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Vampire Hunter D Anime DVD Review

7 min read

Vampire hunter D DVD Cover FrontStill a classic.

What They Say:
For 10,000 years, Count Magnus Lee has walked the night, sustained by an unholy thirst for blood and an unending lust for human women. But when he tastes the sweet nectar running through Doris Lang’s veins, the Count knows he has found more than his next meal: this is the woman he intends to claim as his next vampire bride. As the daughter of a werewolf hunter, however, Doris Lang is less than willing to step into the thrall of evil. And if she is unable to defend herself from the Count’s nightmarish powers, she is fortunate enough to have found someone who can: the Vampire Hunter known as D. But D is no ordinary man, and signing up for his protection may carry a price of its own.

The Review:
For this viewing, I listened to the English language track—presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. While the sound quality was fine, this track utilizes a new voice cast, and I found it odd to listen to at times, being accustomed to the original English dub. It’s not that the quality of the new voice acting is bad—because it’s not—but it’s kind of like seeing your best friend and hearing an entirely new voice coming out of her mouth. It’s the very definition of the uncanny. Of course, if this is your first time seeing D then this won’t be a problem.

A Japanese language track, also in Dolby Digital 2.0, is also available, as are English subtitles.

The OVA presented here is from a digitally remastered cut, and it does look very nice; however, Vampire Hunter D was made in 1985, and it does show its age. For some, that might be a problem, but for me, it only makes it better. There’s this ineffable quality to pre-2000s anime that I quite enjoy. Part of it may be due to the fact that it’s the style I grew up with, but I think it’s more than that. Many modern animes are too slick, too polished, and too often suffer from a uniformity of design. There’s a roughness to older anime, a sense of vibrancy and uniqueness that modern ones often lack.

Vampire Hunter D comes in a standard DVD case. The front cover features art from Yoshitaka Amano—the artist who worked on the original light novels that inspired the anime. D stands in the background, his cloak billowing behind him, making him look like he’s emerging from a black hole. He holds a young woman in his arms—presumably Doris, only with red hair. The spine features the same shot of D as on the cover, only now tightly-focused on his face. The back cover is nice because it possesses a greater sense of structure than most anime cases. Screenshots occupy the top and bottom corners, creating a slanting cross with the negative space. The show synopsis resides in the middle. Underneath that lie the cast and crew credits and DVD specifications. It’s a great design throughout, and I particularly like that it features Amano’s art.

The menu features the same art as on the front of the DVD case. Popping out of the left-hand side in an ornate gray frame are the “Play,” “Language,” “Special Features” and other options. The theme plays in full in the background, which I guess is a new trend, as I noticed that on Knights of Sidonia and Haikyu recently. Overall, it’s a solid design with a high aesthetic value that’s easy to navigate.

Considering the age and popularity of this OVA, I would have thought that this re-release would come chock full of extras, but that’s not the case. You get the original Japanese trailer and trailers for other Sentai titles. Typically, I don’t much care about extras, but D deserves more than this.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Anime was a rare animal when I was a kid. Sure, a few titles made their way over to the US, such as Robotech (still my favorite), Voltron, and Battle for the Planets, but those were rare exceptions—not to mention heavily edited to make them palatable for the consumption of American audiences. Sometimes, though, if you were lucky, you could catch a gem on late-night TV. I remember vividly staying up until one AM to catch Vampire Hunter Don TBS (Turner Broadcasting System, not to be confused with Tokyo Broadcasting System, which shares the same letters). I had no idea what I was watching. It was dark, bizarre, and more than a little nauseating. Needless to say, I loved it.

I didn’t know this until much later, but this OVA was inspired by a series of light novels created by Hideyuki Kikuchi and Yoshitaka Amano. Currently, there are twenty-six novels chronicling D’s adventures, and it’s surprising that there haven’t been more anime adaptations considering the popularity of the novels and this OVA, but I digress.

Vampire hunter D Imgae 2The story goes thusly: in the year 12,090 AD, humanity lives under constant threat by supernatural creatures. Society has regressed to a pre-20th Century state, and while there does exist advanced technology such as cyborg horses, forcefield fences, and blaster rifles, most people live very basic, agrarian lives. Although the anime doesn’t make this clear, nuclear war erupted in 1999. The vampire lords planned for that eventuality and managed to protect themselves. Once the fallout dissipated, the lords (calling themselves the “nobility”) emerged and reshaped the world to meet their needs. Now humans and vampires coexist—well, as much as they can considering one sees the other as a food source—and society has stagnated.

The events of the OVA begin when Doris Lang—a rancher—is caught outside her home by the Count Magnus Lee. Lee becomes immediately infatuated with Doris and claims her for his bride, biting her to mark her as his. Doris encounters a vampire hunter on the road some days later and challenges him to see if he’s up to the task of killing the Count. D agrees to help and launches a foolish frontal assault on the Count’s castle. He manages to escape and tries to help Doris fortify her home against attacks by the Count’s minions—particularly Rei Ginsei, a mutant with the ability to warp space. If this wasn’t bad enough, Doris also has to face her village shunning her as well as the lascivious advances of Greco Roman, the mayor’s son, who uses this attack as an opportunity to force Doris into marrying him (or at least sleep with him). Meanwhile, both Doris and her brother Dan become infatuated with D—Doris is attracted to him, and Dan sees him as a father-figure—and D wars with himself over his own affection for the family and his desire to be alone.

Like many animes, Vampire Hunter D doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s weird, illogical, and does very little to build the world or create a sense of verisimilitude. Much like Amano’s art, it comes across like a daydream, a fever haze of nightmare creatures and blasted landscapes and it works almost despite itself. Part of this comes from the fact that anime fans seem to naturally put up with a great deal, but part of it also comes from the OVA’s consistent tone. Although it would be inaccurate to call this work “gothic,” it does share with that genre an emphasis on atmosphere, and if you like that atmosphere, then it’s enough to carry you through.

While I’m very happy that Sentai remastered and re-released this OVA, I do wish that the company had included the original English cast dub along with the new one. Those voices are ingrained in my memory, and hearing new voices come from these familiar characters disconnects me from the story. Eventually, I imagine I’ll hunt down an older DVD, but for what it’s worth, just chalk my complaints up as old-man rambling.

In Summary:
Vampire Hunter D is justifiably an anime classic that belongs on your shelf. This DVD is a gorgeous OVA brought to full life by Sentai’s digital remastering and well-worth your attention. The only issue I had was with the English dub, which features a new cast. However, if you haven’t heard the original English cast, then that won’t be an issue. Dr. Josh gives this an…

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Original Trailer

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 25th, 2015
MSRP: $19.98
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection

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