I may have stated this before, but other than Hayao Miyazaki’s films, I am not a big fan of Japanese anime. I have made a lot of effort to enjoy it, but I’ve concluded that its simply not a style of storytelling that I can warm up to. There are exceptions and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is one of them. Someone had given me a copy of the DVD a number of years ago and after taking years to muster enough enthusiasm to watch it, I finally did and I surprisingly enjoyed the hell out of it.

The story is simple enough. Set in a strange gothic/post-apocalyptic future where vampires roam the earth, our main character, D, is hired by an old man to help find his missing daughter and bring her back dead or alive. It is believed that the missing girl has been kidnapped by a vampire so D sets out to find him and bring her back. However, another group of bounty hunters has also been hired by the same old man to find the girl and D and the bounty hunters race to find the vampire kidnapper and the girl.

One of the most striking things about this movie is the beautiful world the filmmakers have created. Scene after scene you see amazing desolate backdrops of gothic architecture mixed with decaying modern day technology and architecture. There is not much explanation of why things are the way they are, but thats ok because its not really important to the overall plot. You will quickly discover that this film is substantially more style over substance, which is not something I care for in my movies, but every once in awhile it works as it does here. There is one particular scene I really dug thats set in a desert location with these gigantic oil pumps/construction cranes in the middle of nowhere and a deep blue sky overhead. The deeply saturated look of the scene reminded me of a 1970’s advertisement.

Aside from the plot, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is mostly popular because it contains richly complex and interesting characters. They are straight out of a comic book, which I believe this movie is adapted from. D, the main character, is a cool and quiet samurai-like half-vampire, half-human bounty hunter. The design of his character is very cool as he reminded me of a cross between a vampire and an Old West gunslinger. By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is exactly what the filmmakers intended because the film does contain aspects of vampire horror as well as cowboy westerns. D is the sort of character you would want to have an action figure of gracing your desk at work. Nothing fazes him and no obstacle appears to be unsurmountable.

The other main characters are a group of bounty hunters. They all have special skill sets and each is equally interesting. With so many characters vying for screen time, its easy to end up with a cast of characters that the audience is unable to relate to in the end. However, the filmmakers here do a great job giving each character enough time to develop and connect with the audience. The main character of this group is the young woman, whose character arc goes from hardened hunter who hates vampires to a sympathetic pacifist. I felt the most for her character and her story, which has a satisfying payoff in the end.

A problem that much of anime continually suffers from is the awful voice dubbing by American actors. Most times when I watch anime, I watch it with the original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles (if available). Vampire Hunter D was one of the rare instances where I watched the film with the American dubbing (the original Japanese dialogue is unavailable on the DVD) and I was surprised to find that all the voices matched perfectly with their characters. It was probably the first time I didn’t find myself cringing at bad delivery of the lines.

Finally, the action scenes in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust are exciting, stylistic, and very bloody. Even with anime that I don’t enjoy, the one thing I can usually count on is elaborate and intense action sequences. This film delivers that in spades and its fun to watch. However, its also very bloody and I don’t recommend you let your children watch it.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is considered to be one of the best anime out there and for good reason. For someone like me who doesn’t typically like anime, my enjoyment of this movie says a lot. It says even more considering how sick and tired I am of vampire movies. Although this is a vampire story, it doesn’t fall under the conventional vampire genre, which is why I enjoyed it more than I otherwise would have. If you like vampire stories and if you especially like anime, then you definitely should check this film out (if you’re an anime fan, you’ve probably already seen this and most likely own it).

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