A friend of mine bought a Region 3 DVD which, of course, wouldn’t play here, so I offered to convert it and gave it a look. Made in 1985, this is Japanese Manga Animé – which I recently discovered is also called ‘Japanimation.’
Vampire Hunter D is based on the third of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novels about a futuristic human-vampire hybrid warrior. The movie translates this into a cartoon version of Blade as a Spaghetti Western. The animation and voiceover is rather crude and flat by today’s standards. Under no circumstances switch from subtitles to dubbed dialogue.
Set in the Gothic nightmare of the year 12,090, a number of vampire aristocrats rule a post-apocalypse retrogressive land where future technology exists in a medieval/Ruritanian/Western background. Werewolves, monster worms and disembodied spirits roam at will. ‘D’ rides out of the night like a Western gunslinger and is hired to recover the daughter of a wealthy man kidnapped by vampire Magnus Lee to be his next bride.
This is an ambitious soufflé of Japanese Samurai-opera, styled after Greek myths, Tolkien, other anime such as Akira, any number of Westerns and wrapped in a surreal Japanese take on Bram Stoker vampires. ‘D’ is a particularly tortured and stoic hunter. Talk to the hand – no really, the more withdrawn he becomes, the more D’s sentient left hand nags him and goes off on its own adventures.
The battles are big and operatic; Count Lee is a tough 10,000 year old customer, as is his henchman the demon Rei Ginsei. An ‘unexpected’ ally appears to be the Count’s daughter Lamika. It all gets a bit melodramatic and silly – but that’s anime. One thing it has is bags of atmosphere, a world crawling with every monster imaginable and even a few new ones: mist monsters and a laughing, flying clown-thing. Count Lee’s castle is like a supernatural zoo.
Vampire Hunter D drags in places, at 111 minutes. If you are an anime fan, you will love its old style charm. If not, you may snort yourself into a fit of derision.
Vampire Hunter D
Directors: Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Jack Fletcher
Writers: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Running time: 1hr 43min
Genre: Action & Adventure, Animation, Anime & Manga, Art House & International, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
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