My memory of the original Vampire Hunter D, of which Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is a sequel to, is a little hazy. The original came out in 1985 and I saw it somewhere in ’93, perhaps a few years earlier or later, and I distinctively remember that it didn’t make much of an impression on me despite a lot of hype from personal friends surrounding the film.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust opens with the kidnapping of Charlotte, the daughter of a wealthy townsman, by uber vampire Meier Link. Charlotte’s family hires Vampire Hunter D, a half-human, half-vampire bounty hunter who only kills vampires (think Blade without the dark shades) to retrieve her. Also on Meier’s trail are 4 brothers, all bounty hunters, and a woman name Leila. The human bounty hunters are racing against D to find Meier first and bring back Charlotte, or if she’s been turned into a vampire, then bring back her ring as proof. But not everything is what it seems, and a major obstacle soon appears to hamper the rescue operation: Charlotte claims she went with Meier willingly, and is in fact in love with him…
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust takes place (from what I can gather) a few years from where the original ended. Of course this is not much of an educated guess, since the film itself isn’t all that concern with establishing any sort of time frame, and that’s probably because even the filmmakers have no idea. As a result, Bloodlust looks like a mishmash of eras. The world exists somewhere in the future after civilization has fallen due to rampant vampirism, and the human population now resides in small hubs of cities and towns and looks like French peasants, are armed with American Wild West-era weapons, but drives around in mechanized armored personnel carriers as well as horses and carriage. You figure it out.
As one would expect from an action-adventure series like Vampire Hunter D, the movie is wall-to-wall action. Bloodlust follows its predecessor in that regard, but unlike the original, Bloodlust’s animation is much smoother and more impressive. The film utilizes the same technique as other Japanimation of recent years, including Jin-Roh and Blood: The Last Vampire — that is, traditional cell animation working flawlessly with computer generated imagery. The results are astounding and gorgeous.
Also unlike the original, Bloodlust has a point of humor in comedian Michael McShane (TV’s “Whose Line is it Anyway?”) who supplies the voice of a parasitic creature in D’s left hand, hence his character name of Left Hand. McShane is hilarious and I’m sure there were more than a few moments of adlibbing, since most of the time we can’t see Left Hand when we hear his voice. The movie’s closing scene also features the best McShane dialogue, which I won’t spoil for you now. Suffice it to say, it’s quite simple but extremely funny, and Left Hand takes a shot at D’s fashion sense.
Bloodlust does have some problems, most of which involves the English soundtrack. In fact, Bloodlust’s quality is most suspect when it comes to the audio. For example, character dialogue runs through the track as a low, mumbling sound, whereas the sound effects are ear splitting. On more than one occasion I had to turn up my volume to hear the dialogue only to quickly turn the volume down once the action started. Very, very uneven.
Another annoying feature of Bloodlust, and a lot of Japanimation I’ve seen lately (although not nearly as prominent as in Bloodlust) is the way the English actors deliver their lines. I’m not sure if it’s the fault of the director, but almost every line of English sounds as if the writers neglected to add punctuation when they wrote the dialogues down on paper. As a result, the English actors quite literally read out their dialogue from end to end without pause, as if there was no comma or period to tell them to pause briefly before continuing. Every time a character opens his or her mouth for exposition, expect to hear about 10 lines of dialogue spoken as if it was one big long sentence.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is actually much better than the original, which is saying a lot in light of the No Sequel is Better Than the Original rule of movie critiquing. Not only did Bloodlust make great use of the leap in animation technology, but also it delivers exactly what it promises — action, action, and more action.
What more could you ask for? Well, maybe some punctuation in the English dialogues. Punctuation was invented for a reason, you know.
Yoshiaki Kawajiri (director) / Yoshiaki Kawajiri (novel), Hideyuki Kikuchi (screenplay)
CAST: Andrew Philpot …. D
John Rafter Lee …. Meier Link
Michael McShane …. Left Hand