Hello, true believers, and welcome to You Aughta Know, a column dedicated to the decade that is now two full decades behind us. That’s right, it’s time to take a look back at one of the most overlooked decades of horror. Follow along as I do my best to explore the horror titles that made up the 2000s.
It was April 2001 and “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy was number one on the radio. I mean, honestly, that’s all that really matters. Indie darling Amelie just came out in France and the legal adventure game “Ace Attorney” just dropped. In Japan, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust was unleashed, the follow-up to the film version of the novels that was released sixteen years prior.
Vampire Hunter D is a manga that was created by writer Hideyuki Kikuchi and artist Yoshitaka Amano in 1983, following the adventures of D, a vampire hunter (apt title, right?), who is a dhampir. That’s right, just like Blade, D is half-man and half-vampire, with the Dracula rumored to be his father. Existing in a post-apocalyptic future, following a nuclear war in 1999, vampires and other demons and supernatural entities took over the world and recreated it in their image. Now, humans are on the brink of taking it back, due in large part to a contingent of hunters, D being perhaps the most notorious and powerful. Mixing a slew of genres including fantasy, western, steampunk, Victorian romance, occult and horror, the world lore in Vampire Hunter D has a little bit of something for everyone.
Based off the “Demon Deathcase” run of the manga, Bloodlust was created after a massive fan urging to finally follow-up the 1985 cult classic; and writer Kikuchi was largely in favor due to his displeasure with the animation of the original. Plans for the film started in 1997 when production company Madhouse became interested in the title while trying to acquire Wicked City. Teaming with director Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the man behind the highly praised and influential Ninja Scroll, the crew tapped Speed Racer artist Yoshitaka Amano to create the design for our titular D.
Bloodlust follows a one-off adventure where D is hired to retrieve a woman who has been kidnapped by a powerful vampire, Baron Meier Link. Meier has hired the Barbarois, a group of supernatural mercenaries consisting of a shapeshifter, a shadow manipulator and a werewolf, while D is also racing the clock against an opposing bounty hunter group, The Marcus Brothers. Led by Borgoff, they’re also made up of a strongman named Nolt, blademaster Kyle, disabled psychic Grove and a talented young hunter named Leila with a personal grudge.
The movie is an out and out surreal dreamscape. The world that we are thrown into is one of wonder. With every new character introduced, we are given the pleasure of discovering a fascinating new supernatural creature to be enamored by. The action scenes, of which there are many, are slick and effortlessly cool, full of fantastical rapid fire brutality, blood spilling swordplay and mystically violent imagery. The mixture of gonzo supernatural elements with blade ballet and immortal acrobatics will entrance you and plant a smile firmly on your face.
The goodness doesn’t end there. Both voice casts are chock full of talent. On the Japanese side, we have vet journeyman Hideyuki Tanaka as D, who is incredibly prolific and has donated his talents to projects ranging from One Piece to Fist of the North Star. Megumi Hayashibara voices Leila and is often noted as one of the most famous voice actors of the ’90s, starring in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Detective Conan, and Cowboy Bebop. On the American side, Andy Philpot is D and one of the most iconic voice actors of American animation pops up frequently. That’s right, John DiMaggio, the voice of Bender himself, is all over this project. Top it off with one of the most epic scores from composer Marco D’Ambrosio and Bloodlust isn’t just stunning visually, but audibly as well.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is a true marvel in terms of animation. It holds up now, even 20 years later, and it’s astounding just how beautiful it still looks. Built to be a stand alone epic or an addition to the long form drama, Bloodlust makes for an enjoyable time for long standing fans or first timers alike. I don’t just suggest you check this one out, I urge you to do so.
You won’t be disappointed.