More Bloody Reviews….

It’s amazing the difference a gap of almost two decades makes to a concept!

Over the course of twenty-four hours, I’ve given both the Vampire Hunter D movies a viewing, taking in the leaps and bounds made in animation and story concept from 1985 to 2001. The animé flicks, featuring the titular and main character of a human-vampire hybrid (or Dunpeal) hunting down the bloodsucking line of his family tree, are reminiscent of the live-action Blade trilogy produced Stateside – indeed in terms of origins, both movie franchises share the distinction of being comic book/ manga spin-offs. However, unlike the Blade franchise, which bled into anaemia with time, the big screen adventures of the brooding Dunpeal have, if anything, acquired much more in the way of fresh blood and vitality….

Set some ten millennia in the future, the first film depicts a planet overrun by vampires and mutants, with humanity struggling for survival in small pockets (so far, so Fist of the North Star, some might say; and they’d be right to draw that comparison, seeing as Toyo Ashida – the director of this first flick – also oversaw the Fist (animé) movie released around the same time). The most fearsome of the vamps, a fellow named Magnus Lee (an ode to old Hammer flicks perhaps), sets his eye – and fangs – on a delectable human girl, the spirited hunter Doris; cursed to become a bloodsucker’s bride, the girl seeks out our hero – the enigmatic D – convinced that his skill and power can slay the Count before his sinister lovebite takes effect. The story truly plays out like a spaghetti western with haemophiliac, Hammeresque overtones (similar to how FOTNS followed the same template, but with Mad Max and Bruce Lee adorning the surface), with lots of one-to-one duelling, speeches about vampiric nobility and Gothic architecture adorning the landscape; all a lot of fun, but ultimately too swift and fleeting in direction to really be savoured. What we have is a very straightforward good-versus-evil conflict, given a small touch of ambiguity by the hero’s moments of blood craving. It has to be said that, even for an 80s animé action flick, the running time is too short to fully allow the story to breathe – throw in the swiftly jolted on, clinched, hero-rides-into-the-sunset ending and the frustration grows that little bit more….

Fast forward to 2001 – faster than you can say volte-face and we have the fearless vampire killer returning for a new adventure, subtitled Bloodlust which, despite its moniker, is far from simplistic. This time the reins of production have been passed to the superb Madhouse studio, the masterminds behind such works as Demon City Shinjuku (a.k.a Monster City), Wicked City, Cyber City Oedo (Notice a theme here?) and Ninja Scroll, as well as a segment of The Animatrix – I really have to say that, even with such an impressive back catalogue, this is the best thing that Yoshiaki Kawajiri and his crew have put their names to! Certainly amongst the cream of the crop – both aesthetically and story-wise – as far as animé movies go, this perfectly captures the elegance and tragedy the vampiric concept calls for. Whilst things start off in a similar vein to the last instalment, with the titular D being hired to rescue another damsel-in-distress from the clutches of a vampire, the story is taken down more interesting avenues by Kawajiri and Co; as one watches the superbly-animated story unfold, it soon becomes apparent that everyone’s initial perceptions of the situation fail to stand up to reality. The level of ambiguity revealed in Bloodlust – only hinted at in the first film – lends credence to my theory that the best vamp characters are the ones portrayed in a sympathetic, conflicted and/or honourable light, as opposed to the generic predators of night we’re so used to.

With more characters – and thus more perspectives – thrown into the mix, Bloodlust is a richer, more savoury film than its predecessor. All the major players (with the possible exception of D) are given credible, personal reasons for their actions and the supporting cast, as ever, are an inspired mix of the sinister, sublime and surreal. Watching this film, one can see the commonalities between it and other Madhouse productions; you have the lone hero, capable female fighter, comical-yet-resourceful sidekick and ruthlessly consumptive foe – loved staples of works such as Wicked City and Ninja Scroll; also, the climax of the adventure, in concept and execution, suspiciously resembles the climax to the third of theCyber City adventures (also titled Bloodlust in its Western release). It really has to be said that one of the joys of following an auteur’s work is watching his (or her) recurring themes acquire a different shape with each new production.

A special mention must go to the dub work, which is something of a rarity for the animé medium – beyond being bloody good (no pun intended), it has the honour of being one of the few dubs originally recorded in English (as opposed to most Western dub jobs which are just taped over the Japanese); natural and sophisticated the script and acting display none of the (at times endearing) clunkiness you’d hear in 90% of Western animé releases; certainly, it’s a whole staircase up from the dub offered for the previous D film!

What stops the film from being perfect is the lack of backstory concerning some of the supporting cast (particularly Grove); nowttheless, Bloodlust is an exquisite piece of film-making heartily recommended to anyone who likes vamps, animé, or just fucking good cinema!

If you’re new to the works of Kawajiri, pick it up, but be warned – you could find yourself scouring through his back catalogue for more….


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17 Responses to More Bloody Reviews….

  1. I agree with the review and I loved both films. But i haven’t seen any cool anime as of late. Any suggestions for the old boy ?

    • MRDA says:

      Hmm – I cannae think of anything else I’ve been watching recently except, Urotsukidoji and maybe Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Give those a shot….

    • MRDA says:

      Also have you seen Shadow Skill?

      • No I have not. I have to get to the video store. I saw Urotsukidoji I think…was that sub titled demon city ? And I saw the first Ghost in the Shell. But the comicbooks so turned me off that I doubt I’ll check anything related to it. Seriously I thought those comics just sucked.

        • MRDA says:

          Urotsukidoji is admittedly full of hentai elements, though I wouldn’t class it so cos of the strong narrative. If you haven’t already pick up the first part Legend of the Overfiend and see what you think….
          What sucked so much about the GITS manga? I agree it’s certainly not the best thing I’ve read by Shirow, but still pretty interesting. I prefer Appleseed though – that has a more compelling narrative thread (the dilemma of utopia) running through it.
          (As a side note: I think Shirow’s female character designs are among the most appealing in manga – lithe, curvy yet muscular female leads certainly help to hold ones attention, no?)

          • Well I think GITS was just unreadable. IMO the poor git was more into dazzing us with his coloring than in producing a comprehensible story. Howard Chaykin also suffers from this at times. Cool art and no storytelling at all.
            I’m really not too into his women. But then you know what I like. I want to like his stuff but I just can’t get into it at all.
            I really like Dragon Ball and Gunsmith cats manga wise and the last manga I really loved was Macross Remember Love . Yes I’m dating myself.

          • MRDA says:

            I’ve been a big, BIG fan of the Dragon Ball Z since I was about ten and I think my enthusiasm has waned only a little bit since; I’m trying to find some way of getting the subtitled anime with the original Japanese voicing and BGM in the process – I imagine it being expensive though. On the other hand the manga is a cheaper way to collect the story – and you don’t get nearly a much filler as you do int the anime….
            Gunsmith Cats is a damn good manga series – I think I only got up to the Goldie vs Misty story arc though. The conflict of Gray kicked ass however, and I think I remember you commenting on my review of the anime months back….
            As for the Macross movie – I’ve ben meaning to watch that one again for ages! I’ve still got my VHS copy lying around somewhere, but as of yet, no UK DVD – shame really!
            Further anime recommendations: Bubblegum Crisis (original and new versions), AD Police (the original 3-parter) aaaaaaand Gunbuster!

  2. The dubbing is still something of a “meh” in my book. Possibly nothing can top the English dubbing of Cowboy Bebop, which contained all of the emotion necessary as well as fitting voices. Bloodlust still suffers from literal translation. Far too often characters will speed-talk without breath to squeeze in the obscene number of words called for in the translation.
    On the one hand, you can say that this was done intentionally to lend an original cadence to the characters, the way in which people speak in this world. But truly, one can see it for what it is; lazy translation. If it takes 15 English words to say a 5 word sentence in Japanese, compromise.
    Watch it through again, to see what I mean. Especially when D is talking to the demonic Cirque du Soleil leader, right before the sickly fairy guy mercs them all directly in the face.
    Other than that, I might have issue with the “gothic rocket” idea. You really have to suspend belief and kill the little voice in your head saying “boy… this sure is kind of stupid”. I find myself enjoying the first D flick, simply because it IS so simple. It has no pretentious notions of the persecuted (and raped to no end in yaoi most likely) pseudo-fag vampiric plight. Oh woe is them, the goth kids are being picked on again.
    In the end, I’m still on the fence. While the story in Bloodlust pisses me off to no end, the side-kick characters are original and intriguing enough to warrant it tons of points. I was intensely curious about the ethereal guy. The horrendously sick/invincible warrior duality was great. I cared more about him and the brothers than the flight from persecution of two lovers awww.

    • jsangspar says:

      It’s worth noting that Bloodlust was written & created english-language-only.

    • MRDA says:

      Agreed on the sheer quality of the Bebop dub, but I found the speed-talking more a trait of the original D flick; Bloodlust came across as relaxed and natural to my ears, possibly because English was the first language the production was recorded in. Perhaps there were a few scenes of over-quick exposition I’ve forgotten, but not on the level of the 1985 version which was Exposition City as far as dubs go.
      As for the Gothic Rocket – that’s just Kawajiri and the gang being ostentatious! Why not dress up future-tech in old Gothic? The “persecuted vamp” angle worked to show that not all of them were motivated purely by the same drives – made them more characters and less obstacles or enemies (though I’ll admit Meier’s lament was stretching it a bit, considering the vamps had been terrorizing the humans for fuck knows how long).
      Glad someone else agrees with me about Grove; he’s seems something of a random element whose relationship to the others – not to mention his past – is left unexplained; not too frustrating, but frustrating enough to matter.
      And those brothers were pretty damn cool!

  3. jsangspar says:

    I really dislike Vampire Hunter D. I think it’s a failed experiment in aesthetic. I’m not exactly primed to check out Bloodlust, either, because it looks like fanfiction.

    • MRDA says:

      Where does it fail for you?

      • jsangspar says:

        D feels totally out of place in his world, which seems half-realized; like they wanted to create a post-apocalypse world but didn’t bother filling in any of the blanks. You mention spaghetti westerns, but any given Dollars trilogy movie establishes what woulda been a more appropriate atmosphere.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this.

  5. harlockhero says:

    have you ever watched “wings of honneamise”?
    if yes, what are your thoughts on it?
    if not, GO SEE IT!!

    • MRDA says:

      I first saw Wings about a decade back, and remember liking it quite a bit; however, it’s been ages since I last saw it so I cannae give you a more detailed opinion on it. But from what I remember, it was certainly entertaining….

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