Review: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2003)

First up, I’ve got to say that I had a considerable advantage in my exposure to Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. After all, I saw it at the Mercury, as the first night of the Heroic Cinema season, and the full-to- pussy’s-bow cinema (plus the extra session afterwards) made it extra special.

But that said, I must say that I really enjoyed this film. In technical terms, the animation was somewhat atypical, with characters all sharply distinguishable at first glance: this made it easy to recognise and relate to the characters. The colours were lush, which I like a lot, and the richness and depth of colour underscored the baroque gothic quality of the story. The sound was clear and precise, and the voice acting was exceptionally good: often with anime (or indeed any dubbed Asian films) there’s a tendency to hire voices that sound stereotypical or cliched, but that was not the case here. The actors mostly didn’t succumb to the apparently common desire to pack all of their acting into their vocal delivery, which meant that the voices sounded much more realistic, and much more closely allied to the characters.

The story I found as richly complex as the artwork. Character interactions worked well, and I thought the characters were fairly well delineated. Then, of course, there was the insanely complicated tapestry that was the imagined world: as a long-time fan of science fiction and all things related, I kept my eyes glued to the screen for the next tidbit of “life as it might be”.

And the male vampire (or semi-vamp, as is the hero) characters were all lean exotic hero types, much like romantic poets, at least in their dress and aspect. I could tell from their look that they weren’t the type to enjoy a round of shuffleboard as much as the next chap, or use the word “jolly” overmuch. No, these lads were lean and handsome and just dangerous enough: strong jawlines (just like Andy Lau) and long fingers.

Correspondingly, although I’m not a connoisseur, the female contingent did display a reasonable amount of cleavage: on some occasions I suspected it would be enough to interfere with the action, were they not animated and thus gravity-defying.

On the downside, there was a smidgeon of saccharine at the end: the final scene would have been better without the cute child. But then perhaps I’m just allergic to children. And I was ambivalent about the palm-top demon/assistant: it would have been easy for this to irritate me, although it managed not to do so.

Overall, though, I loved it. The various characters had me engrossed, particularly the green girl who just would not die. I’d have given up and left the consumptive heroine to her toothy inamorato, and sodded off elsewhere. But then I’m not a bounty hunter.

I loved the architecture of the vampire queen’s palace (sorry, name escapes me): it looks as though she told the architect “Make it big, make it red, and above all, make it gothic. I want turrets, I want buttresses, I want the lot with bells on, thank you very much”. I can’t imagine her siting this one in a pleasant valley or at the seaside: no, it must be amidst towering cliffs and gloomy mountains. I expect the servants were shot if they opened the drapes. Or perhaps eaten, given her habits.

And those habits clearly didn’t include slobbing around the castle in her tracky dacks. No, on the contrary, Mistress Vampire Queenie was properly attired for the job of ensnaring intruders at all hours of the day and night, said attire including a standout collar that must have needed wire and starch, an appropriately Asian-style large knobby headdress, and of course huge gobs of jewellery. After all, what’s the fun of being undead if you can’t dress the part?

9 blood-soaked turrets out of 10.
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