Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)—All Style, Little Substance
The Vampire Hunter D series is relatively unknown compared to a lot of hard-hitting manga and anime of the 1980s and 1990s. Written by Hideyuki Kikuchi, Vampire Hunter D revolves around a Dhampir (offspring of a male vampire and female human) named D as he hunts vampires for a living and struggles with the social stigma of being hated by both humans and vampires due to the nature of his work.
The film begins with a young woman, Charlotte Elbourne, being abducted by a vampire lord, Meir Link. Sometime later, D is hired by her father to retrieve her. At the same time, he also hires the Marcus Brothers to complete the same task. The two race after Charlotte and Meir. However, unknown to them, Meir Link also hired protection from the Barbarois, an ancient race of monsters with unique abilities. With enemies on both sides, D must watch his back at all times while trying to complete his mission.
I discovered this film when I was scrolling through YouTube looking for any good anime music videos. Initially, I thought this film looked great: it had a unique animation style, vampires and different kinds of monsters, and a badass-looking protagonist. At the time, I was watching Netflix’s Castlevania, and I thought that this film would be similar to the Netflix series. However, when I finally watched the film, I found it rather underwhelming. The plot is frustrating to say the least, it goes from a straightforward action flick, to a story about Dhampir-related racism, to a tragic romance, all in a span of an hour and forty minutes. It just feels like it’s trying to cram in three seasons worth of storytelling into a single film. I think this would have been received a lot better had this been an animated series.
Where this film shines is in its animation. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000) was animated by Madhouse Inc., who animated a plethora of other films and anime, such as Redline (2009), Paprika (2006), Death Note (2006-2007), and One Punch Man (2015). The animation reminds me of another vampire anime—Hellsing Ultimate (2006)—especially the way the film utilizes light and shadows. It’s a style of animation that is not commonly utilized in anime, and unfortunately, with the rise of shoujo style anime heroes, I don’t think we’ll ever get anime in this style again. This is a shame, since the film still looks amazing today!
Vampire Hunter D was adapted into two films, one in 1985, the second in 2000. While I haven’t watched the first one, I heard that it was not as good as the first one in both story and animation. This is a shame, as I think the series has a lot of potential to be a legendary anime. However, recently, a CGI animated series is in the works, called Vampire Hunter D: Resurrection. The series will be centered around Hideyuki’s novels and will be released possibly later this year.
In summary, this film feels like either a video game side quest, or just a random drop in the middle of the entire story. I honestly felt like I had missed a couple films when I watched this. Nothing is really explained and none of the characters really stand out. Additionally, the film’s change in tone really threw me off. We go from rooting for D to defeat Meir Link to kind of supporting Meir in the end when he reveals that he doesn’t want to kill Charlotte, rather, he wants vampires and humans to coexist in peace. All-in-all, this film has stellar animation, but a rather lackluster story.