Vampire Hunter D Was The Original Anime Vampire Classic

Vampire Hunter D Was The Original Anime Vampire Classic

While the anime films are probably the best-known iteration of Vampire Hunter D at least stateside, the franchise actually started in the 80s as a series of horror fantasy novels by writer Hideyuki Kikuchi with Final Fantasy’s Yoshitaka Amano providing illustrations. At the time of putting together this article, there are 31 different novels in the series some spanning multiple volumes. 

The books follow around a Dhampir, or half-vampire, named D as he traverses around a far-future gothic fantasy landscape fighting vampires and other horrors along the way. It quickly gained steam in Japan, with its first film adaptation coming just two years after the first novel. Soon after it became a cult classic to the early anime watchers in the western fandoms.

A Quick Guide To Every Vampire Hunter D Anime

Vampire Hunter D. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.Vampire Hunter D: Resurrection. With a handful of animated adaptations out there, someone with no serious familiarity might not know where to start if wanting to get in the thick of some classic Vampire anime.  

With only two films so far having been completed, we urge potential viewers to give them a shot because its not a huge commitment and they frankly do kick ass. Here’s a quick rundown of all the Vampire Hunter D adaptations that have been made or at least been publically in the works thus far.

In 1985, The Original Vampire Hunter D Shocked Audiences

Make no mistake, despite being the less loved of the two movies the original Vampire Hunter D film rules. Bringing to life the first novel in the series, the film gets the eerie, bleak, torn down world of the future and the subtle melodrama of the novels down pat. 

Years later, author Hideyuki Kikuchi would publically say the film had a cheap look and while the creator’s certainly entitled to their opinion about their baby, we think there’s a little too much bias. For anyone that likes horror or ‘cool anime’, we’d wholeheartedly recommend the classic. Just not as much as its sequel.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust Was The Even Better Follow Up

Directed by the ultra-violence indulging author Yoshiaki Kawajiri, most fans consider Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust the better film. Both fans and Kikuchi wanted another installment of the film, and in the late 90s Kawajiri and Madhouse finally got to work and adapted the third Vampire Hunter D novel Demon Deathchase. 

Bringing in the visionary Yoshitaka Amano himself to provide original character designs, combined with Kawajiri’s penchant for dramatic moments, the film’s almost excessively beautiful despite its ghoulish scenario. 

Hopefully Vampire Hunter D Resurrection Happens

Technically not an anime, Vampire Hunter D: Resurrection was originally teased in 2015. It’s supposed to be an American produced, Kawajiri and Kikuchi involved, CGI adaptation of Vampire Hunter D made for major networks. 

At the time of writing in 2020, nothing conclusive has come out about the show. The last big update came in 2018, when it was announced the pilot episode had been written. Ideally, the show would span about 7 seasons and cover material not adapted in the original film or Bloodlust. 

Like the fabled and continually teased Hollywood adaptation of Akira, we’ll believe in Vampire Hunter D: Resurrection when we see it. Not to be too cynical however, as we would love to see D The Dhampir in an episodic TV series if it was done right. There’s so much material that hasn’t been adapted in the novels that a lengthy animated series could do justice.

When You Run Out Of Vampire Hunter D Films, You Can Always Read The Original Book Series

Unfortunately Vampire Hunter D only has two animated adaptations, with a possible third someday, so if you want to spend more time in a unique sci-fi vampire world you’ll have to turn to the novels. 

Presently there are 31 different novels that have been published in 44 individual volumes, not to mention the occasional Vampire Hunter D short story collection, and some prequels and spin-offs for good mention. A good chunk of these books have actually been released in English and if you’re willing to put in the work, the original Hideyuki Kikuchi novels will serve you well.

As an added bonus, these books come complete with illustrations from the world famous Yoshitaka Amano who’s best known for his illustration work throughout the Final Fantasy iseries.

Should You Read The Vampire Hunter D Manga?

The Vampire Hunter D manga launched in the mid-2000s with the cooperation of original author Hideyuki Kikuchi and set out to adapt the entirety of the long-running novel series. Unfortunately, to say, the manga had to conclude after just eight volumes due to middling sales and an injury affecting artist Saiko Takaki’s wrist. 

Honestly, the manga’s quite good and received a lot of acclaim at the time of release even if that didn’t translate to strong sales. Knowing it stops prematurely, it’s hard to whole-heartedly recommend the manga but if you’re looking for a little more D and the gang you won’t regret giving the comic your time.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: The World of Vampire Hunter D

You might not know that there’s a Vampire Hunter D Pathfinder expansion out there waiting for you to play. Something of a Dungeons & Dragons offshoot that eventually developed into its own competing series, Pathfinder has found great success in the table-top community over the past decade. 

Vampire Hunter D with its unique gothic blend of Sci-Fi and fantasy makes for the perfect setting for a tabletop adventure, at least thought Kurt Rauer in charge of the Vampire Hunter D: Message From Mars comic book Kickstarter. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: The World Of Vampire Hunter D expansion was included as an award for said Kickstarter that launched in 2016.

Where You Can Watch Vampire Hunter D and Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust?

As it happens sometimes, both Vampire Hunter D excursions have been relicensed by different companies who have opted to put their respective films on different services. That means there’s no one single convenient place to watch both movies unless you have them side by side in your physical media collection.

 Fret not though, to those who are Vampire Hunter D curious and those who simply want to revisit their favorite vampire anime for the first time this decade, continue reading for the hookup.

Regarding the original 1980s Vampire Hunter D, Sentai Filmworks relicensed the film back in 2015 and even created a new dub for the one that started it all. Truth be told, that Blu Ray gets pretty cheap regularly sometimes hitting as low as $4.99 during the holiday season. 

If physical media isn’t your thing, Sentai also has the film available streaming on their HIDIVE platform which you can watch independently or as part of a VRV membership.

Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust on the other hand was originally released by the now defunct Urban Vision, and was more picked up by the old school minded folk at Discotek Media, a smaller operation who does more collector oriented releases. While some of their titles do end up on Crunchyroll now and then,  as well as the new streaming service RetroCrush, at the time of writing Bloodlust is not among them. 

Currently, the only way to watch Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust is to buy Discotek’s blu ray which is well worth the price with all the bells and whistles it comes with.

Touching Briefly On Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri

While he’s not so active anymore, there was a time where Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust’s Yoshiaki Kawajiri was a huge name in the anime scene. Of course we’re talking back from the late 80s to mid 90s where a lot of Japanese cartoons were particularly violent. Kawajiri thrived in that atmosphere and while he’s never been revered like a Hayao Miyazaki or Satoshi Kon, he has a number of classics under his belt.

Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust is definitely in the conversation for Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s best work with its traditional gothic visuals and Yoshitaka Amano art successfully brought to life. Perhaps though and even a more notable work, or at least more popular, is the classic Ninja Scroll. This hyper-violent cut-throat Ninja actions classic is the kind of stuff that would make its watchers either life-long anime fans or swear to never pick up the stuff again after stumbling on a VHS of it at a blockbuster.

Many of Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s hits were made at Madhouse, the same studio who animated all of Satoshi Kon’s flicks and many of Mamoru Hosoda’s. The Kawajiri – Madhouse run is something legendary, which Bloodlust and Nina Scroll were a part of, but even some of the lesser known works are worth a watch. In particular we recommend Goku The Midnight Eye and Wicked City which are perfect hard R rated late 80s cheese both of which are streaming for free on Retro Crush.

Unfortunately with Kawajiri’s penchant for blood out of taste these days, the director hasn’t gotten to helm a film or series’ since 2007’s surprisingly good Highlander – The Search For Vengeance. He still works diligently as a storyboard artist on modern titles though, even on stuff as recent and as popular as 2019’s Demon Slayer. 

You Don’t Need To Seek Out The Vampire Hunter D PS1 Game

Believe or not, not only was there a Vampire Hunter D game once upon a time but it actually got released in English. In the Playstation 1 era, it was very rare for anime based games to make the leap across the pacific but its possible with its horror atmosphere the game publishers were hoping it would catch on by itself. With Resident Evil, a clear inspiration on the game, being so popular they hedged their bets though it was all for naught.

The game got mixed reviews at best with many being outright negative. While some hardcore fans liked it for what it was, especially in retrospect there’s very little blood to squeeze from this stone. Even storywise, the game was kind of an abridged alternate version of Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust that only truncates the story without offering anything interesting in return.

The Characters You’ll Meet Along The Way Watching Vampire Hunter D

For all intents and purposes, this character list is simply meant to sum up the main characters of the films for convenience’ sake. With the dozens of novels in Hideyuki Kikuchi’s original series and all of its spin-offs, you’d need an entire encyclopedia to detail every character properly. Unfortunately you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want to know about every Sacred Ancestor, but we’ve got the basics covered.

D The Dhampir Who Roams The Lands

The titular character of this whole franchise, D hunts vampires and other macabre beings across the dystopian wastelands. Half-vampire, half-human, he’s seemingly chosen to live among the humans and dedicate his life to defending him. That said he’s not particularly friendly or agreeable, and never stays in one place for too long.

In both films, and of course even more so in the light novel series, a different cast of allies and antagonists always coalesce around him. Despite being so stoic and tortured, there is something magnetic about this beautiful halfbreed man.  He does have one constant in his life, however.

The Literally Named Left Hand

Left Hand is the name of a homunculus that in D’s left hand, often way more talkative than his host body. Pretty much the same convention as Migi, which means right, in the famous anime and manga series Parasyte which whether that’s coincidence or  the manga took inspiration from D, who’s to say? 

D’s little buddy has been with him since the beginning of the story and,  at least in what’s been covered throughout the two films it hasn’t been made clear when the two linked up.

Dracula Because Vampires After All

As all vampire stories of Japanese origin have to, like Hellsing and the many Castlevania iterations Dracula himself is indeed lurking somewhere behind the scenes. He doesn’t actually make an appearance in either film, and only shows up on rare occasions in the books, but he haunts the entire vampire lineage with an invisible hand. 

We’ll leave it to you to guess how Dracula the original legendary Vampire and our series protagonist D, a half-vampire, are related.

Doris Lang, Who Gets Bit

Starring in the original Vampire Hunter D film alongside D, Doris is a nice young woman who’s had a hard time of it in the movie’s desolate scenario. She got bit by the local vampire lord who needs to be killed by D before she’s forever transformed into a Vampire. Her little brother whom she raises by herself gets kidnapped along the way and to complicate matters, she develops a little crush on a certain Dhampir.

Leila, Who Kills Vampires

Motivated more by personal hatred than she is monetary gain, Leila is a fellow Vampire Hunter you’ll meet in Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust. Over the course of the events of the second film, she and D form a bond based on mutual understanding. 

They promise if one dies on the mission, the other will bring flowers to their grave and unlike D she doesn’t have all the perks that come along with being a half-vampire nor does she have the benefits of being the titular character of this series.

Count Magnus Lee, The First Movie’s Big Bad

A particularly secret and evil Vampire Lord who has been alive for 10,000 years causing serious harm to those around him, often terrorizing the local town for blood, girls, and whatever else suits his family. 

Usually he leaves bodies in his wake but from time to time he seeks to take on a new lover and forcibly turns his objects of desire into vampires, which is how Vampire Hunter D starts; Doris Lang is the latest of the count’s victims and hires the titular D to take him out, which proves to be a considerable challenge what with Count Magnus Lee being a old head among the Nobles Vampires with a castle and all sorts of ghoulies to do his bidding.

Meier Link, The Second Movie’s Big Bad

Meier Link has some qualities in common with his predecessor Count Magnus Lee but ultimately the Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust antagonist is a much more nuanced character. 

Yes he’s another old timey member of nobility but Baron Meier Link is less of a constant wad to the lowly humans around him though of course he still has to partake in their blood. D’s hunting him down because he’s supposedly kidnapped a human girl but as Bloodlust goes on, you find out there’s more to  both the kidnapping and Meier Link than meets the eye.

Charlotte, Who Gets Kidnapped?

Charlotte’s father is worried sick about her, seeing as she was abducted by a local and powerful Vampire, and hires D to save her. Her brother’s always worried and hires a number of other vampire hunting mercs to take out her captor. Despite her family’s justified anger and concern,  How Charlotte feels about being the kidnapped to Meier Link’s Kidnapper is a different story.

Hideyuki Kikuchi / Asahi Sonorama
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