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Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

Vampire hunter D Bloodlust BDWhat They Say:
The distant future… Vampires rule the night but their numbers are dwindling. With huge bounties on their heads, a class of hunters has emerged; bounty hunters. One hunter is unlike all the others. He is a dunpeal – a half human, half vampire. At war with himself, feared by all, tortured and alone, he is…. Vampire Hunter D. When darkness falls, the hunt begins. The chilling classic for the first time in high-definition!

Baron Meier Link is of a dying race but the vampire doesn’t intend to remain lonely much longer. Abducting women in the night is common for his kind, so what’s one more? But Charlotte’s father has plenty of money, and there’s no price he won’t pay to get his daughter back. That’s why he hires D.

D is a dunpeal, a breed rarer than that of the vampires- after all, he’s half of one. When it comes to hunting those with fangs like his own, he’s the best in the business. But that doesn’t mean he’s the only game in town. The Markus Brothers are on the vampire’s trail as well, and they’re not about to lose. It’s a race, not only between the rival Hunters but for the vampire and his bride-to-be. But it might be more than just a job to D. Is Charlotte really a captive? Or will another dunpeal be born into this world?

The Review:
Audio:
The original English audio is present in Dolby 2.0 and 5.1, both of which sounded pretty decent with no distortions present. The English audio is an interesting and somewhat unique choice as it was produced originally in English and so the performances are the most native for the project. The acting is mostly decent here. John Rafter Lee’s presence is the most haunting and compelling as Meier Link, done in the style of Vincent Price as it were. Andrew Philpot is solid and forceful as D. Pamela Segall tries a little too hard at times as Leila but settles into a decent groove. I didn’t recognize A-Team / Star Trek TNG veteran Dwight Schultz as Barbarois leader so he did a pretty good (albeit brief) job. Mike McShane, the parasite in D’s hand was too over the top sometimes, but has a few good one-liners. The rest of the cast is worth hearing mostly.

Video:
I have to admit, I was a bit thrown when I saw the video quality initially. It’s not glossy like DVD. The picture was taken from the actual film since HD information at the time was not preserved when the movie was first created. To offset things, the color saturation pumped up and some darkening and film stock effects were added slightly to the movie. Reds and similar hues, in particular, benefit from this treatment adding to the bloody and gothic feel. Felt strange the first time I watched this disc and compared it to the previous DVD from Urban Vision. About a week later, though, I watched with fresh eyes again and was just fine with how it looked. Also included is a set of optional closed captions in yellow text with black outline

Packaging:
There’s a red heavy stock slipcase with a glossy finish depicting the masthead in simple black text. It has a standard Blu-ray case with a painting of the title character surrounded by bats on the front nd the title masthead in red. The back contains cel pictures with a red filter on the top and right and unaltered pics at the bottom. Info from the ‘what they said’ section is in the middle and technical information is located horizontally at the bottom. The flip side of this sheet is a screen shot of D on his horse holding a captured arrow.

Menu:
Film clips continuously play, including one which is the movie logo given a red overlay with added film grain effects. The movie’s orchestral BGM plays continuously. There’s a simple yet fading black section located horizontally in lower thirds with options for play (movie), scenes (selection), set up and special features. Each button consists of white text which can be highlighted by yellow choices. Other than for the ‘play’ option, bloody red blot pops up with white text options to be highlighted by yellow choices.

Extras:
Various TV and Theatrical trailers for U.S. and Japan releases are present. All play out in original 4:3 proportions except the Korean trailer which displays in16:9. The other features are similar to the original Urban Vision release, even retaining their logo. Behind the Scenes featurette, Storyboard / scene comparison limited and an art gallery are also present.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’m a long-time fan of the Vampire Hunter D universe. The original OAV was one of the first anime I’d ever seen in the late 80s. Afterward, I saw Wicked City and kept wishing for years afterward that film’s director, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, would get to helm a VHD project someday due to his use of high contrasts, dark colors, and slick movements in horrific settings. His subsequent work on Cyber City Oedo 808 Vol. 3, in which a government-hired convict battles a vampire on a space station, only enhanced my desire to see such a movie get made. Many years later, I went to see his movie Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust at Georgia State University’s Cinefest and was completely blown away.

Based on the novel “D: Demon Deathchase” by Hideyuki Kikichi, Bloodlust starts with D going to see the Elbourne Family. They want D to rescue young Charlotte Elbourne, who’s been kidnapped by master vampire Meier Link. They also tell him a rival bounty hunting crew called The Markus Brothers are also on the job and have a head start. After a bit of a price haggle, D accepts the task.

Later, he runs across The Markuses during a vampire fight and continues with his pursuit. One of the members, Leila, rushes after D while the rest decide to let him soften up their quarry for the kill.
Soon, D and Leila confront Meier on his horse-drawn carriage, with Leila winding up getting seriously wounded. D fares a bit better but is likewise unable to retrieve Charlotte, who interestingly shows genuine concern for Meier during the fight.

D tends to Leila’s wounds, even though she doesn’t trust this dunpeal (half-human/half-vampire) hunter. The Markuses catch up and the chase is on once again. Soon, both groups wind up at the lair of The Barbarois, an expensive organization of creatures that protect vampires. This is where the action gets really hairy, as D and The Markuses soon figure out Meier’s ultimate destination.

Then again, the action also takes off near the beginning of the film and never really stops. Whereas the original video was a defensive standoff of sorts with slower development, Bloodlust is a quest movie and plays out much more actively. I found this fun to watch as the film felt like a gothic roller-coaster ride filled with twists and turns. There were pauses for character and story expansion, but they didn’t kill the overall momentum, especially with the well-orchestrated music keeping the mood intact.

As to the animation, well the first OAV was done in 1985 while Bloodlust is a movie made in 2000, so the budget differences allowing for advanced animation techniques are quite obvious. The key difference lies in the direction, as Kawajiri’s tendency to use slick lines and fast-paced action sequences works perfectly; so does his preference for highly-detailed characters, which look to a bit more in line with illustrator Yoshitaka Amano’s concepts than the previous anime. Kawajiri’s addiction to mostly dark colors accentuated the rolling backgrounds, consisting of complementing sharp and curved edges throughout the film.

The characters themselves are mostly developed as needed. D is still the stoic mysterious hero who hunts. Meier is the determined focus of everyone’s attentions. The Markuses want to make sure they can get their money and don’t always agree n everything even as this chase takes its toll on them. Charlotte though doesn’t really get much to say during this whole ordeal and as such is the damsel in distress with only brief insights to show a personality.

In Summary:
With its rich detail, gothic imagery and balanced pacing, I consider Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust one of the best anime of the 2000s, and perhaps one of the best anime films I’ve ever seen. It’s sad the returns were not more financially successful as I’d have loved to see more works like this. Nevertheless, I’m satisfied with the treatment this Blu-ray received given what Discotek Media had to work with and am happy to recommend it on that basis.

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Discotek Media / Eastern Star
Release Date: August 25th, 2015
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p aVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3

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