Julien Neaves – Editor
When I was a teenager living in Trinidad we didn’t have cable. I know, the humanity. But one of the local stations, AVM, would switch to one of two cable stations when it signed off on weekend — USA Network after the Friday broadcast and Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy Channel) after the Saturday broadcast. And it was while watching Syfy Channel that I stumbled upon my very first anime film, Vampire Hunter D. And seeing all this horror and graphic violence in a “cartoon” blew my young mind.
I have had fond memories of this film for years and decided to revisit it awhile back. So does the 1985 film hold up all these years later? Read on, dear reader. Read on.
The film is based on the first in a series of Japanese light novels and tells the tale of the eponymous D, a dhampir (half-human, half-vampire) vampire hunter who tries to protect a young farm girl from an evil vampire lord and his mutant minions in a post-apocalyptic world.
I’ll start with the positives. D remains a strong, captivating lead. His character design, with the hat and cloak and black horse, is just fantastic and his attitude is very Clint Eastwood “Man with No Name.” And it was still a joy seeing him slicing up creatures and going full vamp. Though D did speak a lot more than I remembered. His symbiote/sidekick/pest Left Hand is still a riot and his sucking ability never gets old.
The creature design and variety was also very good. From small sand-worm things to sexy snake women to gruesome giants, there is a lot of cool stuff that go bump in the night. The plot is also very tight and doesn’t get too bogged down with excessive lore. In terms of the other characters I also enjoyed the conflicted Countess and the treacherous Rei Ginsei.
On the negative side, the character of Doris is just not very good. They try to give her some assertiveness by having her wielding a weapon a couple of time, but she is your prototypical damsel in distress. And I like sexy anime women as much as the next guy but she is bit much. Her outfit is so short she flashes you while standing and the two nude scenes with her feel gratuitous. And the scene where she offers to sleep with D was just kinda sad. I also thought Count Magnus was a bit dull as a big bad, though I did enjoy that head-exploding scene. Those are always fun. The general animation, though, has not aged that well and is kinda rough, and there was less action than I remembered.
All that said Vampire Hunter D is still an entertaining action horror anime and I did enjoy it more than the decent 2000 sequel subtitled Bloodlust, improved animation notwithstanding. So if you’re in the mood for some retro horror anime why not take a bite into Vampire Hunter D?
Julien’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
For my look back at classic anime Ninja Scroll you can click here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.