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With: (voices) Andrew Philpot, John Rafter Lee, Pamela Segall, Wendee Lee, Michael McShane, Julia Fletcher, Matt McKenzie, John Di Maggio, Alex Fernandez, Jack Fletcher, John Hostetter, Dwight Schultz, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
Written by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri, based on a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi
Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
MPAA Rating: R for violence/gore
Running Time: 103
Date: 07/01/2000
IMDB

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2001)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

D Is for Dracula

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The new anime Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is partially an attempt to make up for a less-than-satisfying straight-to-video feature made in 1985, both based on a series of popular Japanese novels. Technically a sequel, this new movie's artwork and production design are so superior that viewing the original is not only unnecessary -- it's irrelevant.

Like most anime I've seen, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, which opens today at the Opera Plaza Cinema, takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. Vampires once rose to take over the world but are now on the wane again. Bounty hunters roam Earth's empty plains carrying loads of equipment, from newfangled gizmos to old-fashioned knives, looking for bloodsuckers. The most famous hunter, a half human-half vampire, is known simply as "D" (which I'm told stands for the original vampire, Dracula).

When a lovely young lass named Charlotte gets kidnapped by an evil vampire named Meier Link, her father and brother hire the best to get her back. D hits the trail in search of his nemesis. Swathed in a huge-brimmed black hat and black cloak, D rarely speaks, but a "friendly" parasite living in the palm of his hand speaks plenty. ("What's the sound of one hand yapping?" it moans in one scene.)

Meanwhile, a band of human hunters called the Markus Brothers -- including a bristly-haired blonde named Leila -- hit the same trail, hoping that D doesn't get in their way. It turns out that poor Charlotte has actually fallen in love with her vampire captor and intends to marry him.

To complicate matters even further, Meier Link employs a band of evil mutants to hunt D and the others, including a werewolf-type creature with a snout and teeth protruding from his stomach, and a woman who can turn herself into spiky, deadly tree branches.

As directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll and Demon City Shinjuku), the film has a kind of Sergio Leone feel to it, a desolate widescreen Western peppered with stoic heroes and fearless villains. Kawajiri and his artists capture this emptiness beautifully, giving the film plenty of breathing room and beautiful space to offset the action.

But as the film climaxes and the characters find themselves in the lair of the sorceress Countess Carmilla, the visuals become, by turns, both spectacular and nightmarish. As far as sheer imagination goes, they easily top any of the other animation work I've seen this year, including Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade, Final Fantasy and Shrek.

Unlike most of the recent adventure epics, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is ultimately about something: loneliness. I recently received an e-mail from a reader informing me that the post-apocalyptic vision of many anime films comes not from the reaction to the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima as I once speculated, but from Japan's too-quick transformation from a land of rolling green hills and cherry blossoms to a world technological giant. As a result, many citizens there feel dehumanized and lost.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust may be made for them, but it provides a gorgeous, slam-bang entertainment for those of us on this shore, as well.

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