Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, February 06, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2002
What They Say
Written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll, Wicked City), based on a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, the story revolves around D, the infamous "dunpeal" (born of a vampire father and a human mother) outcast and renowned vampire hunter. His prowess at hunting the creatures of the night allowing his acceptance among humans, he is called upon to locate Charlotte Elbourne, the lovely daughter of an affluent family who has been mysteriously kidnapped.
When the sun sets, the hunt goes on! Charlotte's father offers a rich bounty, be she dead or alive, a task D willingly accepts, even with notorious Markus brothers and their gang of bounty hunters seeking the prize as well. Amidst the chase and unknown to all lurks a sinister evil which has been secretly manipulating their every move and has set a chilling trap that none will expect and few will survive. With the tables turned and the secrets revealed, the hunters could quickly become the hunted!
After many years of waiting, a limited theatrical release and a potential nomination for an Academy Award, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust finally hits the US DVD market. And boy do D fans have a lot to be happy about.
For our primary viewing session, we watched this disc in its original language of English. Of course, English is the only language provided here, so our choices were fairly limited. However, unlike the region 2, we were even more limited as there isn't even a language selection as Dolby Digital 5.1 is the only kind of audio you'll get here. The track is solid and one of the better mixes you're going to hear from an anime, especially since it was lovingly done at Skywalker Sound where they were just giddy with what they were provided. There's a lot of great directionality and clarity to the track and an excellent sense of depth. This is a really enveloping score overall and the format really takes advantage of it. I will, being the DTS slut I am, express disappointment that the DTS track could not be provided. While I enjoyed the Dolby one here, and it does feel juiced up compared to the region 2 release, it still doesn't attain that truly warm and full sound that the DTS version provides. But for the vast majority of fans who will be getting this in Dolby 5.1, you're going to love it.
Presented in its original aspect ration of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced, you just know there's going to be a giddy crowd of folks waiting to take in the breathtaking visuals from this movie and just start drooling. And for the most part, they're definitely going to be able to do so. This is a great looking transfer outside of some minor problems that I found. The first is that this print definitely seems different than the region 2 one in that it has more film grain in it. This is more preferred by some people who want their films to have that film look while others would like a much cleaner presentation. Having seen both, I find myself really preferring the cleaner version, but this one definitely isn't a slouch. Outsize of the grain fuzziness, colors and backgrounds look amazing here. We didn't notice any kind of serious artifacting or any real problems with all the darks and black colors throughout it. Some of the greenish night skies looked a bit less than solid, but was mostly from the grain.
Now this package was a surprise. This single disc keepcase has a cardboard slipcover over it, but one of the better ones where you extract the keepcase from the side and not the top or bottom. The slipcase presents the traditional image of D in the black with a grayish-white background that's pretty much a signature look. The back is completely black with the exception of the credits that read like a more traditional Hollywood release.
The keepcase itself is an interesting looking deal. The keepcase is a nice vibrant red color and the front cover is completely black with the exception of the cross symbol in red in the center. No logo or title or anything there, just the symbol, which looks great. The back cover here is more traditional with several animation shots and a brief summaryof the movie. There's the usual quotes from big name papers and the list of the discs features. The insert provides another shot of the slipcase cover while it opens up to showcase various UV merchandise. The back cover provides the chapter listings for the movie.
The menus here are overall pretty nice, but are also afflicted with a slow loading animation intro prior to getting to the meat of the menu. On the plus side, you can skip it and it should only show up on the first load. Moving to submenus and back should take you to the final menu with nice fast loads and good access times. The menus have little about them since there's no language setup, just play, scenes and special features. Everything is laid out nicely and if there was anything to complain about, it's to nitpick that the "hand" icon is just a bit gaudy.
There's a nice selection of extras here, but it's really one piece that makes it great. To start, we get a mix of theatrical trailers and TV spots, and the one I found most interesting was the Korean theatrical trailer to see how it was marketed there. It was interesting to see a completely different logo used for that. The storyboard to feature comparison was very well done, letting you move between the three aspects to see how it was done. Being able to see fullscreen storyboards of the film moving by fast along with the animation was a real pleasure to see. The weak aspect, or the "Why is this here?" is the Fans' Favorite Scenes, which showcases 10 scenes from the movie that fans really enjoyed. Uh, ok... There's also a merchandise section that shows off some of the D items you can get, such as the t-shirts and statues.
But what really makes the extras slick is the 24 minute Behind the Scenes featurette. Completely different from the region 2 one, this focuses more on the dubbing of the movie and the directors involvement in things in the U.S. with getting the audio mixed and dealing with the voice actors and the voice director. These were only hinted at on the region 2 featurette, but are much more fleshed out here. The pieces with the orchestra and at Skywalker sound were both quite good and definitely got me more into the film, especially hearing one of my favorite pieces being performed by the orchestra.
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 Dolby Digital 5.1,Behind the scenes Featurette,Storyboard to Feature Comparison,Theatrical trailers and TV spots,Viewers’ Top Ten Picks
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: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Urban Vision
Running time: 103
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Vampire Hunter D