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VAMPIRE HUNTER D, 2000
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VAMPIRE HUNTER D,   MOVIE POSTERVAMPIRE HUNTER D, 2000
Movie Reviews

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Jack Fletcher
Starring: Hideyuki Tanaka, Ichirô Nagai, Kôichi Yamadera, Megumi Hayashibara, Emi Shinohara, Yûsaku Yara, Hôchû Ôtsu
Review by Jane Hopkins


SYNOPSIS:

Hunters race to save a girl stolen from her home by a vampire.

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REVIEW:

Japanese animation has been getting more and more popular in the West recently, and new audiences are beginning to appreciate its artistry. The acclaimed films of Hayao Miyazaki have been well-received in North America, but other filmmakers have also made excellent contributions to modern anime. Consider 2000’s “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust,” the second film based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s successful “Vampire Hunter D” series of novels. “VHD: Bloodlust,” based on the third book in Kikuchi’s series, surpasses its 1985 predecessor in every way. The voice acting is nicely done, the plot is engaging, the action is exciting, and the animation must be seen to be believed.

The story begins in the distant future, when vampires roam the Earth and humans have reverted to an Old West/Victorian way of life. One night, a well-known vampire carries off Charlotte Elbourne, a beautiful young human woman. Her father hires the Marcus Brothers, a clan of four skilled hunters and their female companion, to bring back his daughter, but it isn’t enough. He also calls in D, a mysterious hero reputed to be a dhampir: a half-human, half-vampire. The Brothers race against D for the sake of their paycheque, but their quest proves far deadlier than they imagined. Not only that, but D soon learns that everyone has misunderstood the nature of Charlotte’s relationship with her so-called captor.

Whereas the first “Vampire Hunter D” anime had a grittier, rougher style, the animation in “Bloodlust” is absolutely breathtaking. From the flash of D’s sword to the folds in Charlotte’s gown, every detail and movement is gorgeously rendered. In keeping with certain anime conventions, most of the central characters are drawn in a graceful, androgynous way that just makes them beautiful to behold. The scenery is also impressive, ranging from lonely deserts to Gothic castles. As for the action, this movie is as bloody and brutal as a vampire adventure should be. There is a stereotype that Japanese animation is somehow shoddy or too cutesy. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and “Bloodlust” proves it.

The voice acting is solid across the board, with several experienced actors in the cast. Standouts include Pamela Segall as vampire hunter Leila and John Rafter Lee as Meier Link, the vampire lord. Julia Fletcher also makes a marvellous villain, playing the vampire queen Carmila with elegance and evil. When she finally lets loose against D, condemning him for betraying his vampire ancestry, her fury is frightening. Comedian Mike McShane also brings a welcome touch of comic relief, playing a snarky supernatural entity that lives in the palm of D’s left hand (you read that right).

The characters themselves are memorable, especially when it comes to Charlotte and Meier Link. Their love story is unexpectedly compelling; just when you thought you were bored with human-vampire romances, here’s one told so sweetly and sincerely that it’s hard to resist it. Meier and Charlotte want nothing more than to escape to a place where they can be together, so it’s interesting to see how the film challenges us to question whether or not we want D to succeed in his quest. The audience goes into the film expecting to root for the vampire hunters, but once we discover the truth about Meier and Charlotte’s relationship, our loyalties might just change.

One scene in particular is guaranteed to make the audience rethink their allegiance. A little more than halfway through the film, the Marcus Brothers finally get hold of Charlotte, but are surprised to find she doesn’t come with them willingly. As they try to take her with them, Meier Link leaves his coffin and braves the sunlight in an attempt to retrieve the woman he loves. The Marcus Brothers can’t believe his persistence, and they decide to have a little fun, sadistically taunting and wounding him. As the vampire staggers on, consumed by fire and riddled with arrows, we see the devotion he feels for the human girl…and the devotion she feels for him. In the face of the vampire hunters’ unexpected cruelty, it’s a moving declaration of absolute love.

The score by Marco D’Ambrosio fits perfectly with the tone of the film. It eerily establishes the Gothic atmosphere, but is also appropriately rousing during the action sequences. “VHD: Bloodlust” does have an official theme song, “Tooku Made” by Do As Infinity, a J-Pop anthem that ties the film back to its Japanese roots. There doesn’t seem to be a music video included on the DVD, but seek out the song if you get the chance. It adds a certain something to the project.

If you like anime, then “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” will not disappoint you. If you generally don’t like anime, or haven’t given it much of a chance, then this movie will show you what you’ve been missing.

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