Stephen reviews: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust [バンパイアハンターD] (2000)

Starring Andrew Philpot, John Rafter Lee, Michael McShane, Pamela Segall, Wendee Lee, Alex Fernandez, Jack Fletcher, John Di Maggio, Matt Mckenzie, Julia Fletcher

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri


Wait a minute, is that a bunch of Western names on that cast list? It is! Goddamn it, what the hell?! Thanks to some legal bullshitery that I don’t understand (because it doesn’t make sense), Bloodlust is only published in North America in the English version. If you want the Japanese with subtitles, your only bet is to find an absurdly overpriced import or enter the illegal realm of Internet piracy. I have no idea what folks in Europe, Australia or anywhere else might have available, but if you’re lucky maybe you can find it subtitled.

And man is the acting bad. I don’t usually go into the dubbed/subbed debate in my reviews because I figure you’ve already made up your mind, and we anime geeks cling to our opinions as strongly as any other geeks. With the magical arrival of the DVD, this debate has become pretty much a moot point anyway, but every once in a while you stumble onto something like Bloodlust that messes it up. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that the English version was made first, and is therefore the original version. Clearly, this was a dumb move to make, and the decision to do so is baffling. But there’s nothing to do about it, so it’s time for me to suck it up and deal. Everything else about the movie is excellent, so on the whole, I still had a good time.

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Stephen reviews: Wicked City (1987)

Wicked City [妖獣都市, Yoju Toshi] (1987)

Starring Yuusaku Yara, Toshiko Fujita, Ichirô Nagai, Takeshi Aono, Mari Yokoo.

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri


It’s time to get out of the kiddie pool and head for the royally fucked up pool. I have thus far in my reviewing career avoided the nastier areas of anime, but that had to end sometime, and October’s horror marathon is as good a place as any to head over to the dark side. Wicked City is yet another Hideyuki Kikuchi adaptation, and like Demon City it is directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. If I was to compare that film with Vampire Hunter D, I would have to say that Toyoo Ashida was the better director for adapting Kikuchi’s works, but here Kawajiri proves that he really can handle the job just as well, if not better.

The animation is damn good, just like all his other films that I have seen, although the beginning moments felt below average. I was initially disappointed, but as soon as the first monster shows up it amps up the quality and never looks back, matching Demon City for gorgeous and grisly visuals. There’s not much outright gore, though. It’s more about crazy nasty monsters lurking around every corner than blood and guts splattered everywhere.

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Stephen reviews: Demon City Shinjuku (1988)

Demon City Shinjuku [魔界都市 (新宿) Makai Toshi (Shinjuku)] (1988)
AKA Hell City Shinjuku, Monster City

Starring Hideyuki Hori, Hiromi Tsuru, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Kyouko Tonguu, Yuusaku Yara, Asami Mukaidono, Ichirō Nagai

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri


The next anime based on Hideyuki Kikuchi novels is directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the same guy that brought us Ninja Scroll. Considering how awesome that film was, I was eagerly looking forward to this one. It certainly has the animation quality to match that later work, which surprised me coming from an ’80s anime, but unfortunately it left me a bit disappointed in other aspects.

The movie starts out strong, with a kick-ass sword fight across the rooftops of Tokyo that ends with the destruction of Shinjuku. (For the confused at this point, Shinjuku is not actually a city. Rather, it is one of the special wards of Tokyo.) Authorities believe it’s a bizarre earthquake, but we know better. That crazy evil guy we just saw was actually summoning demons to take over the world, and now Shinjuku is under their control. Fast forward 10 years, and Shinjuku is now a haunted wasteland filled only with villains, the dregs of humanity, and the demons that hunt them.

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Stephen reviews: Ninja Scroll (1993)

Ninja Scroll [獣兵衛忍風帖, Jūbē Ninpūchō] (1993)

Starring Kōichi Yamadera, Emi Shinohara, Takeshi Aono, Daisuke Gôri, Toshihiko Seki, Shûichirô Moriyama

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri


Despite the title, Ninja Scroll doesn’t have much in the way of scrolls. There’s only one, and while it is important for a minor plot point, it certainly isn’t title worthy. But if the film doesn’t deliver the kind of ancient literary action that you were hoping for, let me tell you, it certainly keeps its word about the ninjas. In fact, it has so many to spare that it kills off a dozen of them in the first ten minutes. The poor guys don’t even stand a chance, as their opponent is a gigantic ninja made of rock with an equally gigantic two-bladed sword that he hurls around like a boomerang. He’s one of the Eight Demons (or devils, depending on the translation) of Kimon who all have a different magic power. In fact the only major character in the movie that doesn’t have some kind of magic ability is Jubei, the main character, who has only his badass sword skills to keep him alive.

Jubei gets hired, or rather blackmailed, by an old ninja to fight against the demons. And of course, the old man has powers, too. He can stretch into strange shapes and change color like a chameleon. They also wind up working with Kagero, a female ninja with her own power, who helps in order to repay Jubei for saving her from being raped. The sexual content is pretty graphic, so anyone squeamish about the rape scene may be getting more than they bargained for.

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