I always get a little nervous when beginning to review a movie and this one is no different. I really do hope that I can give it the recognition it deserves, particularly as a cult classic.
Vampire Hunter D is set 10,000 years into the future, where the world has become a very different place. Here, monsters roam the world and people, although equipped with high tech equipment are more humble than ever before. The film is set is a small hamlet which ruled by Count Magnus Lee – a powerful vampire who has ruled the land for thousands of years. When a young girl named Dorris is bitten by the Count, she seeks help from a mysterious wandering stranger that goes by the name of D. Coincidentally, D just so happens to be one of the best vampire hunters around, so he takes it upon himself to destroy Magnus Lee, and his many minions, and end his rule.
I first came across Vampire Hunter D a few years ago now, but I’ve only just persuaded myself to sit down and watch it. I knew it should be a film that I would like, but I never expected to be so drawn into a story, so drawn into the film, as quickly as I have been. Sure, I’ve only watched the 1985 film, but now I’m super keen to go through the adaptations. This film has had such an impact on me and I love it. Regardless, I should probably explain why I love it. It wouldn’t be much of a review if I just left it there, would it?
I didn’t really expect much, to begin with, considering its age and what my opinions on other films from a similar era tend to be, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The first thing I noticed was the character designs, which I absolutely love. D is constantly wearing dark colours and dons some sort of armour with a cloak, as well as his infamous wide-brimmed hat. This, I absolutely love. It sets the tone of not only the film well (we first meet D within the first five minutes of the film), but it sets his character up perfectly as well. He’s dark, he’s mysterious and this outfit really does set that vibe. To immediately contrast his get-up, we also meet Doris within the five minutes as well, who dons a relatively short dress, some white boots and a whip. Immediately, we get the vibe of a badass yet somewhat vulnerable female character.
Not only were the character designs good, but the characters themselves were brilliant. Not only was this because of the script itself, which was written superbly despite the actual storyline being quite simple, but the characters were brought to life by the voice actors. There was not one voice actor’s voice that I felt was out of place. The three main voice talents in this were Kaneto Shiozawa (whose voice you might also hear in other classics such as Gatchaman), Michie Tomizawa (any Sailor Mars fans, here?) and Seizou Katou (who played Megatron in Transformers the Movie). Each character’s personality was conveyed brilliantly and I wouldn’t swap any voices. A job well done, in my eyes.
As we continue through the movie, I notice how well the music also helps to set the mood. The music does as good as a job as the animation itself. Music is often non-existent, but when it is there, it’s incredible. It’s intense and the use of a mixture of violins and more electronic sounds combine to create a real dramatic atmosphere, which is perfect for the amount of fight scenes within the film. Not to the mention the brilliant use of Ode to Joy for an obvious inspiration for the music towards the end of the film once the peace has been restored. (At least, it definitely sounds like the piece from Beethoven!) The ED is performed by TM NETWORK, a Japanese rock/pop trio, and fits surprisingly well. It reminds me somewhat of typical 80s music from the likes of Duran Duran and I really like the sounds of the bass in this one.
Like I’ve said previously, the script is wonderful. Okay, there might be a couple of plot holes, but these don’t ruin the movie. You can watch the movie quite alright. Of course, there’s a little bit of nudity within the movie, considering what happens in the movie, but it’s nothing too uncomfortable for the viewer. As well, considering the film’s nature, there’s a lot of gore and there’s a lot of blood, however the majority of the things killed within the narrative are the many monsters that we’re continuously introduced to.
These monsters, like the characters themselves, differ somewhat from one another. This isn’t just a vampire movie. Sure, they play a big part in it, but there are also dhampirs, phatoms, mutants and much more. So, if you’re wanting a film to watch this Halloween, consider Vampire Hunter D. It’s a classic, after all. Personally, I can’t wait to get stuck in and sink my teeth into this series.
You can buy Vampire Hunter D (1985) on DVD and Blu-Ray from Amazon!
Illustration of D in cover image by Lutessius.