It’s long been said that the 80’s were the golden age of anime. With rose tinted glasses, and fond memories of simpler days, many anime fans were introduced to the medium thanks to the masterpieces of this decade. Every now and then, we should take a step back in time to appreciate these gems.
Vampire Hunter D, is one of these long buried diamonds. This is not a review of the movie that came out in 1985, this is just a glimpse and a few thoughts about it.
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This movie deserves to be mentioned because in this day and age, older anime falls off the radar. It can be easy to forget about them. Vampire Hunter D was considered a fairly huge success upon release. It mixed the finer arts of sci-fi and high fantasy in an easily digestible way.
The 1985 film carries a narrative that you can easily enjoy, without requiring knowledge of the series. The movie will explain things as it goes along.
The anime movie swiftly became known as a cult classic following its release, and that’s one of the many reasons it remains beloved to this day. In spite of it’s age, the anime holds up very well, all things considered. As one of the anime films to hit the United States in the ’90s, american fans were given a world that was little dark, and somewhat gritty.
All of this was wrapped in stunning visuals that only occasionally dropped in quality. It was the era of hand drawn, so occasional dips were to be expected. These visuals coupled with musical genius, making for an atmosphere that still echoes into fandom to this day.
It stands along the giants of its time, Generally speaking, the movie was more or less a a direct adaptation of the first Vampire Hunter D novel, which had been written two years prior.
In this series, the vampire hunter is hired by a blonde-haired, blue-eyed farm girl named Doris Lang who wants to kill the vampire that attacked and bit her. The hunter in question is the child of a vampire and a human. This means he has extraordinary vampire powers but his human blood protects him from having many of the usual weaknesses you might .
It’s a simple premise but the story is compelling, and for many viewers it was our first real taste of body horror in anime, not counting shows with even more of it, like Akira that came out a little later.
Yes, that is a hand with a face in it. This is what I mean by body horror. There are other good examples throughout the entire series too. It’s enough to be unsettling, without being too awful.
The blend of many horror tropes is both amusing and freighting depending on what scares you. It could be both hilariously delightful, or well and truly haunting. It simply depends on what horror manages to scare you and what horror doesn’t.
All of this said, the movie, and later iterations of the series do a good job at keeping spirits held high. It’s not all doom and gloom despite the setting. From nearly steampunk robotic horses and Gothic architecture, the series carries diverse themes, though none feel out of place. Tacked onto this are the psychic abilities found in the in the universe, which is also a wonderfully addition.
On the topic of the horse for a moment, this is what I mean by it doesn’t feel out of place….
It very much could have felt that way. Many of the core themes, ideas and setting could have been campy, or clunk. They don’t feel that way, and is worth mentioning that directly. If these little things would have been poorly handled at all, the movie we would have ended up being total crap.
This was an animated film unlike any other for it’s time. It had the luxury of not having too many predecessors in its themes or ideas. At least, not in the animated format of a movie. This gave it an edge. Nowadays, it stands tall as a piece of anime history, and it’s worth the watch if you haven’t seen it already.
This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets.
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