East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

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Not all fun shows are on Amazon Prime, and in fact last night I spent two hours of fun revisiting Yoshiyaki Kawajiri’s Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, an animated feature from 2000, based on the long-running series of Vampire Hunter D novels by Kikuchi Hideyuki.
The movie can be found on Youtube in high-quality, and is well worth taking a look at if you like dark fantasy, horror, and Dying Earth stories.

Because here’s the fun thing – in building his narrative universe, Kikuchi Hideyuki threw in everything: classical vampires and vampire lore, post-apocalyptic fiction, Dying Earth-style science fiction, melodrama and high-octane action (that the trailer above uses to the hilt), Spaghetti Western. The end result is an original product, in which every tried-and-tested element gets twisted and changed, surprising us every step of the way.

The Kawajiri movie captures the setting, also thanks to the character design based on Yoshitaka Amano’s original illustrations for the novel.
The film is beautiful, the world is intriguing, the story not as silly as it might seem.

The story is set 10.000 years in the future, after a devastating war that has left humanity crippled, and the land swarming with mutants. Vampires (the standard suck-blood/turn-into-a-cloud-of-bats sort) have preserved the memory of ancient technology, and thus have become masters of the world, the new aristocracy.
But humanity revolted, vampire hunters appeared, and now the situation is bleak for all parties involved – humanity struggles in old-west-style frontier communities, and vampires hide in the shadows again.

D is a dampyr (a human/vampire half-blood) and a vampire hunter.
When young Charlotte is kidnapped by the vampire lord Meier Link, D is hired to get her back or kill her if she’s been turned already. He is in competition with a team of high-tech mercenary hunters, and strikes a strange, antagonistic friendship with one of them, gun-toting tough chick Leila.

What makes the movie so effective – apart from the looks – is how the viewer is dropped into this surreal, strangely familiar and yet utterly alien world, as the plot rushes at breakneck pace towards the final confrontation.

The movie – just like the novels, hat are available in English in both paperback and ebook – is a great example of worldbuilding that shrugs off the restrictive boundaries of defined genres. The vampires are pure Hammer House, D is a close relation of Michael Moorcock’s Elric, the sinister Barbarois (mutants that serve as mercenaries for the forces of darkness) have ties with the Commedia dell’Arte and wink and nod at movies like Freaks (but, also, to Roger Zelazny), the landscapes mix Mad Max deserts and Warhammer 40K starships-as-cathedrals.

It should crash under its own weight, but it does not – probably thanks to the economy of the writing, that does not lose time with lengthy explanations.

A good way to spend two hours, despite the general confusion that might arise from analyzing the plot too closely.
It made me feel like going back to the novels – and also, got me thinking about what bits and pieces I should mix in my imaginary blender to produce something this original.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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