Tag Archives: Post-Apocalyptic

Set after the world has been ravaged by calamity.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

 

Related: Vampire Hunter D (alternative prequel)

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Ninja Scroll the Movie

Cowboy Bebop

Castlevania

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Gothic Vampire Action Fantasy Horror

Length: 1 hr. 37 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • That Gothic visual style.
  • The varied and interesting vampires.
  • Fantastic animation, particularly for the plethora of supernatural abilities.
  • The tragic touch.
  • Haunting soundtrack fits perfectly.

Negatives:

  • I want more.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, one of my favourite anime. As an avid reader and painter of Warhammer Fantasy, Bloodlust is a look at what Warhammer would be like it were brought to the anime medium. This is a film dripping with style, from Gothic architecture to German classical music to fantasy lore, and I love every bit of it.

The adventure takes place in a techno-Gothic future where vampires rule the night, but their numbers are dwindling with the rise of bounty hunters after the prices on their heads. The best hunter of all is D, a rider in black with a wide-brimmed hat and a cybernetic horse, and is a dunpeal – half-vampire, half-human – for which ordinary humans fear him. He also has a demon face living in his hand that provides comedic relief to an otherwise dark tale; his snark and cowardice are entertaining. A wealthy aristocrat hires D to recover his daughter, Lady Charlotte, who was kidnapped by the vampire Meier Link, alive or dead if turned already. Also on the trail is a group of bounty hunters who drive around in a tank, hunting the undead.

The chase takes D and the hunters through graveyards, mountain passes, a monster town, and more, ultimately culminating in an epic finale reminiscent of Warhammer meets Castlevania. Bloodlust is a film that ramps up with each stage of the narrative, getting grander and more intense with each step. Where the original Vampire Hunter D had no surprises in its simple narrative, Bloodlust surprised me several times along the way, not just twists in the story, but also elements brought into play. I didn’t expect the touches of tragedy and emotion from D and Meier in a dark tale such as this. It adds an extra layer of depth that the creators could have easily ignored.

This time around, we get a few glimpses into D’s character, which not only characterises him better, but also makes him more mysterious and intriguing. In the original, he came across as some quiet guy who fights vampires and that was it; here however, the moments into his past and the prejudice he faces as a half-vampire give you something to care about, enough to make you want to learn more. Similarly, the vampire villain, Meier, is a complete character, fitting into one of my favourite character archetypes, the tragic villain. I feel it would constitute spoilers to elaborate further, suffice it to say, Meier is a cool villain with believable motivations and actions.

Another great aspect of Bloodlust is the monsters and their supernatural powers. We see giant sand rays, a werewolf with a mouth where his stomach should be, and a woman who can meld into any surface and become that substance. That’s just the start. One of the bounty hunters, a bed-ridden man, can astral project his soul to become a laser beam firing entity of doom at the cost of his health. Oh yes, the master of shadows is especially cool. Best of all however, again, is Meier with his Batman-like cape that can turn to steel, among his many gifts. Everything about him screams Gothic vampire – it’s so rare to see vampires that aren’t worthless morons like in Buffy or melodramatic saps as seen in Twilight.

Now, to avoid overhyping, I want to make it clear the Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust isn’t the greatest anime ever made. No individual part of it is bad; however, you could take each element, narrative-wise, and add more to it – even more characterisation and backstory, even more lore, even more psychology, and so on. With tempered expectations in mind, this is an easy anime for me to recommend. You don’t need to see the original, as this draws no influence from the previous. I love this anime.

Art – Very High

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust has one of best art styles in all animation. The Gothic architecture shrouded in a dark atmosphere is wondrous and the character design, especially the vampires, perfection. The animation is great as well; the opening scene where the vampire drains all life as he passes through town to kidnap Charlotte is an excellent showcase for the artists’ skill. This art makes me hungry for more anime in this style. A Warhammer Fantasy series using this Gothic goodness would comatose me from amazement.

Sound – High

The Foley sounds are great – what a difference it makes compared to the original. Also improved is the voice work in both languages. You can’t go wrong with either track. However, the strongest audio element is the music. As with the German influenced Gothic architecture, the music borrows from famous German and Austrian classical composers to weave a haunting soundtrack that enhances the tension and horror.

Story – High

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust brings several surprises to its narrative of a half-vampire hunting a vampire to recover a human lady. The small touches of tragedy and emotion elevate this beyond a straightforward action anime. Love the vampires and their lore.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must-watch for gothic fantasy fans. What more can I say about Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust? I love this film’s sense of style, its action, its tragedy, its atmosphere, and its lore.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Fluid AnimationGreat MusicHoly S***Phenomenal VillainRiveting ActionStunning Art Quality

Negative: None

Vampire Hunter D – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Vampire Hunter D

 

Related: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (alternative sequel)

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Blood: The Last Vampire

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Vampire Fantasy Action Horror

Length: 1 hr. 20 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Gross and creepy monsters.
  • Some decent action.

Negatives:

  • Age is noticeable with tinny Foley audio and cheap art techniques.
  • Other than D and the villain, the character design is rather hilarious. The countess kills me every time.
  • Several moments of cringe worthy dialogue. (“Prepare yourself for death” – a henchman.)
  • Voice work is atrocious in English, passable in Japanese.

In the distant, dark future, monsters have taken over the land, forcing humanity to live in confined communities like medieval times. Count Magnus Lee, giant and vampire, rules one such town. One day, he decides to capture Doris, a local girl with an unnaturally short skirt, after a dinosaur eats her cybernetic horse, wanting her for his next wife. Now cursed by the vampire, Doris hires wandering vampire hunter D to free her from the count’s grasp.

Vampire Hunter D’s age is immediately apparent. Even if you ignore the 80s character design, the poor sound effects and animation shortcuts keep reminding you this anime is three decades old. You have to be able to look past this if you want to have a chance of enjoying Vampire Hunter D. If not, skip this one.

With that in mind, this is a decent anime. D has to fight his way through a variety of monsters, maggoty, many-eyed, tentacle, wormy, monsters in the count’s techno-Gothic castle. There’s also the talking demon face that lives in D’s hand, which is rather creepy, I’ll admit, even more so than the spider launcher. D cuts one monster in two and his guts pop out like a piñata – the gore is nice, except when the blood spray is more comical than Monty Python.

These action moments are the most enjoyable of Vampire Hunter D, which are unfortunately distracted from by Doris’s scenes. She is useless against the count, let alone his minions, so her conflict centres on sexual advances from the mayor’s sleazy son, and getting attacked by the vampire’s henchmen, including one of the most hilariously designed characters in anime history – Countess Ramika, the vampire’s daughter. One could make a case for UN membership with such mass. Even when she talks, it’s hilarious; Doris will speak at a regular volume, to which Ramika replies in spastic, wild bursts, peppered with random laughs for the most innocuous dialogue. Her tone is so wildly out of place, I actually found it entertaining.

Even with all its dated flaws, Vampire Hunter D was an enjoyable experience for the monster slaying and action, even if brief. Then again, this film isn’t long, so you don’t have to endure the problems for long. That dome could block out the sun…

Art – Medium

Vampire Hunter D hasn’t aged well in the visual department. I like the dark style, but the use of background streaks, comical blood spray, and 80s character design does hurt the eyes. And the countess’s forehead… Still slays me.

Sound – Low

The sound effects are often bad; you can hear the Foley artist at work in his studio. Sounds like a 16-bit game. The voice acting is passable at best in Japanese and awful in English. Of all audio elements, the music is the best and adds to the dark atmosphere.

Story – Medium

Vampire Hunter D has a simple story of a vampire hunter tasked with killing a vampire count. The core of the adventure – D fighting through the count’s traps, monsters, and goons – is good, but all outside of this is weak, particularly the girl’s scenes.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Vampire Hunter D’s age makes it a difficult anime to recommend today. If you can look past that, this is a decent film. Or you could watch the excellent Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: 

Useless Side Cast

Trigun – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Trigun

 

Related: Trigun: Badlands Rumble (movie side story, included in the review)

Similar: Cowboy Bebop

Black Lagoon

Trinity Blood

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Comedy Science Fiction

Length: 26 episodes & a movie

 

Positives:

  • Hilarious for a good portion of the series.
  • Art that holds up well, despite the age. (1998!)
  • The episodic arcs have believable characters with interesting stories to tell.
  • A savage, lawless world.

Negatives:

  • Consequences of pacifism ideology don’t go far enough.
  • Narrative wimps out at the end for convenience when on the brink.
  • Lack of humour in the last third makes for a deceptive setup.

It feels like only yesterday I watched Trigun, laughing with a friend at Vash’s hysterics all those years ago. One of the first anime I watched, actually. Even back then, Trigun was considered old. Trigun comes from an era that dropped the hippie hairstyles and knew audiences could handle adult themes in a medium saturated with ‘he’s-not-really-dead’ narratives. Ironic, considering the pacifist theme in Trigun.

Vash the Stampede is the man with a sixty-billion dollar bounty on his needly-haired head, for everywhere he goes, nothing but destruction follows. He’s said to be a womaniser and the worst man ever. In reality, he’s a coward and a pacifist who feels queasy at the sight of blood. The destruction is a result of bounty hunters doing whatever it takes to claim the prize. So really, he does leave cities in rubble wherever he goes, just not by his own hand. Tailing him are Meryl and Milly, two insurance agents investigating monetary claims for damages caused by Vash. Meryl, serious about damage control, acts as a foil to Vash’s idiocy, whereas Milly provides extra muscle with the minigun she keeps stashed under her coat.

Vash’s policy is one of non-violence where possible and absolutely no killing, even to the point of stupidity. He gets by on skill and plenty of luck. With only rumours to go on, bounty hunters often miss Vash as he cowers behind the bar. Vash is so pathetic in person that no one believes he’s the human typhoon when they meet him, making for easy escapes.

For the first third of Trigun, Vash switches between charm and absolute silliness where comedy takes most of the screen time. Come the middle, we see a serious side to Vash, as bounty hunters get more dangerous and his past catches up to him. By the final third, humour has all but evaporated along with Vash’s lighter side. He still clings to his idealistic views, but has little to joke about. My problem is with the third section. Starting Trigun, one gets the impression of a hilarious action-comedy with a hint of seriousness; however, the later it goes, the drearier it gets. Blind turns in storytelling are great as long as what’s around the corner is awesome. In Trigun’s case, not so much. The narrative builds, showing the consequences of his naïve pacifism, and builds further towards Vash confronting his past, facing his choices. Until the final episode, Trigun is pulling back for that knockout out punch, but when it comes to delivery, it’s no more than a flick to the nose, Vash let off easy for convenience. No sacrifice made. No lesson learned.

That is not to say Trigun is bad, but it does suffer a lot because of an unwillingness to push a character over the edge. It makes me wish they had kept the comedy for longer since the seriousness delivered a let-down. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed Trigun’s world of bounty hunters, gunfights, and shady business.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble

Badlands Rumble is a non-canon movie, akin to an extended episode. It follows notorious robber Gasback on a mission of revenge against his former crew for stabbing him in the back. Hundreds of bounty hunters gather in Macca City, Gasback’s next target to claim the three-hundred million reward. Vash is caught up in the affair, as always, and so are the regulars from Trigun.

Both visual and audio quality show great improvement, which is to be expected twelve years later. Even though Trigun still looks great, seeing it updated in Badlands Rumble makes a great case for remaking all art and sound in the original. As far as story goes, this won’t appeal to those who aren’t already Trigun fans. It still has the weak pacifism that castrates any lasting consequences throughout the movie.

Art – High

While the visuals look their age, they hold up because the artists put effort into the animation and Wild West style of Trigun. The remastered edition touches it up a little. Badlands Rumble shows the excellent visuals if remade.

Sound – High

Voice work is good in both languages; however, some lines in English are rushed to fit the lip flaps. A soundtrack of rock and electric guitar riffs for the action and sax solos when it relaxes. Sound effects are underwhelming, especially given the amount of gunfire. Ending theme sounds awful, like a Walkman running out of batteries or a drunkard drowning in the city fountain.

Story – High

Vash as a character is interesting, bolstered by a robust, even if at times underdeveloped, side cast. His journey fleeing from his past and his power is a mix of humorous and emotional elements. Shame the author didn’t push reality far enough.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Highly recommended to those who like emotion layered on top of action-comedy. Trigun starts hilarious before it transitions into seriousness as Vash faces the consequences of his choices, which, outside of a few stumbles, is well worth your time.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Charm

Negative: 

Weak End

Wolf’s Rain – Review

Japanese Title: Wolf’s Rain

 

Similar: Ergo Proxy

Darker than Black

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Adventure Drama

Length: 30 episodes (26 in season one, 4 OVA to conclude)

 

Positives:

  • An extensive and varied soundtrack from multiple countries.
  • Great visual quality expected from studio Bones.
  • Solid Japanese voice work alongside the likes of Crispin Freeman and Steve Blum in an equally good English track.

Negatives:

  • Serious pacing issues.
  • The main drive of the plot, the search for paradise, doesn’t have any urgency due to vague objectives and potential consequences early in the series.
  • Four recap episodes in the middle.

I first started watching Wolf’s Rain in 2003 shortly after its initial airing. It took until yesterday, eleven years later to finish watching the anime – I never felt that ‘just one more episode’ drive. Poor pacing issues, vague storytelling, and filler episodes make Wolf’s Rain a difficult anime to invest in.

Wolf shapeshifters were thought extinct for 200 years; however, a few survived and blended into the populace as humans. A white wolf named Kiba follows the scent of Lunar Flowers to Cheza the flower maiden, key to opening the door to paradise. Unfortunately, the villain Darcia, who seeks to open paradise to remove his family’s curse, kidnaps Cheza. Kiba along with three other wolves, Tsume, Hige, and Toboe, give chase to rescue her. Meanwhile, a hunter and his dog Blue track down the pack of wolves, intent on wiping them out.

Wolf’s Rain’s narrative setup is a good one brought down by ambiguity. I understand (and recommend) that a writer shouldn’t lay out all the cards on the table within the first chapter; however, you must at least tell the audience which game you are playing. The narrative structure in Wolf’s Rain is akin to playing poker, only to have someone declare ‘Gin!’ and win the game, which is when you realise you weren’t playing the right game. Wolf’s Rain doesn’t establish the importance of paradise or the relevance of the villain (outside of kidnapping because the plot needed conflict) until late in the series. Furthermore, it isn’t some grand twist. The world is ending and paradise must be opened in order to save it. Only the blood of a wolf and the lunar maiden can accomplish this task. That’s all they needed to state clearly within a few episodes. It seems as though the writers assumed that the audience already knew all of this somehow.

Wolf’s Rain main storytelling device is allegory. Everything represents something. The focus here is on religious pilgrimage and social constructs. The wolves’ search for paradise is their journey to enlightenment, while the government’s extinction of wolves is the suppression of freedom. Looking at the device on a macro level, it is well executed, as the wolves face a dozen trials from betrayal to self-doubt to false hope as their varied personalities clash with one another. That said, it fails on a micro level, the scene-to-scene narrative. Writers can’t just throw something at the audience a claim quality because it’s ‘symbolic.’ Even if something is symbolic, it still needs structure and quality. When using symbolism, ask this: if the audience doesn’t catch the symbolism, will they still understand what is going on? If a character hulking out and turning evil is symbolic of inner struggle, there still needs to be a plausible reason for hulking out into evil. One can’t suddenly make him evil and declare symbolism!

The pacing doesn’t help either. Where some episodes have action, drama, and tension throughout, other episodes consist of nothing more than slow pans across silent scenes where little happens. Yes, moments of silence and introspection can enhance the narrative tension, but here the silence builds to nothing. To compound further, episodes 15 to 18 are recaps of the story thus far from the perspectives of different characters – the same recap four times! One would assume these recaps at least garner extra backstory or maybe revelations about a character’s motives. Alas, no, just filler. Imagine if you had to pay for this back when it was four episodes a DVD.

Where Wolf’s Rain does shine is with its music. Composer Yoko Kanno is to be commended for her excellent work with the soundtrack. She recorded music from around the world to craft an extensive and varied soundtrack. The opening theme sounds like something from Sting, the closing is by Maaya Sakamoto in English, there is European chant, Indian Raga, violin for moments of sorrow, and so much more. Truly great music.

It is a true shame the storytelling in Wolf’s Rain is so vague. As things are, I found the plodding story moments a hindrance to reach the tension. The soundtrack is worth a listen on its own, at the least.

Art – High

Great work as always by studio Bones with attention to detail like persistent battle damage. In human form, the artists managed to convey wolfish characteristics without resorting to clichéd ‘dog-ears-and-be-done-with-it’ design.

Sound – Very High

A phenomenal soundtrack from around the world along with great voice work in both languages. Gravel brothers Steve Blum and Crispin Freeman bring the appropriate levels of growl to the villain and Tsume, respectively.

Story – Medium

An over reliance on symbolisms leaves the plot vague for too long. Also suffers from pacing issues and four episodes of recap in the middle.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Unless you can stand a vague narrative and slow pace, you won’t enjoy Wolf’s Rain. I do really love that music.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Great Music

Negative:

Poor Pacing