Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust Movie Review

I love Japanese anime on the big screen. The gorgeous colors, the daunting cel animation detailing the smallest blades of grass, the complex storylines and character designs, and the thundering soundtrack. And the impending release of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust has made me wet with anticipation.

The original Vampire Hunter D was produced for video only in 1985. Its twisted violence, a plot thick with deception and honor, perverted sex scenes, and beautiful acts of heads and limbs being lopped off are a D&D geek's wet dream. Based upon volume three of Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D novel series, Bloodlust follows the continuing story of D and his travels as a vampire hunter for hire.

In the distant future, vampires rule with an iron first over fiefdoms of human-occupied lands with their minions of mutants and werewolves. As the years have passed, though, the vampire rulers have gradually lost their power and are now being hunted by bounty hunters. One of the most famous hunters is a mysterious outcast named D, a "dunpeal" (born of a vampire father and a human mother), who's equipped with a super-quick sword, a black cape blowing in the wind, and a penchant for ass kicking. D's latest job involves a simple rescue operation to reclaim an affluent family's lovely daughter Charlotte from the clutches of Meier Link, an ultra-smooth vampire with a silly Eurotrash accent. But competition waits in the form of the Markus brothers -- a randy bunch of mercenaries who use knives, strength, crossbows, and even a guy's ghost to capture their vampire booty. Along the way, the undead rise from their graves, werewolves howl at the moon, and creeping evil in the shadows crosses their paths at every turn.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is a qualified success in the animation department, combining fantasy with reality through the solid efforts of Asian production house Madhouse Studios (also responsible for co-creating the awesome HBO Spawn animated series). But there's a strong western influence in both set design and landscapes throughout the picture. As well, director Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Wicked City) handles the action well and delivers a number of memorable moments that even rival anime classics like Battle Angel.

On the flip side, the main problems with the film are that its plot is weak and the characters fail to evolve. Bloodlust never sells the conviction of evil within any of the main characters, instead relying on the age-old romanticism of the vampire. Eventually it degenerates into a standard love story/rescue mission. Worse still, D's character is so utterly invincible there's never a sense that the story could go any other way than that he will save the girl and beat the evil bad guys. The film's humor, mainly projected by D's talking left hand, feels forced and unsure.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust earns enough points in the animation department to carry the innocuous plot. It's almost enough to make you forgive the lousy title.


Comments

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 2000

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