One to Watch: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
We shine a light on Blade’s lesser-known business rival...
It’s always challenging for a sequel to live up to viewers’ expectations, yet Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is one film that accomplishes the rare feat of eclipsing its predecessor entirely. Based on the third installment in a series of novels, Bloodlust is to many the definitive depiction of author Hideyuki Kikuchi’s gothic horror saga, and this can be chalked down to the sheer zeal of this animated adaptation.
While Bloodlust works as an entirely self-contained narrative, it’s still easy to be taken aback by the film’s outlandish premise. Set in a dystopian future combining elements of gothic horror, sci-fi and westerns, the franchise follows a vampire-human hybrid (or dhampir) who goes only by “D”. D’s latest assignment is to hunt down Meier Link, a vampiric noble who plans to elope with his human bride into space via a cathedral-esque rocket ship and is protected by a group of superpowered bodyguards along the way.
The wonderfully slick animation is all the more impressive when you consider just how detailed the art direction is, as the film is populated with elaborate character designs based on illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano
This wholly unique setting is brought to life by similarly ambitious animation. Bloodlust is filled with intricate set pieces that many traditionally-animated works wouldn’t dare attempt – at least without a much greater reliance on CGI – as the camera darts around the nimble combatants, their hair and cloaks in constant flux. The wonderfully slick animation is all the more impressive when you consider just how detailed the art direction is, as the film is populated with elaborate character designs based on illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano, known for his work on the Final Fantasy franchise.
These characters – ranging from mysterious, to tragic, to downright bizarre – are voiced by a memorable cast including Pamela Segall (King of the Hill) and John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time) that succeed in capturing the nuance of each role. (Unusually for an anime film, the English voice track was completed before the native Japanese dub.) In addition, composer Marco D'Ambrosio’s excellent original score helps to give the whole affair the cinematic gravitas it deserves.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust combines a variety of tones and genre trappings to great effect, and is perhaps most fondly remembered by anime fans for its truly incredible visuals. It’s a product of early-2000s Japan in the best possible way, and deserving of its status as an immortal cult classic.