BANPAIA HANTA D (Vampire Hunter D)
Director: Toyoo Ashida, Carl Macek Writer: Hideyuki Kikuchi, Yasushi Hirano, Tom Wyner
"You and your kind do not belong among the living. You are nothing but visitors from the past, shadows from the world of darkness."
Japanese animation comes in whirlwinds of both creativity hand-in-hand with quirks, and naive science fiction fares. The characters are often disjointed and one-dimensional, and supposedly comical, yet by American standards, very mundane. Yet the creative side of the art remains to be surpassed even by the 'great' CGI era. Sticking to the old techniques of hand-drawn as opposed to computer-generated, Anime reflects on the human spirit more than anything else, which is surprising in the midst of so many far-fetched scenarios brought forth in the genre. It is fiction, we suppose, as we sit down in our seats with a bucket of popcorn and maybe some Twizzlers or soda, but as we delve into the storyline it can also be aggravating to watch so many grandiose scenes of mayhem meshed in with as many blatantly stupid and over-the-top characters.
Do people really laugh every time a stupid cat is shaken out of a tree by quasi-martial art ninja on screen? Is it really funny to see some teenage girl get her skirt blown up by a sudden gust of wind? These types of moments plague the stories of many an Anime feature, as well as frustrate the h*** out of yours truly. This is why this may be one of the few features worthwhile for any moviegoer. Skip the bulls***, give me action, blades, and bloody slaughter, I say. Color it red and black, put a sticker on it, and I'll buy it and enjoy it as much as I can.
Be forewarned: "Vampire Hunter D" is NOT for the faint of heart. Nudity is prevalent, blood is spilled by the bucket-load, and the gore is beautifully choreographed so as to astonish yet captivate any viewer. Even the first scene is sure to mind-boggle.
The real strength of the Anime is the animation, as previously stated. "Vampire Hunter D" will not disappoint in this aspect. Surely, we won't see much in the dark, but when the finale begins, and the light finally shines along the hills that D has traveled throughout the film, it is no less than inspiring. Left with afterthoughts of how great this film would be if it were all drawn in such vibrant color, we are easily mislead at the end to fantastic wishes. This is a vampire flick, though, and it just doesn't seem right to have such ideas floating around. Beautiful, because of its double-edged art and yet gnawing loss of concentration towards the end, the film is certainly one of the finer moments in animation history. But how great can it be for a whole hour to watch blood get splashed around, even "hand-drawn", and then have the whole thing cascade when we see how really talented the artists were at the end?
Well, it's rewards are well worth the watch. The snake-women are guaranteed to send shivers down the spine of even the more avid horror-freaks who view the film for the first time. Also, the fact that this is an animation really alleviates the need for real scares, which to be perfectly honest, never quite worked for the vampire sub-genre. Instead, we are given the truest depiction of the vampire subculture, complete with the werewolves, monsters, demons, and terminology that should be in any great vampire cinema.
The main vampire, Count Magnus Lee, is one of the more colorful characters in the film. His subtle impatience mixed with superiorly crafted monologues are a point of reference through the chaos that warps the short-lengthened movie. He was actually named after Count Dracula's most played actor, Christopher Lee, and of course the similarities are in focus throughout the film. Dracula, doesn't got s*** on this guy though.
D, the hero/anti-hero of the film is truly one of the more great characters I've ever seen in cinema, ever. The less-is-more approach is conducive to the atmosphere, as well as mentally arousing to allow the punctures of every pair of teeth to seethe and cut through the viewer's own skin.
As over-glorified the Anime genre became in the late 90's, this classic of the mid 80's remains one of the finest pieces of cinema never viewed by the common public. Hats off to the creators and artists that worked on this piece, I wish they had done more.
"I've lived for almost ten thousand years. Believe me you have no idea what that means: boredom. Everlasting and hideous boredom. A never ending search for ways to pass the time..."
VAMPIRE HUNTER D (1985): 10/10
Actors: Kaneto Shiozawa, Michael McConnohie, Barbara Goodson
Art Direction: Toyoo Ashida Music: Tetsuyo Komuro Producer: Shigeo Maruyama, Yutaka Takahashi, Carl Macek, Hiroshi Kato, Mitsuhisa Koeda