Saturday, October 13, 2012

VAMPIRE HUNTER D (1985)


This story takes place in the distant future. When mutants and demons slither through a world of darkness.

Vampire Hunter D was one of many anime movies to be released in America during the late 80s and early 90s that helped challenge mainstream perceptions of animation at the time. It was dark, violent, scary, and even a little sexy. These are just several reasons why it became a cult favorite during its time, and why it's still treasured by English-speaking fans of horror, sci-fi, and animation.


In the year 12,090 AD, vampires, werewolves, and all sorts of other ghouls roam freely, stalking the night and preying on the weak. One night, a young monster hunter named Doris is attacked and bitten by an ancient vampire, who reveals himself to be the legendary Count Magnus Lee, descendant of Count Dracula.
 
Shortly afterward, Doris comes across a vampire hunter traveling through town, and asks him if he would kill the Count in order to prevent her from turning into a vampire. In exchange for food and a place to stay, the vampire hunter, named D, accepts the job. One of the first things we learn about D is that he is actually a dhampir, a vampire/human half-breed, who isn't very accepting of his vampiric side. Over the course of the story, we learn much more about the stoic vampire hunter, like the code of honor that he binds himself to, as well as his relationship to the House of Lee.


D, himself, looks and acts like the archetypical Western hero. The character's creator, Hideyuki Kikuchi, has even been cited stating that his original image of D was based on that of Phil Collins during the cowboy segment of the music video for "Don't Lose My Number". Much like the Lone Ranger, or even more recent examples like Kenshiro or Kwai Chang Caine, he wanders from town-to-town across a mostly desolate land, righting any wrongs that he comes across, as per his unwritten code of honor. What sets each of these examples apart, though, is their individual motivation for doing what they do, and while D's motivation isn't made crystal clear, it becomes more implied as the story plays out.


The story remains exciting throughout and maintains a good pace, but still somehow manages to feel a little rough around the edges in a way that I can't quite explain. It feels more like an extended episode of a TV show than a theatrical feature. This is understandable, seeing as how director Toyoo Ashida's only prior directorial credit was for the first season of the Fist of the North Star TV show.


Easily the most interesting aspect of Vampire Hunter D is the setting. The world, itself, has a mixture of classic Western and Gothic elements to it, creating a very retro atmosphere. At the same time, the technology that is used in transportation, housing, and weaponry is very reminiscent of  futuristic '80s sci-fi. This particular blend of landscapes and technology really works well in crafting a distinct environment.


While not perfect, Vampire Hunter D is still a really fun movie that managed to set itself apart from the rest of its peers when it was first released.


Vampire Hunter D is based on the first of an ongoing series of novels of the same name, written by Hideyuki Kikuchi and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano.

3 comments:

  1. Nice writeup. I've heard of Vampire Hunter D before but haven't seen it yet. Pretty funny that the image was based on Phil Collins as a cowboy!

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    1. The whole thing's on YouTube in one part if you ever wanna check it out. Look for the 2003 new film transfer version.

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