As a film, Vampire Hunter D would make a great comic book. There, the brilliant images would be retained (and many are stunning), the lapses in storytelling could be covered with expository word balloons, and the characters could move as freely as the mind's eye would allow.
This anime feature from writer-director Yoshiaki Kawajiri, is about D, a fearless bounty hunter specializing in vampires (he's half-vampire himself) who's offered $20 million to rescue Charlotte, a young woman kidnapped by the bloodsuckers from her father's house in the middle of the night. (There's a question, though, of whether she wants to be rescued.)
Hedging his bets, the father also has hired a quartet of human bounty hunters for the same purpose. Important points: They hate half-breeds like D almost as much as they hate vampires, and they include the tough and beautiful Leila, who ends up developing something of a ying-yang relationship with D.
Kawajiri, adapting a 1985 book by Hideyuki Kikuchi, doesn't develop the story, and his characters have powers that need to be drawn more narrowly. When a character is too powerful, there's little suspense; it's their flaws that make them interesting. Fans of anime probably will find Vampire Hunter D plenty thrilling. Non-fans, or those not familiar with the genre, will enjoy the film's gothic atmosphere, but may wonder what all the fuss is about.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
Featuring the voices of Andrew Philpot, John Rafter Lee, Pamela Segall
Written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Rated R (Violence, gore)
Released by Urban Vision Entertainment
Running time 103 minutes
Sun score **