February 12, 2003 -- "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust" is one of the finest examples of Japanese animation I've seen. I saw this in preparation for a vote on top animation films for the Online Film Critics Society, and this will get my vote for one of the best animated features I have ever seen. It has the great artwork you would expect from a top anime film, but it also has a solid story, good character development and layers of moral ambiguity for the sophisticated viewer. It has none of the character motivation issues and bewildering arbitrary story turns one often gets in these kinds of films. The characters behave consistently and the motivations for their actions are believable. There is an earlier version of this film from the 1980s which is probably inferior to the one I am reviewing.
The main character, as in the "Blade" movies is a dunpeal, a half-man, half-vampire, called D. He is a vampire hunter for hire. He is hired to rescue a young woman named Charlotte who has been kidnapped by a vampire named Meier Link. Charlotte's wealthy father has also hired a team of bounty hunters to recover Charlotte. Whoever returns her gets a huge reward. One of the members of the bounty hunter team is a woman named Leila. Though on competing sides, Leila and D become friends during their long pursuit of the vampire and his victim. The story takes place in the distant future. The earth has been dominated by vampires for many years, but their reign over the night is ending, thanks in part to bounty hunters and vampire hunters like D. Humans fear dumpeals almost as much as they fear vampires and D is shunned wherever he goes. D also has a face on his left hand. It can see, hear, think and speak and it has certain magical powers. D's left hand also has one of the best lines (and the last) in the movie.
None of the main characters in the film, including the vampire, is simple. They all have layers of complexity. They have their good and evil sides. The story follows the main characters through an amazing series of adventures as D and the bounty hunters fight a dangerous and bizzare collection of creatures, including a creature that attacks though shadows and another who can manipulate plants. One of the bounty hunters can use his astral projection to attack others. It is all quite imaginative. The artwork is audacious, stylish and beautiful. Everything from lush outdoor scenes to gothic architecture and blasted landscapes are rendered in rich detail. All scenes, despite their variety maintain a very distinctive style. The American soundtrack and voices (added at Skywalker Ranch) are well done. This film rates an A. Voice talents in the American version of this film include: Andrew Philpot (D), Wendee Lee (Charlotte), John Rafter Lee (Meier Link), Matt McKenzie (Borgoff, the crossbow-wielding bounty hunter), Pamela Seagall (Leila), Michael McShane (D's left hand) and Julia DeMita (Carmilla). I saw this film on DVD. The sound and picture quality were good. The Urban Vision DVD also had a nice selection of extras, including fans' favorite scenes and a featurette about how the film was made. The featurette includes interviews with the director and some of the voice actors. There is also a good storyboard-to-final-scene feature.
Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.