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Anime Review: Vampire Hunter D (1985)

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Vampire Hunter D

Genre: Vampire Action Horror
Director: Toyoo Ashida
Distributor: Manga Entertainment (UK)/Urban Vision (US)
Duration: One movie – 80 minutes approx
Production Creation: 1985

Plot Synopsis

Thousands of years into the future, technological advancement is abandoned for basic survival as the human population finds itself enslaved to a regime of nihilistic vampires. These cruel undead lords, although dwindling in number, still maintain control over the earth with an iron grip. There is one however, a human-vampire crossbreed, a dunpeal, who dares to stand up against the evil of these immortal tyrants. He is known only as ‘D’, the Vampire Hunter.

The Review

There is a great deal of anime that have maintained a cult status since their original release. The problem with older anime that possess such status, is that it is often undeserving since hindsight is always clouded with fonder memories than the reality can provide.

Vampire Hunter D is no different.

Vampire Hunter D is anime that is as formulaic as it is tiresome. The plot is entirely straightforward and looks like it could have been pulled from any number of cheesy 1970s-1980s B-movies. It focuses around a powerful aristocratic vampire who wishes to marry a woman from a local village. The problem, as you might well guess, is that said woman isn’t particularly enamoured with the idea of marriage to this undead fiend and so, pleads with the mysterious, brooding (perhaps too much so), vampire-human crossbreed ‘D’ to help her out.

Whilst my brief little plot overview is slightly simplified somewhat, it is still largely accurate of the plot that Vampire Hunter D contains and it is this simplification that sums up Vampire Hunter D so nicely. As well as the wafer thin plot, the characters are stereotyped to the point of frustration. You have your typical vampire lord (complete with cruddy European accent and 1960s Dracula esque clothes), brooding hero, damsel in distress and so on and so forth.

Whilst I have nothing against the brooding, stoic hero type, D is just so unbelievably dull and boring that he just sucks the life (excuse the pun), out of whatever appeal the anime had to begin with. If you want a good dose of vampire angst, watch Pioneer’s Hellsing, – it does a far better job. Of particular note though, the only character that I really didn’t mind, bizarrely enough, was a parasite that lives on D’s hand. Like the much newer and much better sequel to this film, the hand has the most character and the best lines out of any character in this anime. As you may have guessed though this is no mean feat, but I digress.

The straightforward no-frill’s nature of this anime doesn’t stop with it’s characters and plot, as the soundtrack, animation and art are awarded the same lackluster treatment. The soundtrack is as dull as it is forgettable while the animation is below average at best, with all the characters shambling around on screen destroying any real sense of decent movement, especially during action scenes. The art too is certainly nothing to write home about, being spectacularly dull on practically every occasion, with the one saving grace perhaps being the reasonable character designs by Yoshitaka Amano. Then we come to the gore and violence, (sigh).

In keeping with it’s B-movie styling, Vampire Hunter D sees fit to chuck silly amounts of gore and blood around. The violence in this anime while certainly obvious and blatant doesn’t help this anime out one bit because it is so contrived and silly, rather than being repulsed at the gore and blood, you’re too busy laughing at it.

Perhaps back in 1985 when it came out it might have been worth a look, but with the tremendous glut of decent vampire anime around such as Vampire Princess Miyu, Hellsing and even Vampire Hunter D’s own sequel Bloodlust, Vampire Hunter D remains only as a morbid curiosity – reminding you that it should left in the past and forgotten.

Ratings Summary

Animation: D-
Art: D+
Music: D-
Content: E

Overall: E

Review by: John-Paul Jones

Suitability for children

Even though the gore and violence is contrived and stupid, it is still unsuitable for the majority of the younger audiences. This is material for ages 15+ only.

If you liked this why not try…

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – Urban Vision
Vampire Princess Miyu OAV – AnimEigo
Vampire Princess Miyu TV – Tokyopop
Hellsing – Pioneer Entertainment

Written by bitsnark

December 20, 2008 at 5:11 pm

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