Julien Neaves, Editor
Plot: Based on the third novel of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s immensely popular and long running Vampire Hunter D series, Demon Deathchase, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust continues the adventures of the titular D, a dhampir (half human, half vampire) bounty hunter in a far future post-nuclear war Earth. This time around he is hired to track down Charlotte Elbourne, a young woman, who is abducted by vampire nobleman Baron Meier. In his quest, he faces off against a trio of mutant creatures and a crew of dogged bounty hunters.
Context: In my review of 1985 Vampire Hunter D a few years ago I mentioned that it was the very first anime film I had ever seen and therefore had quite an impact. Years later I saw the 2000 sequel, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and I remembered not enjoying it as much as the original. But I decided to revisit Bloodlust recently, and with my more seasoned movie palette I was able to better appreciate it.
With a blood dripping SPOILER ALERT let’s revisit Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust in three bites:
Bite #1 Sight and Sound
Bloodlust was released two and a half decades after the first film, so it is no surprise that the animation would be vastly improved between movies. And this would have pleased creator Kikuchi, who criticised the “cheapness” of the original film’s animation. The visuals here are simply gorgeous with their vibrant colour palettes. The animation is rich, textured and darkly beautiful, like a graphic novel brought to life. From the intriguing character designs to the varied environments there is a banquet of animation excellence to feast upon.
And the music by Marco D’Ambrosio? Ethereal and chillingly hauntingly. It is a perfect soundtrack to this gothic vampire fantasy.
Bite #2 Heroes and Villains
The film features an ensemble of characters and I enjoyed everyone here to varying degrees. D himself remains the epitome of cool badassery and his ever prattling and berating parasite/sidekick Left Hand is still a riot. Unfortunately, D gets the Blade II treatment here where an expanded cast meant less focus and screentime for the main half-human, half-vampire vamp slayer.
The other bounty hunters were cool though. Leila is a tough-as-nails warrior and the Marcus brothers were fun, with Borgoff and his inexplicable never-ending arrows (where ARE they coming from?) and bedridden astral traveling psychic Grove being standouts.
In terms of baddies, Meier is an antagonist but turns out in the end to be a sympathetic one (more on that later). His hired help, the mutant Barbarois, proved to be both aesthetically interesting and physical threats. Shadow manipulator Benge was a tricky bastard, werewolf Machira has one of the coolest and most unique werewolf designs I have ever seen, and I loved Caroline, that sexy shapeshifting femme fatale.
And speaking of sexy, it would be remiss of me not to mention the big bad, Countess Carmilla Elizabeth Bathory. This delightfully decadent and completely evil vampire royalty commanded every scene she appeared in, whether in her peekaboo bondage wear or in her blood-soaked pre-resurrected form. She was bad to the bone and reveled in it, making for a wonderfully irredeemable foe. The voice acting is good across the board, but Carmilla voice actor Julia Fletcher is my favourite.
Bite #3 Action and Story
I mentioned above that upon initial viewing I preferred the original film over Bloodlust, and that was because of the reduction in action, a gap I realised was less wide upon revisiting both films. Still, the violence and gore is turned down in the sequel, especially when it comes to D. The promise of a mutant slaughterfest early in the film has D supplanted by Grove. His fight against Machira is over in one quick slash. And the climactic battle against Carmilla is somewhat anticlimactic.
The best battles are D versus Caroline and her tree shapeshifting skills and D versus Meier with his steel-like wings. I understand action was not the focus here but I think the film could have benefitted from just a bit more blades and blood. And just one scene of D slashing his way through a swath of mutant undesirables. Is that too much to ask?
The story, however, is much improved. While the first film is your straighforward “good versus evil” Bloodlust is much deeper and more nuanced. Charlotte’s “kidnapping” was actually her absconding with her starcrossed lover. Their doomed love ends in a tragic and heartbreaking fashion. You really wished they could have taken their passion into the stars. Both Meier and D are the victims of vampire prejudice, with the scene of the old man defending D being quite affecting. The isolation and loneliness of Leila is mirrored in D, with the former getting a well-deserved happy ending.
In the end, a richly animated and resonating dark fantasy tale that only improves upon further viewings. And one that is likely to please fans of the franchise. And speaking of those fans, with 40 novels to date and a treasure trove of material it is unthinkable that we have not had more films or an ongoing anime series. Somebody should get on that.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Are you a fan of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust? How would you rate it? And you can sink your teeth into more great content below:
Julien “Editor 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”. Read more.