A Japanese-produced feature, VAMPIRE HUNTER D employs overly simplistic "Speed Racer"-style animation to illustrate an extremely convoluted narrative that tries to combine elements of samurai action films, American Westerns, horror films and futuristic sci-fi. 12,090 A.D. In this future Dark Age, powerful vampires have imposed a feudal state of terror on...read more
A Japanese-produced feature, VAMPIRE HUNTER D employs overly simplistic "Speed Racer"-style animation to illustrate an extremely convoluted narrative that tries to combine elements of samurai action films, American Westerns, horror films and futuristic sci-fi.
12,090 A.D. In this future Dark Age, powerful vampires have imposed a feudal state of terror on human beings. The formidable Count Magnus Lee, a descendant of Dracula, rules over a small village. When he puts his bite on an intrepid young woman, Doris, she vows to overthrow him. Doris teams up
with a mysterious stranger, Vampire Hunter D, who agrees to use his considerable abilities to help her. As she later learns, he too is from the house of Dracula. But, being half human, D has given himself over to good.
The duo's quest is complicated, however, by the machinations of selfish townspeople and jealous members of Count Lee's court. The mayor's oily son, Greco, exposes Doris's vampire bite to the town when she rebuffs his sexual advances. Lee's daughter L'Amica wants the commoner Doris killed so she
will not become the Count's new bride. And Lee's treacherous assistant Ray seeks D's death to curry favor with his master. Battling hordes of mutants, ghouls and demonic creatures along the way, D reaches the Count's castle, only to be ensnared by three snake-girls. The Count has Doris kidnapped
and brought to the castle for their forced wedding. D uses his regenerative powers and escapes with Doris, back to the village.
Ray hunts them, using a special vampire-paralyzing lamp given him by Lee. Greco steals the lamp, allowing D to win an encounter with Ray. Meanwhile, L'Amica captures Doris, despite competition from Greco. In a second attack by Ray, D is gravely wounded. Thinking he has won the court's favor Ray
asks Count Lee for promotion. Denied, he tries to assassinate the Count, but is himself killed by Lee. As the vampire wedding is about to transpire, a recovered D enters and kills his fellow Draculan. The evil empire vanquished, D quietly rides out of the village.
The animators try to liven up the crudeness of the characters' robotic motions and unsynched lips by giving VAMPIRE HUNTER D a dark, comic-book Gothic look. But any interest this might create is negated by several confusing action sequences, in which combatants jump and jerk about in illogical
ways that are difficult to follow. More bothersome is the way in which every scene introduces unexplained plot twists and unmotivated character actions.
Perhaps because VAMPIRE HUNTER D tries to smash together so many different genres, the narration remains embattled throughout. At times the story takes turns that are simply bizarre and opaque: why, for example, do we learn well into the film that the hero has another creature of some sort
embedded in the palm of his hand? Why does this hand with a face taunt the person in the body to which it is attached? And why does it eat dirt when it wants to revive the wounded hero? Such confusion might be funny if the entire narrative weren't so hard to follow. In its more lucid moments it is
overly cliched--at least in this English language version of the original 1985 Japanese release.
VAMPIRE HUNTER D also plays its cartoon violence to an adult rather than a children's audience. The gruesomeness and gore are not excessive, but there are trite uses of profanity. Moreover, the heroine Doris is undressed several times and twice offers her body to the noble, repressed D ("You're a
vampire hunter, aren't you? I need you. I'll give you three meals a day and you can sleep with me if you want.") While such "adult" comics and cartoons are common in Japan, US audiences usually associate animation with children and horror/sci fi with teens. This mishmash of genres offers little to
any of these audiences. (Violence, profanity, nudity.)
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