Now that Christmas is almost upon us, it’s the perfect time to look at some horror titles in the anime section!
First one on the list is a classic, for many US otaku their first title on VHS. Vampire Hunter D (distributed by Urban Vision) is also known for its character designs by an illustrator named Yoshitaka Amano. You know, that Final Fantasy guy? Vampire Hunter D is a rather simple story of D, a half-human, half-vampire hunter who wanders a distant future post-post-post-apocalyptic world where humanity lives in fear of vampires, demons and mutants, invoking the classic shuttered towns in westerns. In 2000, a second film was released, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (also through Urban Vision). Closer to the spirit of the original novel series (currently being release by Dark Horse Manga), the storyline is another mission for D to save a damsel in distress from a cruel vampire overlord. However, this time D has competition and a complication from a new enemy.
Hellsing (Geneon) definitely makes its mark among the cosplay community, with its stylistic character designs. The TV series ran in the US on Starz! Encore Action in 2003, but the show had plenty of American fans by then. Loosely based on the manga series (which is still ongoing, hence the need to write an original ending for the anime), Hellsing involves a secret English organization, dedicated to keeping England pure of monsters. The Hellsing Organization is headed by the cool Integra Hellsing, who has family connections to that famous vampire hunter of literature. Her ace card is Alucard (“Dracula” spelled backwards), an ancient vampire with powers beyond the usual list. On a mission at a church, Alucard shoots through a young policewoman to kill a vampire, and gives Seras a choice: death or become a vampire and live. Seras chooses to become a vampire, and the anime focuses on her acceptance of her new unlife in the background of the main plot involving artificial vampires and a blood-thirsty African vampire.
Hellsing Ultimate, the OVA series, is currently being released by Geneon, and it follows the manga much more faithfully, with more graphic scenes and more gore overall. This series is a perfect match for fans of vampire legends from Stoker to Rice, and of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos (for those not familiar with the term, think utter alien beings who look at humanity like ants, without any emotion).
Blood: The Last Vampire (Manga Entertainment) is critically praised for its blend of 2D and 3D effects. As a short film, clocking in at under an hour, Blood is a fast rollercoaster ride. Set in pre-Vietnam War Okinawa, a schoolgirl named Saya hunts vampiric demons on the American airbase with her katana, on the orders of the American government. This short film gains such a following that an anime series, based on the movie, but set in an alternative universe, was released in 2005 and 2006. Blood+ picks up a few decades after the events in the movie, with Saya living a happy ordinary life until a demon attacks her home. Learning of her purpose in life to destroy demons, Saya travels the world with her family, hunting for demons. Blood+ has been announced to be broadcasted on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim... sometime. If you enjoy watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’ll love this.
Tsukihime, Lunar Legend (Geneon) is the final vampire show that I’ll add to the list. It differs a lot from the previous shows with their monster-hunting, as the main character, Shiki is an average teenager... except for seeing lines of death that allow him to unmake anything. Oh, and he is exiled from his house, until his biological and adopted fathers die, and Shiki is summoned to live at the manor house with his sister. One day, he freaks out and kills a woman, who soon revealed to be a vampire hunting an evil vampire. As her powers have been greatly weakened by Shiki’s attack, Arcueid enlists his help. As you can tell, mysteries abound in this show, and they are revealed slowly throughout the show. If you like mystery with a little blood and are willing to watch an anime show twice to get all of the plot points, Tsukihime is your show.
The SoulTaker (Geneon) is a lesser known title that’s big on creepy events. It originally aired in the US on G4 on the Anime Unleashed programming block. Kyosuke Date is stabbed by his mother and left for dead in a cathedral. Buried alive, a mysterious girl digs him up and Kyosuke gains the ability to turn into a monster known as The SoulTaker. If Spawn is your taste in comics, then The SoulTaker may be for you. There is a spin-off OVA series, Nurse Witch Komugi (ADV Films), which features the same characters but it is much more insanely comedic.
The often-confusing Boogiepop Phantom (The Right Stuf International) series, whose episodes run in a non-linear fashion, but centered around a single event, is a mish-mash of stories and characters from the original novel series. Because the viewer only sees the event from the perspective of a single character, it takes a few episodes to get into the story and start forming your own interpretation of the event and what really happened. Thus, if you’re looking for an anime to watch with your brain off, look elsewhere. Part of the fun is figuring out the plot. When all is said, Boogiepop Phantom does have horror elements as well, with the disappearance and gruesome murder of several high school students. The anime continues on from the events in the live-action movie, the first manga series and first novel, so some familiarity with these does help in understanding the story, but it’s not necessary.
Not strictly horror, Now and Then, Here and There (Central Park Media) definitely makes the list for horrors of humanity. It could have easily blended into the group of shows where an ordinary boy meets an unusual girl and follows her into an alternative world... where he is pressed into becoming a boy soldier, a girl from Earth is raped, and both are repeatedly abused by adults. We’ve seen flicks like this before in the realm of anime, but never has the sheer brutality of war been animated so powerfully and painfully.
Finally, if you enjoy blood splatter over substance and don’t find hentai offensive, try Bible Black (Kitty Media) and Urotsukidoji (Manga 18, but you know, the Overfiend series). Both series are quite bloody and just plain gory for pure bodily mutilation, if but Urotsukidoji being quite dated by now, and Bible Black is a little too much on the rubbery computer animation side, when computer animation was cutting edge in the 90s and everyone was doing it.
When everyone else is drinking their cocoa and eggnog, grab a soda and slip in a DVD! Avoid the hundredth repeat of A Christmas Story! Sanity is a precious thing, my otaku friends!