Vampire Hunter D

UK Distributor:  Manga Entertainment

BBFC Certificate:  15

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £17.99

Running Time:  85 mins (approx.)

Audio Options:  English 5.1 & 2.0

Subtitles:  None

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


It sounds a great idea.  In a post apocalyptic future, society has reverted to an odd mix of feudal Europe and frontier America with a healthy sheen of sci-fi technology and gothic imagery for good measure.  In a nameless town a young human woman is marked by an ancient Vampire called Magnus Lee, who has decided to take her as his bride.  In a desperate attempt to avoid her fate she hires an enigmatic Vampire Hunter known only as ‘D’ to kill Magnus and thus free her from her plight.  It has design by the internationally renowned artist Yoshitaka Amano, and is based on a popular series of Japanese novels.

Alarm bells should start ringing when you notice the heroine is called Doris.

Vampire Hunter D is typical of the anime that was being released in the UK in the late eighties/early nineties, it is violent and gory with long action scenes and some brief gratuitous nudity, and has a mean, moody, and mysterious lead character.  Despite this Vampire Hunter D does have a few pluses over its peers.

Unlike many horror/action anime released in that period – such as Monster City, Devilman or The GuyverVampire Hunter D has a strong and well realised setting, a fairly straightforward plot and a good villain.  The setting is Vampire Hunter D’s strongest attribute, successfully managing to add bits of high technology into what is effectively the standard ‘Romanian town in the shadow of the old castle’ device so frequently used in vampire stories.  The setting also has some Wild West aspects, particularly in the clothing worn by many of the townspeople and the design of the town itself, and the heroine lives on a farm outside the town and has to defend her livestock from marauders.  In fact the whole story has a very Wild West feel to it – the standard Western device of a young woman living independently and hiring a horse riding drifter to defend her home and honour from a powerful villain and his goons has just been transposed into a vampire setting.  There are some nice gothic touches too, particularly in the design of Magnus’ castle; and Magnus himself is mostly pretty sinister and makes a decent villain.

However, there are many minuses too.  As mentioned the design is apparently done by Yoshitaka Amano, a master artist who has exhibited his work in Paris and New York and is famed for his androgynous character designs.  You would never guess this from watching the film, in fact it’s only on D that any sign of his work can be seen.  In fact a lot of the character design is quite shoddy, with no two characters apparently drawn in the same style, and some quite laughable monsters (particularly in the castle).  A special note must also be made for the Doctor character, who appears to change skin colour randomly throughout the film…

Aside from this some of the action scenes are plain boring, with D hacking his way through swathes of badly drawn and totally non-scary demons, and the few lines of watered down red paint that are supposed to constitute fountains of blood are laughable.  The dialogue is weak, and in places particularly cheesy, and the English dub uses a truly bizarre mish-mash of accents and includes some slightly pointless changes of dialogue.

The film ultimately has two major saving graces, and these are that it is great no-brainer action film and that the final (and inevitable) confrontation between D and Magnus, and the rebellion of one of Magnus’ lackeys just prior to it, are excellent action set pieces.  There is a pointless bit of timelapse style animation at the end that doesn’t really work, and a cheesy ending reminiscent of the old western Shane, but there is some depth to be found (although you’d be hard pressed to notice it without listening to anime pundit Jonathan Clements’ excellent commentary) and it must be said that Vampire Hunter D is enjoyable to watch.  It most certainly isn’t as good as other action films in Manga’s canon, but it is a solid actioner with a decent idea as its core and has some good set pieces, particularly towards the end.  It definitely doesn’t warrant a full price purchase, but if you see this cheap and are a fan of vampire films you could do worse than picking this up.  You could also do better though…


As well as the usual Manga Previews we also get an image gallery and character profiles, which are nothing spectacular.  However, we also get another superb commentary by anime expert Jonathan Clements, which is as hugely informative as always and is worth buying the film for on its own.


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