Giving it some thought, I think, I saw this movie back in late 1994, when I was working at the mall in the warehouse of Service Merchandise. I’ve always been into anime to varying degrees, but around this time I got heavy into it, because I had a steady paycheck and could finally afford the tapes.
S&J Productions, a company based in New Jersey (long out of business now), that specialized in anime and horror movies, used to send out their SciFi Continuum catalog every so often and this is where I bought most of my anime. Every movie came with an update catalog, and every tape came with trailers of other movies and it was from these trailers where I would routinely discover new and amazing Japanese animated flicks. The trailer would normally amaze me, so then I’d scour their update catalog, or their main catalog, to see if they had that movie in stock. Ten times out of ten they did and I think this is how I discovered Vampire Hunter D.
In Vampire Hunter D (according to Wikipedia this particular film is based on “the first in the long-running series of light novels written by Hideyuki Kikuchi.”) the world has gone through its inevitable and fatal WWIII demise and here we are centuries later in a post-apocalyptic existence where mankind has managed to prevail. What you’ll find amazingly new in this world is that vampires and werewolves are real, along with a plethora of weirder things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, and in the day, I can’t even begin to describe. Wait, maybe, I can… take for instance this bizarre red “vampire mist” that engulfs animals and devours them, the body twisting and tossing around, skin and bone disintegrating before your vary eyes. It’s a creepy thing, seen only three or four times, but for me it left a lasting impression.
The movie starts off with teen, Doris, who’s out one night hunting some weird dinosaur-like herbivore, shooting it dead after a brief chase on her horse, when out of no where she comes face-to-face with a vampire. Not just any vampire either. One from the Noble line. Count Magnus Lee they call him, and he comes with 10,000 years of experience. His castle is in the vicinity, but he’s been gone for a very long time. Well, now, he’s finally returned and when vampires this old get bored they tend to find a human to turn, marry and eventually discard. Doris just had the bad luck of being that girl for Magnus. But she ain’t goin’ down like that. Doris is a fighter and her choice of weapon is a dhampyre (pronounced dam-peer), a vampire that has one human parent, thus making it half human/half vampire. Doris comes across this ‘D,’ as he calls himself, one night as he’s passing through, though for a while she has no idea he’s a dhampyre, she only knows he’s a renowned vampire killer and this is exactly what she needs. It doesn’t take much to persuade him to help once he inspects the fang marks on her neck.
More characters come into the picture, Doris lives on a farm with her younger brother, Dan, and our first introduction to him is of him chasing off this “vampire mist” from feasting on the animals. In town we’re introduced to resident douchebag, and son of the Mayer, Greco Roman, who tries to get down Doris’ pants by claiming he can help.
Once the town finds out Doris is bitten they want to send her to a special place, some kind of asylum where bitten folk are quarantined, but this happened once before with Magnus and quarantining his new love back then didn’t settle well with him, so much so he made it a point to show everyone how much this truly pissed him of by randomly killing 30-40 residents. Okay, so, Plan A is a no-go, but Plan B (aka Vampire Hunter D) looks to be her best bet.
I like that this movie isn’t as “black and white” as it originally appears. The Count doesn’t live alone. His daughter, Lamika, and this mutant named, Rei Ginsei, reside in the castle too and they are integral to this tale. D has more than one chance to kill Lee’s daughter but he doesn’t because that’s not how he operates or how their ancestors operated. Lamika detests this marriage between her father and this lowly stock of a human, and she doesn’t want to taint their Noble line with her genes. Rei on the other hand only wants immortality and at one point Magnus promised him this, but in the final act Lee reneges on that deal, which ends up promoting “bad-guy-on-bad-guy” violence that certainly doesn’t end well for Rei. Magnus hits him with a Scanner-like ability that blows his head to pieces.
The Count has a secret though, and right before the wedding, and the final confrontation with D, he reveals to his daughter her mother was a human. Lamika cannot and will not accept she is dhampyre so she chooses to die with her father (after D kills him) as the castle collapses, though D tries to talk her down from her suicide.
Speaking of secrets D has a big one too. It explains how a dhampyre like him could defeat a 10,000-year-old vampire. In the castle there’s a portrait of Count Dracula, which oddly looks exactly like actor Bronson Pinchot and Magnus is giving a lecture to D about their ancestors and D is contradicting him by stating their ancestors weren’t murderers. D should know since it’s revealed he’s actually older than Magnus for his father was one of those ancestors, quite possibly Dracula himself. If this was an American made animated movie I’m not sure there would be all those interesting layers of gray, especially if it was done in the mid-80s, but I digress.
What’s never explained is why D has a face on his left hand, it’s a being that talks and has it’s own abilities. No clue what it was or how he came to acquire it. A nice, creepy touch though. I suppose the novels may have some explanation.
As far as I know this movie was only released one other time here in the state, back in 2000 from Urban Vision, but on August 25th Sentai Filmworks (aka Section23) re-releases Vampire Hunter D (1985) on DVD and for the first time on blu-ray.
What makes this release noteworthy is that Sentai Filmworks has remastered the movie, and even on the DVD version you can see the improvement. Even if you don’t own a blu-ray player yet, this DVD will wow you. Also of note Sentai created a new English dub which sounded fine to me. No, they didn’t include the original.
- Japanese trailer
The Urban Vision had extra features; those were not ported over.
The animation looks dated, it looks like an OVA made in ’85, and in some cases that does put me off, but that wasn’t the case this time. I like encountering a memory movie I’ve always remembered as being ho-hum but finding out decades later it was much better than that.