Vampire Hunter D - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Urban Vision
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 80
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Vampire Hunter D

Vampire Hunter D

By Chris Beveridge     December 17, 2003
Release Date: October 17, 2000


Vampire Hunter D
© Urban Vision


What They Say
In the year 12,090 A.D., the Earth has fallen into the clutches of ruthless Vampires; humans are enslaved by a corrupt feudal system. Only one being has dared to challenge the cruel authority of these arrogant immortals--the mysterious Vampire Hunter called "D."

Cult classic by any standard, the sophisticated blend of horror and futuristic science fiction distinguishes Vampire Hunter D as a strikingly original gothic thriller. The darkly fantastic imagery and exotic characters help to fully realize the potency of the film confirming its status as an exceptional accomplishment in animation.

The Review!
Love it or hate it, one of the cult classic anime movies has finally made its way onto DVD. Vampire Hunter D was one of the very early anime movies to make the journey to US shores back in the late 80's under the Streamline banner (in dub only VHS). At a time when Akira and Wicked City were all the rage, Vampire Hunter D filled the role perfectly as the next best thing to broaden the action/blood and a spot of nudity that was the reason a lot of folks watched anime.

Being such a class, Urban Vision took advantage of having the source materials for the audio tracks and boosted up the English language track to a full Dolby Digital 5.1 and the Japanese track to stereo instead of the original mono. Our initial viewing of the movie was with the Japanese track as we've never heard the show in its original language. Considering its age, we were very impressed with the fullness of the sound and the pretty solid amount of directionality across the front soundstage. During some of the stronger music sections that were tied with action, we went back and forth between the two audio tracks and were somewhat surprised at the results. While the English track does have better directionality with the splits, the front soundstage is considerably reduced and loses quite a bit of its impact. Dialogue on both tracks however sound quite good, though the English track sounds a few hairs quieter to us.

The video on the other hand has its fair share of problems, though very few of them are likely to be authoring issues but rather source material issues. While some older shows have been shown to look good after a good length of time, others haven't held up so well. For better or worse, the first minute or two is probably the worst it is with the bluish red moon the background that's shifting quite a bit. Throughout the length of the movie there's a pretty regular amount of grain and some lighting shifts (dark and then lighter and then dark again). With this being such a dark movie, the blacks are pretty solid throughout. The deep blues though tend to accentuate the film grain and artifacting. The disc also took a spin in our Apex player on the 19" TV and it did look considerably better than on our HDTV setup but there was still a regular amount of grain. One of the main reasons my belief is that it's source material related is due to the authoring house being Laser Pacific. They're the folks known for the almost always reference quality work being done for New Line's movies, such as Austin Powers and Magnolia.

The artwork used for the cover is definitely top notch. The coloring used and the overall creepy and murky design definitely sets the tone for this kind of movie and easily gives the impression as one that should be watched late at night and in the dark. The back cover gives a solid rundown on both features and the story as well as credits for the top folks behind the original version. There's also a nice two page foldout which gives a bit more about the show and plugs a few other things coming up (only Wicked City is slated for DVD at this time).

The menu system is pretty straightforward with only one level of depth below the main one. It's laid out pretty logically and access times are very quick. There's only static screens used for each page with no transitition animations or music played.

In terms of extras, Urban Vision has things lined up nicely. The original Japanese trailer is provided (sans subtitles) as well as a letterboxed trailer for the new Vampire Hunter D movie that's coming out. This trailer looks amazingly gorgeous both in animation quality and simple style. A video image gallery is presented with various sketches and a preview of the upcoming Playstation game. What really is the best extra here though is the 10 minute making of featurette which is in Japanese and hard subtitled. It looks like it was created back in 1985 when the movie was wrapping up and includes some voice actors working and talking about their characters, what went into character designs and a lot more. Definitely a great piece to have.

As for the movie itself, my feelings are a bit mixed. I had seen it upon its original release on VHS way back when and was pretty turned off by it. My experiences with anime at that point was something that I didn't care much for the horror style movies, something to this day that I still don't care much for as I find the genre mostly repetitive and overused.

The show takes place over 10,000 years from today. The last great war has turned mankind into small feudal lands that are ruled over by aristocratic vampires and have various beasts and mutants who plague them. The show focuses one the young villager Doris whose lovely neck becomes punctured by the resident Vampire lord, Count Lee. After this nasty incident (and plenty of fan service upskirt shots), Doris happens upon a traveling warrior who is vampire hunter. She manages to convince him to take her up on her offer and try to off the afore mentioned nasty Count.

The story then introduces various enemies on two fronts. The villagers who are now afraid of Doris and refuse to have anything to do with her, other than the mayor's son who wants to marry her, and the servants of Count Lee who are sent to bring young Doris to the castle for the wedding. The town itself helps present the odd world the characters inhabit, with the mechanical horses and lights and the overall feeling of dark medieval times. The contrast of all this with the black clad and eerie looking Vampire Hunter works well.

The majority of the movie though follows the Hollywood formula combined with anime's style and fan service (shower scenes, a little clothes ripping, etc). This is probably one of the reasons for both its lasting appeal and its ability to reach outside of the anime genre itself and reach some mainstream acceptance. The show itself in its animation style and music show its roots in the 80's, but it manages to hold up pretty well even fifteen years later.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Trailers,Image Gallery,
Playstation game preview,10 minute subtitled Japanese "Making Of"

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster gold plated component cables and Sony speakers.

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