Tag: Gothic

Vampire Hunter D review

Director: Toyoo Ashida

Writers: Yasushi Hirano

Studio: Ashi Productions

Released: December 21, 1985

vampire hunter d.jpg

This will be my first review where I will attempt to give a numerical score based on a number out of ten. I don’t know if I’ll stick with this system but I think it’s worth a try.

There are timeless classics, and then there are works that might have been good around the time they originally came out, but haven’t aged well overall. Vampire Hunter D is the latter.

Vampire Hunter D is an anime movie adaptation of the first novel of a long-running, popular series of post-apocalyptic/fantasy/horror novels from Japan. I haven’t read any of the books so I can’t speak for its faithfulness to its source material, but I’ve read that it is a faithful adaptation for what that’s worth if you’re a fan of the source material.
It’s a real shame that I don’t particularly care for Vampire Hunter D, because there are elements to it that are well executed. It manages to deliver a pretty heavy atmosphere, the soundtrack is decent, the unusual setting is interesting, and the designs of the monsters are creative and genuinely disturbing in appearance. The movie has a lot of potential to be something special, but alas, it doesn’t manage to reach even half of it.

The story is set thousands of years after a series of nuclear wars, the Earth has become a world filled with mutants, monsters, vampires, and other dangerous creatures. A vampire hunter only named “D” is given a contract by a young woman to kill an ancient, powerful vampire that takes young girls from a small town to his castle to be his brides every 50 years. There are a couple of side characters and villains, but none of them are interesting or well developed. Our main character D comes off less like a character and more of a plot device at times with how powerful and underdeveloped he is. As the movie goes along, it will become clear to you that nothing is really a threat to D. Oh, he might have difficulties, but they feel artificial and move along so quickly you’ll barely notice, save for one instance where you think for a moment he might actually be dead (he’s taking a long nap really). He reminded me a lot of Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series in terms of demeanor and occupation: A monster hunter feared by most of the populace, loved by a few, and women will want to sleep with him just after getting to know him. The pacing to the plot is also a mess, moving too fast with some scenes feeling barely connected together, yet with some scenes just dragging on. There’s an attempt at a one sided love on the young woman who hires D that feels totally artificial thanks to the bad pacing. Lastly, while the world the movie is set in is interesting from a concept point of view, the world presented on screen feels very patched together. There’s some advanced technology, but the small town looks medieval in architecture and clothes worn by the townspeople, like a steampunk setting. It’s a unique idea, but the world comes across as artificial and not lived in at all.

The animation for the movie is the most poorly aged aspect to it. The stiff, recycled animation makes the action scenes on a technical level very weak and lacking in tension, and because the characters are so poorly developed there’s no emotional investment to the fights. We know D will win, it’s just a matter of when. The most entertaining aspect to the fights is the blood and gore, which I’ll admit can still be entertaining today. Voice acting isn’t exactly good either. Now after doing some research I found out that the English voice acting I heard was in fact a newer dubbing done by Sentai Filmworks after they got the distribution rights to the film in 2015, not the original 1992 dub from Steamline Pictures. Neither is what I’d call good, but the newer dub is better than the old one. At least the new one has some cheesy camp to it, the old one is just stilted and dull. I did listen to a bit of the Japanese voice acting and it sounded okay by today’s standards.

I’m sure there are some people with nostalgia for this movie, and it is an interesting work from a historical perspective with some redeeming value to be found, but that can’t redeem its flaws. Vampire Hunter D is just an average movie as a whole that isn’t really worth your time. If you want to see some violent, monster killing action that bad, go watch Netflix’s first season of Castlevania. Maybe the sequel will be better and it did get me interested in the original novels, so it deserves some credit.

Score: 5/10


Castlevania Season One review

Director: Sam Deats

Writer: Warren Ellis

Studios: Frederator Studios, Powerhouse Animation Studios

Episodes: 4

Started airing: July 7, 2017castjlevania-netflix

When it comes to adapting video game licenses to another medium, nothing but failure seems to abound. Just last year we had the duds of the Assassins Creed and World of Warcraft movies. Hollywood and Uve Boll just can’t seem to get it right. Leave it to Netflix to show them how it’s done. Mostly.

Longtime fans and newcomers such as myself alike will be able to watch this show on equal footing, as no prior knowledge of the games is required, but with enough nods that series veterans will feel rewarded for their loyalty. This is in fact probably the best advertising for the series will get for a long time considering the state of its parent company Konami.

Netflix’s Castlevania is an adaptation of Konami’s extremely popular vampire killing video game franchise. Specifically the Castlevania III for the NES. It tells the story of monster killer Trevor Belmont, Sypho the magician, and one other character whose identity I won’t spoil. They go off to kill the vampire Dracula, who has launched a campaign to wipe out humanity after his wife is burned at the stake as a witch. Castlevania Season One has the task of setting up the world, factions, and characters of the show while remaining enjoyable on its own terms. Unfortunately, it stumbles in this regard for one particular reason you might’ve been able to guess: it’s only four episodes long.

While episodes one and four have a gripping introduction and a satisfying payoff respectably, the season’s pacing absolutely slows to a crawl in the middle. Time is taken away from the main plot in order to focus on a subplot involving corrupt church officials and the persecution of a group of magicians in a town under siege by Dracula’s demons. The one aspect it has connected to the main plot is a myth involving a savior called “The Sleeping Soldier”, which to its credit, has a very nice twist both for the plot and messianic tales in general. Our main lead Trevor Belmont has a rushed character arc in this season, going from a wandering exile who wants to stay out of the affairs of others into the man who vows to kill Dracula. Four episodes is not long enough for this not to come off as forced. Our main villain Dracula, as short as his appearance is in this season, is actually very layered and sympathetic. He is motivated by grief over the unjust execution of his wife, and if it weren’t for the fact the innocent people of Wallachia must suffer for his revenge, you’d probably root for him. Hell, even I did around the beginning. As for Sypho and the other unnamed hero, they have potential but don’t develop at all in this season. They’re voice acting is at least good across the board, with Dracula being voiced with authority and terror by Graham McTavish (the voice of Lazarevic from Uncharted 2).

What no one can fault Castlevania for however, is its animated gore and action and gothic atmosphere. When people die in Castlevania, they do not die gently. Blood fills the streets and heads start flying when Dracula’s demons come. The show’s fight scenes are even better, with easily the best one being the final duel at the end of the season finale. It is tightly directed, mesmerizing, and contains a bit of humor as well. If only there was more of it, but alas what we get is very good. The architecture of Wallachia, the show’s soundtrack featuring ominous Latin chanting and the use of lighting and shadows give a gothic atmosphere to the show that some higher budget affairs fail to achieve. All of this combined with an anime art style that captures the original artwork and spirit of Castlevania.

Overall, Castlevania Season One is good, but good is about it. It’s not great or even very good, but there is definitely potential for greatness here and it’s obvious the people behind this show love it and want to do the games justice. It’s just a shame it all feels more like a teaser for season one than an actual first season. However with a second season already planned with twice the episodes due to the positive reaction by both critics and audiences, the chance to fulfill the show’s promise is still there. All Netflix has to do is trust the team behind it to go further.