Vampire Hunter D [バンパイアハンターD] (1985)
Starring Kaneto Shiozawa, Michie Tomizawa, Seizo Katou, Satoko Kitō, Kazuyuki Sogabe, Ichirō Nagai, Keiko Toda, Yuusaku Yara
Directed by Toyoo Ashida
Like many budding anime fans of the ’90s, I first saw this film when Cartoon Network aired it on television. And while I did eventually see the unedited version, it has been many long years since I last watched it. It hasn’t been quite as long since I read the novel it was based upon, which is easily available in English these days, but it has still been quite a few years, and my memories of both are a bit fuzzy. This was also my first time seeing the film subtitled, and as distant as my previous memories are, I noticed some odd translation differences in this version. Differently spelled names are nothing new, but I was interested in the way they referred to Dracula this time. In the other versions of the tale he is called the “noble ancestor” or “sacred ancestor” of vampires, but this translation calls him “ancestor god,” which conveys a slightly different view of outright worship and prayer rather than simple respect and looking up to him as an example.
As you might have guessed by the mention of Dracula, this film takes a more traditional Bram Stoker approach to vampires. In fact, the original novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi is dedicated to the cast of the 1958 Hammer film, Dracula. The main villain of Vampire Hunter D is Count Magnus Lee, and he looks every bit the classic vampire with a black cape and elegant clothes to match his calm and regal demeanor. His first appearance at the beginning of the film is ominous and sinister, with lightning flashes giving his face a completely different appearance, and it’s hard to decide which looks more frightening. I am glad that his victim, Doris, had the presence of mind to shoot him with her laser rifle. Her role is never more than the typical damsel in distress, but at least she isn’t a pathetic and helpless idiot. Not that Lee gives a crap. Like Darth Vader, he just lets the gunshots bounce off him. And in a contest between the two, my money might not be on Vader. Right from the first you know Magnus Lee is an indomitable force of evil.