Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, December 26, 2001
Release Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001
What They Say
DVD edition of the 'Vampire Hunter D' movie which is a high quality anime made by teams from Japan and the U.S. and opened theatrically in April 21 (2001.) Based on the original story by Hideyuki Kikuchi, and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (who is very good at action sequences), and the original character designs by the internationally acclaimed artist Yoshitaka Amano. A new classic from a topnotch production crew. Comes with a color booklet.
After seeing this movie theatrically in Boston and really falling in love with the visuals and the score, I knew it was going to be a no-brainer to pick up the region 2 release. While this cinema version doesn't contain the Japanese dub that does exist, I enjoyed the English one well enough to pick it up.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of English. One of the big reasons for picking up this disc is that there are two English tracks; the first is the Dolby Digital 5.1 track that I had heard in the theater and the other is the English DTS 5.1 track that I hadn't heard. I fully admit to being a DTS junkie and I so love the Japanese for having a thing for DTS and for remixing the track when they create it. Once you equalize the output levels, there's still an immense difference between the two tracks. The one thing the DTS mix seems to do is really favor the music score over the dialogue and effects, giving it a very rich and full feel. Being able to flip between tracks and compare was great, but after awhile I simply settled into the great DTS track.
The visuals of this movie are a huge selling point and thankfully the transfer here manages to really replicate the film experience. While the animation is extremely fluid and gorgeously colored, it retains the dark and near-grain feeling of the theatrical experience. It doesn't look like an OVA or really some of the more vivid TV series of late. It really goes for the film look and feel, which is great. There's no cross coloration in the movie, panning sequences are flawless and at most some of the backgrounds look a bit less than solid due to the grain. I've got no complaints about this transfer at all.
Released in a standard keepcase, the front cover provides a nice watercolor style image of D with the moon in the background. The back cover provides a number of screenshots and a lengthy summary of the movie. Staff credits and the discs extras are clearly listed and the discs technical information resides in one of the very handy info boxes. A really attractive booklet is included that provides a number of glossy shots from the movie as well as a page of text in Japanese. Two pages provide the full credits listing in English while the final two pages list the chapters and extras as well as the DVD production staff.
Yet another Japanese release with really poor menus. The main menu loads up with a lengthy intro piece displays text from the movie that describes the setting. While it's not bad on a first load-up, it gets played every time you return to the menu. Change the audio and return back? Boom, right from the start. Same with the extras and so forth. Really annoying, but at least you can chapter skip through it. The main menus look is the simple D logo with the etching work around it. Moving to submenus is nice and fast though the return trip is annoying.
While there's not a huge selection of extras, the grading got seriously raised due to all of them being provided in DTS in addition to DD 5.1 mixes. This is rarely done anywhere and when it is done, extra notice must be paid. The behind the scenes segment runs about 15 minutes and is mostly interviews with the Japanese staff. We do get to see several segments of the voice actors recording which is great, but no interviews with them. I seriously hope that Urban Vision capitalizes on this and has a lot of footage of the recordings. I was particularly intrigued to see the actor for Meier perform as well as the gent for Borgoff who seemed to speak with a pencil in his mouth at all times to get the voice right.
The various trailers are all interesting as they show the differences in how each side of the ocean tried to sell the flick. I really think the Urban Vision theatrical full trailer did a much better job than all of the others in making it seem and sound like an exciting flick.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I've never been a big fan of the original Vampire Hunter D movie, I knew a fair bit about its origins and how it's played out over the years and become something of a cult title in the US. And with Urban Vision playing the trailer for this movie for what seemed like the entire length of the long production, I knew I'd have to see it theatrically.
Much like the original, this movie takes place in the distant future. The world is a vastly different place as it's been well over ten thousand years from today. During that time the vampire race has risen to dominance and taken rule over the world, casting it in darkness. But even their reign was not supreme and time has taken its toll. The vampire race is all but fallen with few of them left in the world anymore. They're still much feared and hated, but their fall has allowed the rise of a group of vampire hunters. Some are single individuals, others are well outfitted groups. Both serve the same purpose in killing vampires for money.
The story here focuses on the two types of hunters. A young woman named Charlotte has been kidnapped by the local powerful vampire Meier. Her father has hired a group of hunters to rescue her while also hiring the enigmatic and mysterious D. D as we know from the original as well as from here, is a dunpeal, which is a bastard offspring of a human mother and vampire father. His life is lived between both worlds, setting firmly in neither. The vampires hate him for casting off his heritage and using his abilities to hunt them while the humans hate him for being alien among them.
With his long life, D's seen a great deal over time, especially as his father was once the might vampire king. He has a lot of knowledge but also has something nobody else seems to have; a possesed hand. The hand forms a small odd shaped face that has the ability to absorb magic as well as mouth off about things. Honestly, the hand is probably the most amusing character in the movie and has the best lines. But it also has a lot of knowledge and is used to help D hunt down Meier.
This is what a lot of the movie is about though, D and the other group of human hunters (all pretty much stereotypes seen in similar movies) chasing Meier's carriage throughout the lands as it heads towards Carmilla's castle. Carmilla's is the place where Meier intends to take Charlotte, still human and unbitten, into one of the towers that can be used as a ship to launch into space. It appears that over the centuries many vampires have escaped into the night sky to live in peace and without fear, which is what the two want of their relationship.
The movie is gorgeously animated, though most of the character designs are fairly gruff and unattractive. The obvious beauties, such as Charlotte as the classical looking young lady, and Meier as the older and handsomely attractive vampire, are fantastic. Their moments on screen are among the most beautiful. Characters like Borgoff, Gnome and Kyle are the less than attractive looking mercenary types. They try to offset this with the beautiful blonde female in the group known as Leila, but the way she's designed is just very unattractive. Though the eyes are a lovely shade of green. But her look is just kinda off-putting to me for some reason, especially tied with the voice.
The voice acting is something of a mixed bag. There's a number of characters that I like, and then everyone else is just mediocre or bad. As mentioned, the Hand played by Mike McShane (whom I've enjoyed on the British version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?) is perfectly played. John Rafter Lee turns in a fantastic performance as Meier though, giving the character a real feeling of superior nobility but still retaining some amount of humanity in him to keep the audience connected. John Di Maggio of Bender fame from Futurama turns in several different characters here but none that are truly memorable. Matt McKenzie as Borgoff as mentioned earlier fascinated me in his performance by using a pencil in his mouth to simulate the cigar and add something to the voice, though I found the character to be rather poor. And unfortunately for Pamela Segall as Leila, she's saddled with a bad character with far too many bad lines.
Watching this film on our setup, I found myself enjoying it again for all the same reasons, though it's definitely lost something on the smaller screen. The visuals are stunning and the score by Marco D'Ambrosio is beautiful, especially the the last couple of pieces at the end of the film. For all the time and effort it took for this movie to be made, I think it paid off handsomely with a gorgeous film that will likely become another cult hit over the years. Very recommended.
English Language (Dolby Digital 5.1),
English Language (DTS 5.1),Japanese Subtitles,Behind the Scenes,Japanese Theatrical Trailer,Japanese TV Commercial,US Theatrical Teaser/Trailer,End-Credits in Japanese
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Japan
Released By: Avex
Running time: 102
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Vampire Hunter D