Tag Archives: Vampire Hunter D

A Quick Introduction to Anime Cels

I grew up with hand drawn animation everywhere in my life. I lost count how many times I watched the classic Disney films – Aristocats was past the hundred count, at minimum. Anime films kept the momentum going through my teen years and into adulthood with the likes of Studio Ghibli and Satoshi Kon’s works. The art is feast for the eyes. But when it comes to pure visual indulgence, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is my favourite. The gothic style, imaginative world, and fluid animation never fail to leave me in awe.

Some months ago, I acquired several animation cels from Bloodlust and after finally framing my favourites, I thought it a good opportunity to share my passion for cels with you all. So here’s a quick introduction to anime cels. (Every Bloodlust cel in this article is from my collection.)

The Name

A cel derives its name from celluloid, the plastic on which artists painted the layer of a frame. However, celluloid is highly flammable – old film reels would catch fire from the heat of a cinema projector – and was replaced by cellulose acetate.

The Layers

Each element of a scene usually goes on a separate layer – one for the background, one for each character – to avoid the need to redraw the whole scene every frame. It is common in lower budget productions to find a character’s arm, for example, on a separate layer for even more time efficiency. This does result in the character looking a little stiff, however. Some mad men will redraw everything for each frame in key shots to make them as beautiful as possible, which we will see later. It isn’t unheard of to use a physical model in the background either instead of painting it.

Genga vs. Douga

Most cels you buy come with the corresponding production sketch, or ‘douga’ in Japanese, stuck on the back. Artists refer to a douga to paint the exact frame needed – the different colours on the sketch denote the levels of shading and differentiate parts of the subject.

It is easy to confuse douga with ‘genga’, which are the drafts of a cel. A genga, often drawn by the lead animator of the scene, gives an idea of how the subject should look, whereas a douga is the exact blueprint of the final cel. Once an artist reaches the douga stage, the decisions should be final.

production-in-between-phases

The Value

The price of cels vary immensely, even within the same series. Three key factors determine the value in most cases:

Condition: A cel in great condition is obviously worth more.

Source popularity and scarcity: Cels from popular shows are more sought after, naturally, and thus increase in value. However, the number of cels produced for a series is also a factor. Dragon Ball Z, while more popular than Evangelion, has so many more frames available that if a fan wanted one of, say, Goku, they have countless choices. But if you wanted one of an EVA Unit-01, you are limited to 26 episodes and a couple of movies worth of cels. As a rule, the most expensive cels in terms of anime are from Studio Ghibli productions. Not only are their films popular and gorgeous, they only have cels for 90-120 minutes of screen time.

Framing: Once you start comparing cel value within a single production, it all comes down to framing – what looks best on my wall. The crown jewels are what we call ‘hero shots’. A major character will fill the frame like a perfect photo, their face will be visible with eyes open, and have no missing parts for another layer, as mentioned earlier. The value also goes up with the importance of the scene – this is the ‘cool’ factor. A hero shot of Goku from the Saiyan Saga will be valuable. A hero shot of when Goku goes super Saiyan for the first time will be worth ten times more.

The following cel of D is barely worth anything since you can’t make out much detail and the frame looks empty without the background (I included the exact screenshot for comparison). The ‘shadow’ image is the douga pasted on the back.

In Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, I’d wager the cels for the two screenshots below would be worth the most of the entire film. They look great with or without the background, have perfect framing, and ooze cool.

You can greatly increase the value of a “weak” cel – a character missing an arm and poorly positioned in the frame – by combining it with the other layers. If you can get the background, the missing arm, and the other character she’s talking to, which balances out her position in frame, the value now jumps back up.

Look at my cel below of Bloodlust antagonist Meier Link missing his lower legs and the screenshot of this cel in action. Should I find a frame with the carriage, it would be perfect.

The next cel of interest is the following close up of Meier. It looks odd, doesn’t it? The grey shading on his left cheek isn’t good, no? And what is with that thumbprint on his chin?

Well, look at this cel in the film. That shading on his left cheek is actually a special paint that gives a glow effect under a certain light. It’s magic!

You may be interested to know that artists paint cels from the back, not the front. Painting from the front looks great on canvas to give texture to portraits and the like, but with animation, you need that smooth, even finish provided by the celluloid. It’s hard enough that artists need to keep frames consistent, but they have to paint in reverse as well? That’s nutty.

Here is the above cell of Meier from the back.

Lastly, this is my favourite piece in my collection. You will recognise it as the feature image from my Vampire Anime Guide in the side bar (my cel is a few frames earlier). It was pure fortunate to have stumbled upon this cel so similar to the image I had used.

This is a single cel – no layers. The team redrew the complete frame each time for this shot, allowing for subtle movements in the hair and lighting. That is a lot of work for a second or two of footage. The mad men are dedicated!

My next goal is to acquire some great cels from Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but they aren’t cheap if you want a good one. Reinhard, where are you!?

Advertisements

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