family away from their comfortable lives, and into the middle of a dangerous conflict. There's tragedy, family togetherness, a little humor, and buckets of gore -- as well as the first glimpses of the series' antagonists.

David, Haji and Saya infiltrate a nature preserve with a secret underground facility - and not only do they find a longtime military conspiracy, but loads of Chriopterans. Meanwhile, Julia finds out that the US military is planning to bomb the preserve - because of the presence of chiropterans. Even worse, there's no way to alert the people inside the preserve.

Unfortunately, George has problems behind that - he's been injected with something called Delta-67, a mysterious substance that the US military is using in experiments. You can probably guess what it does, and how Saya has to deal with it. And in the episode that follows, the three siblings have to deal with their separate feelings of grief.

Then things thankfully take a lighter turn. Saya goes undercover at a Vietnamese girls' school to help track the Delta-67. She ends up with a chattery roommate, who happily tells tales of a mysterious Phantom who kidnaps black-haired girls, leaving a blue rose behind. And when she and Haji do some investigating, they find a vampire "Phantom" - in the required cliche cloak and mask - who somehow knows Saya from the past... and apparently wants to kill her.

"Blood+: Volume Two" basically wraps up the first (short) arc that introduces Saya's family and friends, and begins a new one that promises to stretch all the way through the series. The episodes here are generously sprinkled with clues about future events, introductions to new vampiric villains, as well as the different kinds of chiropterans - turns out they're not all monsters.

Even the rather dull episode about Kai and Riku making friends in Vietnam has some connection to the main storyline. And along the way, we get some poignant family bonding, action-packed fights in dark belltowers and steel-lined rooms, and a race against time to get out of the doomed facility. However, the final scene with George emphasizes both the bleak and the heartfelt aspects of "Blood+."

One warning: things get very dark and bloody. We've got huge ponds of blood, bomb-hunting, mercy killings, monsters, and the occasional deranged Chevalier in a mask and opera cloak. Saya has some nasty growing pains in this episode - when the poor girl isn't struggling to save her dad, she's having blood-soaked flashbacks. Kari Wahlgren does a pretty good job with both Saya's darker side - as seen in a blood-soaked reflection - and the ordinary girl from Okinawa, who loves her adoptive family and friends.

Haji doesn't get to do much except fight, but we even have some cute moments, such as when Saya compliments his clothes. Crispin Freeman's deep, mellow voice suits this devoted vampire perfectly. And while Kai and Riku don't do much either, Riku's friendship with a little Vietnamese pianist is very sweet.

The second volume of "Blood+" takes this story of conspiracies, vampires and family into new territory - and leaves you wondering what's next for Saya. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, and comes with the 5 Episodes of:

My Father's Hand
I Must Do It
Ohantom Of The School
Rainbow For Each
I Want To See You