Overseas Animation
 

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Distributed by Urban Vision
Running Time: 106 minutes
Genre: Goth Anime
Rated: R

Reviewed by Jon Minners
 

    Vampires have always been popular with audiences of all countries. Their dark, romantic lifestyles attract people of all walks of life to varying extremes. From Dracula to Lestat, viewers have flocked to movie theatres, their television sets and to the bookstores to satisfy their thirst for vampire tales. One inspired author, Hideyuki Kikuchi, took the romantic themes of vampirism one step further. Already considered one of the most established science fiction writers in Japan, Kikuchi created a new hero in the world of gothic romanticism: Vampire Hunter D.

     The first novel was published in 1983 and enjoyed so much success that 22 additional novels were eventually published, including several special editions, many of which made the best-sellers list with more than ten million readers. The success in the books soon translated to success in the movies, when in 1985, the original Vampire Hunter D was released to video in Japan. A huge hit with fans, the anime movie eventually found its way to the U.S. where the film quickly grew into a cult following.

     Vampire Hunter D became a legend on the screen and in real life. One of the first anime titles released in the States, back in the late 80's, D became one of the most recognizable names amongst fans of the genre nationwide. Fans fell in love with the different style of hero that they were presented with. Vampire Hunter D had layers, and despite his heroic deeds, he had a darker persona hidden within him as his vampire nature and human side clashed within him, each fighting for dominance.

     The original movie explored futuristic elements transplanted into a gothic world and became such a big hit in the U.S. that the film eventually was re-released in 2000, re-mastered and newly translated for anime aficionados. However, this was not enough. Fans clamored for more Vampire Hunter D, requesting English translated versions of the books to be released in the states and more movies to be made about the popular character.  All their wishes were granted. 

      Last year, English translations of the book were released to bookstores everywhere and could even be found in drug stores.  There was even a bad video game that seemed to find its way into stores.  But the most successful granted wish came in the form of a movie sequel that not only continued the quest of our favorite vampire hunter outside of Buffy and Blade, but also left us thirsting for more. 

      The sequel, entitled Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, is actually based on volume three of Kikuchi's novels. The movie, directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Wicked City) and produced by Mata Yamamoto (American Violence), further expands the universe of Vampire Hunter D introducing new characters, new landscapes, different forms of action and more layers of storytelling than in the first film. Bloodlust took everything that was good about Vampire Hunter D and expanded on it.

     The film starts with a young woman named Charlotte, the lovely daughter of an affluent family, being kidnapped by Meier Link, the notoriously cruel vampire, who takes her away in the dead of night. The townsfolk, scared to death of the vampire menace that plagues their town, call on a vampire hunter they are just as scared of, D. The vampire hunter rides into town on his trusty horse and with his ever-demonic talking hand in tow, looking to collect an enormous sum of money to bring Charlotte back. The townsfolk are ready for D to kill her if she has been given the dark gift of immortality. All they want is for her return and they will pay anyone who can get the job done.

     For the first time, D has competition in the form of the Markus Brothers. The four men and one tough woman are highly trained bounty hunters with plenty of guts and an arsenal of state-of-the-art weaponry and some supernatural trickery of their own. Vampire Hunter D has been around for a hundred years, hunting vampires down and trying to suppress his own bloodlust. He is not about to let some "rank amateurs" get in his way. The Markus Brothers don't have that many chances left to make money since D has destroyed most of the vampires inhabiting the world.

     The conflict between D and the other vampire hunters makes for some intense action, dramatic scenes between the female bounty hunter Leila and D and some really cool death scenes. Vampires are hunted with an assortment of weapons, from D's sword to the Markus Brothers twirling blades and stealth arrows. In the rivalry, both hunters save one another from certain doom and Leila develops a strange bond with D. The two form a pact and pledge a promise to the other that one of them makes sure to keep in the end. However, not all goes well for the Markus Brothers, who find new ways of getting killed, one way occurring when one brother's shadow is stabbed, resulting in the real man's surprising, yet gruesome death. There is just so much cool imagery, it is easy to see why when watching the movie in theatres, everyone seemed to clap at every scene.

     The film contains so much depth that even the bad guy doesn't seem to be much of a bad guy at all. Link is in love with Charlotte and like D, must fight his urges in order to make his love true. Link is the perfect antagonist for D, because they are cut from the same cloth, yet have enough differences to make their battle that much more exciting. Link has been a killer for years and now must fight this desire for blood or risk losing the first person he has truly loved. At the same time, he knows that he will outlive her. D must also fight his bloodlust and feels he can never get close to another, knowing he will outlive them and be alone again. As Link's relationship with Charlotte is further expanded, so is that of D's and Leila's, only in a slightly different way. While Link seems to wear his heart on his sleeve and easily pronounces his love for Charlotte, D hides his emotions, only to let the true feelings show at the end of the film. Though D and Link are the major characters driving the film, Charlotte and Leila support this drive and bring out the true emotion of the movie. D's interaction with Leila makes for compelling drama and an excellent story, while Link's sensitive side adds so many layers to the film, that it is worth watching over and over again, just to truly get the full feel of it all.

     The animation is superb with the right amount of dark Goth, perfectly contrasted with equal amounts of beauty and serenity. The dialogue contains a perfect blend of tough guy heroics, romance and light humor. The characters are all very likeable and the story never gets old, gripping the viewer at every turn, leading the watcher to want more. When people think of compelling anime with depth, some may quickly speak of Princess Mononoke, but I have never felt an appreciation for a film like I have for the complexity and emotional sentiment that is found in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

     The DVD contains the complete 105-minute masterpiece re-mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 for home theater, along with some very cool extras. The DVD is packed with special features - a behind the scenes featurette, storyboard-to-film comparison, U.S. and international theatrical trailers and TV spots, merchandise, motion menus, weblinks, Urban Vision trailers, and closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing. Itís a must buy. 

     With the success of this film, I just hope it doesn't take that long to get another action-packed Vampire Hunter D film to American shores. What have we got; about 20 more novels to adapt. Let's get chopping. Once you get into this world, you will want more and your appetite will never be fully quenched. Don't fight it. Succumb to your Bloodlust.

 

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