Tailored to the international market, with an American-dubbed version already sneaking at festivals, “Vampire Hunter D” reps a change from the brutal, dystopian yarns that dominate Japanimation in Western ancillary markets. L.A.-based anime specialist Urban Vision plans an early 2001 Stateside theatrical release, and has already put out a 1985 version of the same hero’s exploits — also called “Vampire Hunter D” — on half-inch.
New film is based on the third of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novels, set in the year 12,090 when “vampires rule the night … but their numbers are declining.” That’s partly thanks to half-human, half-fanged bounty hunter D, who here is hired for $10 million to find a rich guy’s daughter, Charlotte, who’s been kidnapped by the nasty Meier Link, who in turn answers to super-vamp Carmila. Slow-to-start narrative really starts to deliver the action goods an hour in and, with its medieval-futuristic look and graceful, sweeping lines — with an almost fetishistic interest in flowing hair — movie has a visual poetry that’s refreshing. “Omen”-like score plays up the Gothic elements, and scripter-director Yoshiaki Kawajiri (“Wicked City”) gives equal time to a memorable gallery of supporting characters.