It wasn’t until 1999 that I saw the original Vampire Hunter D film, but for all its schlocky 80s-ness, I found myself rather enjoying it. So when I found out about Bloodlust through a (pretty awesome) teaser trailer sometime in 2001, I grew quite eager for its release, which as was the way of things here in the UK, didn’t happen until 2004.
What I eventually got my hands on was a slightly mixed product, much like its predecessor. Parts of it look so incredible it takes the breath away, while at other moments you wonder why Madhouse couldn’t have spent just a smidge of the budget making these characters’ heads move a little as they spoke. Thus, while the film contains what is easily one of my favourite pieces of animation in any anime – when Grove’s projection goes up against the Barbarois – it also remains just a little frustrating for not looking quite as good as it clearly could have done, and having somewhat dated designs even for a film released in Japan in 2000.
The plot is both simple and a little convoluted. D, being a vampire hunter, is sent to rescue fair maiden Charlotte from the dastardly vampire Meier Link. Only Link is not a typical vampire, and nor is the abduction quite what it seems on the surface. D also has competition in the rescue attempt, and Link has hired bodyguards to keep away pursuers. In the end, though, the real enemy is not only unexpected but an intriguing version of…double-undead. Somehow or other!
Despite the various ambiguous allegiances and motives, the story is not hard to follow and works well as a conventional horror story, allowing for the unique qualities of the Vampire Hunter D world to shine through. And it’s the quirky details that tend to work the best – hidden powers put on display, pledges made in quiet moments on the road, and of course, that parasite that occupies D’s hand for the sake of both comic relief and simple exposition. He doesn’t steal scenes to the extent he does in the first film, but he remains one of the interesting details that make D somehow more relatable than the similar characters in many franchises.
Bloodlust isn’t the perfect anime horror it’s sometimes made out to be. It’s certainly better than most, but I’ve never been able to shake the conviction that it could have been so much better. Perhaps it’s time for a new D film.