by Marty Demarest
The title's not the only obstacle that viewers will have to overcome if they want to enjoy Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Anyone who has problems with violence -- particularly over-the-top, animated gore -- should stay away from the film. But fans of mature anime, lovers of pop-influenced directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, and vampire cinephiles will have a great time.
The film is more of a mood piece than an adventure or horror story; the thin plot is laid out in the first few minutes of exposition. A young girl has been taken away by a vampire, and her father wants her brought back. He's hired a group of rowdy bounty hunters and a solitary part-vampire to carry out the job. Whoever succeeds first will receive an enormous financial reward.
What propels Vampire Hunter D throughout, however, is the assured sense of characterization and mood that director Yoshiaki Kawajiri brings to the film. The audience is never given any deep backstory about D, although the first Vampire Hunter D film explains everything in detail. Here, the character reveals himself with action alone. Never wasting a movement, D, with his talking hand and robotic horse, is the still center of this visually resplendent film, in which every character is both good and evil.
Best known for the popular anime films Ninja Scroll and Wicket City, director Kawajiri's vision for the film sustains the delicate setting of the comic book upon which the film is based, but brings a terrifying kinetic energy to the fight sequences. Whether it's the sight of hundreds of zombies being assaulted by arrows, or a high-noon showdown between a pair of bounty hunters and a shadow-dwelling specter, all of the motion in Bloodlust is breathtakingly rendered into high color and contrast. One sequence in particular, in which a character becomes an avenging angel by injecting drugs, contains one of the most overpowering images in recent film.
The DVD for Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is nothing special by itself -- a few extra features that die-hard fans will enjoy, and the usual assortment of trailers and still photos. But with animation this detailed and precise, DVD is the only way outside of the theater to experience this incredible-looking film as it was intended.