While this video will not make you a master of the blade just by watching, what you can get from it is a sense of the basic concepts and an idea of what that dizzying array of knives (which would look good in my kitchen if anyone is interested in supplying) is intended for. It's also done in that friendly and comedic style that Alton Brown is famous for, so even if you already know watch anyways because it's fun. Many thanks to Alton Brown and Shun Knives for creating this video.
Now, having stated my lust for that selection of knives, you do not require all of those knives to be effective in the kitchen! As a must have set, you really should invest in a high quality chef's knife (can either be a classic western style or an asian style like the santoku), a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife. If you have some cash left over, adding a slicing knife for meats is also ideal. After that, it's really up to you and how fancy you want to get. Obviously, more specialized tools help speed up the process if you know how to use them, but if you very, very, rarely need to use them then I would take the savings and buy better quality in the four basics.
As an aside, I personally prefer the santoku blades for my kitchen work. It's all a matter of taste, really, but for me I like the weight and feel of my santoku over my classic western style.
Final tip: take care of your knives and they'll take care of you. Sharp is safe and if you do use the dishwasher (okay, my bad, I do), then keep the knives away from other objects in the dishwasher and check the sharpness more frequently. Ideally, it's better for the knife to hand wash them, but I can be a bit lazy on that front and I keep telling myself that I plan an upgrade at some point...