Vampire Hunter D – The First Cult Anime

Three anime movies are credited for creating the fervor for the medium outside of Japan, Akira, Ninja Scroll, and Vampire Hunter D. Each, though wildly different in genres, had fantastic stories, slick animation, top of the line production and excellent voice acting as a commonality. Unlike the other two, Vampire Hunter D has different origins entirely, not coming from a manga, but rather, a book.

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Typically, a manga becomes popular enough to spawn an animated adaptation. Vampire Hunter D started life as a prose novel, first published in 1983 by Hideyuki Kikuchi. The main character, known as D, is a dhampir (Balkan for half vampire). The quiet protagonist travels the lands of a far off future (somewhere around the 119th century), where vampires, humans, technology, and other supernatural creatures coexist. D rides his mechanical horse, a wanderer who stocks the lands killing vampires and other horrors of the night, and his left palm has a face that talks to him and can suck things in.

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D is an interesting character. His design seems similar to Robert E Howard’s Solomon Kane, somewhat Puritanical. He’s the son of a powerful vampire lord who may or may not be Dracula. His real name is unknown as he’s shunned his origin. Much like Marvel’s Blade, he has all of their strengths and none of the vampire’s weaknesses. What few he does have, barely register. D is incredibly overpowered.

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Currently, there are 26 novels in the series. The first book was so popular, an animated feature was produced in 1985. This made it’s way stateside in 1992. The movie features many differences to from the novel, but still tells a fun, albeit black and white tale. In 2000, a sequel film was made, subtitled, Bloodlust. Based on the third novel, Demon Deathchase. While the story was mediocre, the production value was through the roof, sporting some of the best animation for the time, and even now. The film was created with intent for English speaking release. As such, they recorded English voices during production, syncing the animation to the language.

Since then a manga series has started, with plans to adapt the entire series of novels. The manga is still on going. Outside of that, there’s been plans for an anime series, and even a live action movie, but they’ve become stagnant over the years with little to no progress.

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For older anime fans, such as myself, Vampire Hunter D was incredibly special. Often heard of, and difficult to obtain, the movie hailed as a triumph for those who saw it. As more and more anime was brought outside of Japan during the 90’s, the movie stood as a starting point for newcomers, telling a complete story while introducing them to a different type of story telling. Vampire Hunter D will always hold a special place for me, as it was one of my first animes.

What was your first anime? Want more of Vampire Hunter D? Comment below!

The left hand thing is weird.

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