Title: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Writer: Yoshiaki Kawajiri (created by Hideyuki Kikuchi)
Distributed By: Urban Vision
Starring (English): Andy Philpot, John Rafter Lee, Pamela Adlon, and Wendee Lee
Release Date: August 25th, 2000
After fifteen long years, D returned back to the big screen in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Not only did the years apart make both Vampire Hunter D and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust very different films, but Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is based on the third novel, Demon Deathchase, and although it certainly shares similar style and themes to the rest of the books, there’s considerable plot differences to the first novel (which was the basis for the first film).
For one thing, both the style and feel of it is completely different than its predecessor. Vampire Hunter D had the feel of a Gothic Hammer film mixed in with some sci-fi, ronin/western, and other elements. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, while sharing some similar influences, leans strongly towards a spaghetti western mixed in with some Gothic Renaissance styling. If Vampire Hunter D took place in a small, Transylvania-like town, then Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust takes place in an American southwestern styled Italian villa. And although I miss the old Hammer horror feel of the first film, the new Italian-like feel of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust makes for a fresh and interesting approach to the Vampire Hunter D franchise that keeps it from treading too closely to the first film.
Speaking of style and scenery, the animation here has been vastly improved. No more stilted movements anymore. And both the drawings and coloring are more vivid and dynamic as expected. 3D lends a big hand to it, although the 3D is subtle and it never sticks out like a sore thumb. The characters feel like they jump from out of a Yoshitaka Amano drawing, but the big eye candy here is the scenery. Not only is the scenery beautifully drawn and animated, but the scenes are some of the most imaginative I’ve seen, from the dry desert plains to the breathtaking Castle of Chaythe.
The rest of the production is pretty top-notch. The voice acting has come a long way (although I prefer Vampire Hunter D‘s Michael McConnohie and Kirk Thornton as D and D’s left hand). Translation, as with the previous film, avoids any bad Japanese to English mistranslations. And although I miss Vampire Hunter D‘s eerie and surreal synth soundtrack, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust‘s Marc D’Ambrosio gives a soundtrack that has a nice variety that fits each moment. Above all, though, is the vast improvement over the action scenes. No more static backgrounds as the characters perform their moves. The fight scenes are in real time, excellently choreographed, and entertaining (even if they do suffer from anime seizure flashes).
Story wise it’s yet another fairly faithful adaptation of Kikuchi’s novel. Meaning that the plot is solid and it has what you’d expect from a Vampire Hunter D entry. D on yet another for hire mission to save a woman from being taken by a vampire. But there’s a twist. Charlotte (Wendee Lee) is actually in love with Meier Link (John Rafter Lee). Add in a rival group of mercenaries competing against D, and an eclectic group of monster mercenaries working for Meier Link, and you’ve got a story that’s more than your average “slay the vampire” tale. The story feels like your average well-produced anime for about a third of the film, but then things start to get real interesting, and it’s pure balls to the wall by the final leg of the film. Not to mention that the film contains some surprisingly touching moments from time to time.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust proves once again that the franchise is easily adaptable for anime, and perhaps with a little luck someday, live-action. Like the predecessor, it has style, action, and a good story, but this time the production is much better. It’s a shame that they didn’t continue making more Vampire Hunter D films after this, as Kikuchi’s D novels combined with Kawajiri or any great anime director’s talents could’ve made some impressive and imaginative films. On the plus side, Kawajiri did in fact work on a Kikuchi adaptation called Wicked City (1987), which might be interesting to take a look at (hint, hint).