Does it hold up after all these years?
- Episodes : 1
- Genre : Action, Sci-Fi, Horror, Supernatural, Vampire
- Airing Date : December 21, 1985
- Studios : Production Reed
Vampire Hunter D Introduction
Vampire Hunter D is a classic horror, anime film from 1985. We thought that since the month of October was coming to a close we'd revisit this old film and see how it has held up over time. There's a lot to go over, so let's not waste any more time.
1. The Sound
The opening track definitely sets a tone. It's dark and eerie. It is reminiscent of the A Nightmare on Elm Street theme, but not quite as scary. There is a synth pervading throughout the track and not enough piano notes or key differentiation to make the song threatening. Honestly, only two tracks from this movie are memorable. The opening track, which I just mentioned, and the ending song where D (our main protagonist) is riding off into the distance.
Of course, these songs were a product of their time, they sound out-dated in terms of production quality. But the tone, rhythm, and melody stay with you long after watching this film. There is something about old songs from cartoons and video games from the 80's. They're simple but so effective. They cut right into the emotional core of whatever scene or video game stage they're trying to enhance.
2. A Struggling Female Lead
The first character we meet is a strong female using a high powered rifle and an electric whip. She's hunting down supernatural threats during a full-moon night. Suddenly werewolf jumps from the darkness, rips the cross necklace off her neck, and leaves her defenseless to a vampire that shows up. She's become a victim of the legendary Count Lee that has threatened her hometown for hundreds or possibly thousands of years.
Later, we see the same girl again standing on the road. She tries to attack a man riding a horse, but it's no use. She apologizes, she simply wanted to test his strength. She shows him that she has been bitten on the neck by the Count. She humbly introduces herself as Doris Lang and D agrees to help her out.
I mention all of this as a short introduction to Doris. Struggling is a positive term here because it means she continues to fight. She hasn't given up. She is portrayed as a strong female lead, who fights her own battles, but is willing to ask for help when she meets insurmountable odds. She could have easily asked for help from the townsfolk. And yet, she would rather seek help from an outsider whom she tested in combat. Sure the townsfolk shun her once they find out about her "condition", but she never really relied on them in the first place.
Doris Lang is a self-sufficient character who was created in a time where women characters always needed a man around for protection and guidance. We think it's great that this type of character existed back then and holds up well today (minus the pig-tails and short skirt she always wears).
3. The Pacing
There is never a dull moment in Vampire Hunter D. The opening is a scene where Doris is riding around at night and following supernatural creatures. There is a multitude of fight scenes, several of which do not even involve D. There are a rescue and escape scene within Count Lee's futuristic castle. We explore the relationship between Doris and her younger brother, Dan. Then, there's the final confrontation between Count Lee and D.
Even when there are slower moments, they are used to develop a relationship between characters. I can't remember the last time I watched anime and was surprised by how little exposition was needed and how fluid the narrative moved. A lot of that could be attributed to the fact that this is a film and not a series. Series generally spend more time building up atmosphere or foreshadowing events, but Vampire Hunter D had plenty of that.
4. A Complex Stranger
Early, and when D enters the noble's fortress, a voice speaks to him from within. We find out later that one of his hands has a life of its own and it often reminds him of his troubled past and dark destiny.
Something else he has to deal with is the fact that commoners generally stay away from vampire hunters because they are dangerous and death follows them around.
Later on, Count Lee figures out that D is probably a descendant of the "Sacred Ancestor" and a mortal woman. So, D's bloodline (human and vampiric) are other factors he has to deal with on a daily basis.
We found it intriguing that the film could have easily expanded on the "Sacred Ancestor" thread, but chose not to. That potential narrative is kept unexplained and verified. There is so much more backstory and future developments left to experience. Who is the "Sacred Ancestor"? Is D actually a descendant? Does that mean he's possessed by that ancient being? Is he cursed to be a vampire forever? It's all left to the imagination.
Vampire Hunter D is a great film that has held up well over time. It didn't feel like we needed more time with the characters or additional fight sequences. Even though the ending was bitter-sweet, there was a finality to it that was comforting at the same time.
Those are our thoughts on this film. What do you think about it? Share your thoughts below or tweet at us. Thanks for reading and have a great day!