The last of the three movies that really got my love of anime going. Years ago, when I first saw this movie, I thought it was great and had managed to set my VCR (yep, it was that long ago) to record the replay of it later that night. I was happy watching that recording for a while until I found a video store that rented and sold anime, at which point I ended up buying a copy. I probably watched that tape hundreds of times over the years before I bought it on DVD, and probably watched it just as many times since. Now let’s see if today’s movie, Vampire Hunter D, holds up or if I am simply looking at things through some fond memories.
The plot: In the distant future, nuclear war has ravaged the world and humanity has begun to rebuild itself but must deal with the rise of mutants and monsters that have started ravaging the planet. One night, a young woman named Doris Lang is out hunting a creature and believes she has killed it, only for it to rear up and attack her horse. Doris uses an electric whip to get it off her horse and finally kills it only for a werewolf to show up and grab her horse and run off. As Doris recovers from the shock, she sees the vampire Count Magnus Lee hovering in the air above her and she tries to defend herself but Lee easily deflects the bolts from her gun and, claiming she is trespassing on his land, attacks her. Some days later, a sword carrying man known only as D is riding his cyborg horse towards town when he is confronted by Doris. Doris asks D if he is a hunter, attacking him with her whip when he doesn’t answer, but D simply shrugs off her attack and continues on his way. Doris calls out to him and apologizes for attacking him, recognizing that D is most likely a vampire hunter and asks to hire him, showing him where Lee bit her. D approaches and examines the wound, then asks when she was bit and Doris happily asks if he will help her. Doris takes D to her home, where her younger brother Dan helps him stable his horse and starts taking a liking to the hunter. The next day, Doris, Dan, and D ride into town, where they are confronted by Greco, the mayor’s son, who asks to speak to Doris in private. When they head into an alley, Greco tells Doris that he knows she was bitten by Lee and says she should have told him, as he could have hired some vampire hunters to take care of him, and she could find some way to pay him back. When Greco tries to kiss her, Doris quickly punches him, telling him she would never accept any favors from him and when he continues to try and kiss her, she uses her whip to disarm him and trip him up. Doris heads back to Dan and D but Greco, feeling his pride has been slighted by her refusing him, follows her and proceeds to shout out to the town that Doris was bitten. In a meeting with the mayor, sheriff, Greco, and Dr. Fehring, D confirms that he is a vampire hunter hired by Doris. The mayor wants to confine Doris to an asylum outside of town but Dr. Fehring argues against it, as the last time Lee had bitten a young girl and they confined her there, Lee attacked and killed 31 villagers in retaliation and the girl committed suicide. D says that killing Lee will cure Doris and she won’t be a threat to anyone else and when the mayor asks for assurance that he can kill him, Doris says she will leave the village if he fails and Dan says he will go with her. Later, Doris and Fehring attempt to buy some supplies for Doris but the shopkeeper refuses to sell to her, as he fears no one will buy from his store if he does. Meanwhile, Dan is crying over everything that is happening and D tells him it is ok to cry but Doris will need him to stay strong and help keep her spirits up while they deal with this. That night, as D examines a sword that is hanging on the wall of Doris’ house, a voice is heard chastising D’s odd behavior and mockingly asks D if he is in love with Doris. Doris comes downstairs and seeing D with the sword, tells him it belonged to her father, who was a werewolf hunter. Doris asks D about vampires and D says that Lee will probably come to get her tonight, as the next night is a sanguine moon, which vampires feel makes women’s blood unclean. He asks Doris about Lee and she says that he is over 5000 years old and D remarks that old ones like him are very powerful, almost invincible. Sensing Lee’s minions approaching, D dons his hat and sword, then removes the glove from his left hand, revealing a face in the hand’s palm, and D touches Doris with his hand, placing her in a deep sleep. As a werewolf destroys some of the crucifixes outside the house, Lee’s daughter, Lamika and one of Lee’s mutants, Rei Ginsei, approach and Rei uses his curved blade to take out the rest. D shuts down the barrier and leaves the house to confront the two, telling them he has no quarrel with them and only wants to deal with the count. Rei attacks D, who easily overpowers him so Rei uses his curved blade, throwing it at D. D deflects the blade back towards Rei and follows it, intending to finish him off, but when Rei grabs his blade and uses it to deflect D’s thrust into his stomach, D is surprised to find his sword actually goes through his own stomach. As D withdraws his sword and collapses to one knee in pain, he says he had heard of a mutant that could warp space around him. Rei laughs and moves in to finish off D but D stops him, revealing his wound to be healing. Lamika recognizes D as a dhampir, a vampire half-breed, and wants to kill him herself but D is easily able to deflect her attack back towards them and gives them a message for the Lee. Back at his castle, Lee finds himself intrigued by the appearance of D, as Rei and Lamika should have easily been able to kill him. The next day, D heads out to the castle to confront Lee during the day, making his way past Gimlet, a winged mutant with blades on his ankles and wrists, and Golem, a towering mutant that throws explosive rocks at his foes. Entering a corridor, D is attacked by a spirit beast but he manages to avoid serious injury and bursts through the wall to confront Rei and the Old Witch that controls the spirit beast. Rei says he would like to kill him but Lee ordered D to be sent elsewhere and springs a trap, plunging D down into the catacombs underneath the castle. The symbiote in D’s hand mocks him for falling into the trap as D makes his way through the catacombs and encounters the Snake Women of Midwich, who manage to ensnare D and plan on draining his life force. Back at the ranch, Fehring is checking in on Doris and warns her about falling in love with D when they are attacked by Rei, Golem, Gimlet, and Chullah, a small, hunchbacked mutant with spiders living in his back. Rei plans on having his men kill Dan and Fehring but when Doris threatens to bite off her tongue and bleed to death unless they release them, Rei relents and orders them to let them go. At the castle, Lee confronts Doris and shows her images of D, revealing that he is a dhampir, and Doris is shocked by the news but begs Lee to spare him. Lee considers it, then renders Doris unconscious so she will be rested for their wedding the next day. Back in the catacombs, the Snake Women continue draining D’s life force but he suddenly bares his fangs and proceeds to bite into them, regaining his strength before killing them. Lamika goes to the room Doris is in, intending to kill her so she won’t marry her father but D arrives and stops her, the grabs Doris. D makes his way out of the castle, killing Chullah, the old witch, and Golem when they try to stop him. Rei and Gimlet follow him but Rei accidentally kills Gimlet, then continues after D, knowing Lee will kill him for failing to recapture Doris. That night, Lee’s messenger arrives in town and meets with Rei, giving him a candle that can paralyze anyone with vampire blood to use against D but unknown to them, Greco listens in to the conversation and makes his own plans. Rei kidnaps Dan and leaves a note for D to come get him and D heads out to confront Rei. Rei goes to use the candle only to find the light has gone out and D manages to cut off Rei’s hand, then says the candle was a fake. Meanwhile, Fehring goes to get Doris and take her to a safehouse he discovered when they are confronted by Lamika. Doris wants to fight but Fehring grabs her whip, revealing himself to have been turned into a vampire. As Lamika approaches, Fehring questions why she is there, as he was supposed to deliver Doris to Lee, and Lamika kills him. Doris questions if she is going to kill her as well but Lamika says that she wants Doris to leave and go far enough away to escape Lee’s influence. Suddenly, they are bathed in a bright light and Lamika begins convulsing before collapsing onto Doris’ lap. Greco walks up, having switched candles with Rei, and he tells Doris he will use the candle on Lee provided that she agree to marry him. When Lamika, unable to move due to the candle, taunts Greco, he moves to kill her but Doris shields Lamika with her own body just as D and Dan arrive and Dan shoots Greco, knocking him off a cliff and putting out the light. D escorts Dan and Doris home then lets Lamika go, who is confused by D’s actions and surprised that he seems to know what her noble ancestor, Count Dracula, would want. After returning home, Doris takes a shower and then goes to see D, asking him to run away with her so he doesn’t have to fight anymore. When D says that won’t work, Doris embraces him and D is tempted to taste her blood, with the temptation growing stronger when she willingly offers herself to him but D is able to refuse his urges. and after Doris goes to sleep, the symbiote taunts D for refusing Doris. Meanwhile, Greco has survived the fall and is walking back to town when he is confronted by Rei, who kills him and takes the candle back. Rei heads to Doris’ farm and confronts D, using the candle to paralyze D, then drives a stake into his heart and cuts off his left hand, in retaliation for his own hand. Meanwhile, Lamika feels D’s pain when he is staked and wonders if he is really dead as Rei grabs Doris and Dan and brings them to Lee’s castle. Lamika goes to her body and begs him not to marry Doris, saying she might be a danger to the House of Lee. Lee tells her that marrying a human every now and then will not damage their family, revealing that her own mother was human. Lamika is shocked by the news and attacks Lee but he easily places her in suspended animation. Lee is then confronted by Rei, who asks that Lee make good on his promise to make him a vampire but Lee laughs and says Rei is lucky to still be alive and maybe in 50-60 years, he will reconsider, angering Rei. That night, the symbiote takes control of D’s hand and heads towards his body, reattaching himself to the body. Noticing a mist monster nearby, the hand tries to remove the stake but when that fails, it eats some dirt and sucks in some air, attempting to gain some more strength. The mist monster sees D’s body and heads towards them as the symbiote tries to wake D but just as it envelopes them, D regains consciousness and kills the mist monster. At the castle, a mesmerized Doris is being led by Lee to the altar when Dan, who had escaped his cell, attempts to rescue her but is easily knocked away by Lee. Dan falls down towards the catacombs but is rescued by Rei, who then goes to confront Lee with the candle. Rei moves to kill Lee but Lee uses his powers to destroy the candle, then toss Rei around the room before making his head explode. Reaching the altar, Lee moves to bite Doris, turning her into a full vampire and making her his bride but D shows up, tossing a knife into Lee’s eye. D moves to attack Lee but his strikes can’t penetrate Lee’s defenses and Lee then uses his powers to toss D around the room. Suspending him above the ceiling, Lee plans on using D’s own sword to kill D but suddenly, waves of power radiate from D, negating Lee’s hold on him. Dgrabs his sword and plunges down towards Lee and Lee is barely able to grasp the blade, keeping it from plunging into him. Lee snaps off the tip and throws it at D, piecing him but D throws his broken sword at Lee and it strikes him in the chest and pins him to the wall. Lee takes control of Doris and has her move to kill D but Lamika, having been freed from her suspension when D wounded Lee, brings Dan into the room and he is able to stop her. Lee begs Lamika to kill D but Lamika refuses, saying that Lee has brought shame to their house and it must be brought down. Lee scoffs at that, then notices the resemblance between D and the picture of Count Dracula and asks if Dracula is his father before finally dying. Lamika realizes that Lee was right and D says she can travel with him, as they are both dhampirs, but Lamika refuses, choosing to die and end the house of Lee and the D, Doris, and Dan leave as the castle sinks down into the earth and is destroyed. The next day, D rides out of town and when Doris and Dan run out onto a hill and call out to him, reminding him that he promised to come see them again, D turns to them and, getting a smile on his face, nods to the waving brother and sister.
This movie is just as good as the first time I saw it, which is saying something considering how much animation has changed in the past 33 years. The voice acting was ok, with the actors doing a good job attempting to match the lip movements with the dubbed script and portraying a lot of the various emotions you would expect in this type of movie. The story was good though I will admit that there were a lot of changes from the novel it was based on. The animation was somewhat typical of the 80’s style, where the characters would be still but the backgrounds would be flashing by, and there was a lot of flashing lights during several scenes. However, the characters were well drawn and a lot of the background settings looked amazing. A great anime that still holds up to make for some entertaining movie watching.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5