Manga Ent's Spaghetti western classic has finally made it to DVD, in better shape than I thought. The DVD is near-perfect considering considering what little things Manga had to work with, and if it wasn't for one glaring fault this would have come close to perfection.
For those who haven't already caught this on VHS, it centers around a big, ass-kicking vampire hunter called D, and how he must protect a young girl Doris Lang and her little brother from a bride-stealing vampire by the name of Count Magnus Lee. Okay, it may not sound like classic material, and by god it is dated, but you can see why it holds its place in the heart of many anime fans right from the beginning.
In terms of production its nothing special for today, but it is definitely impressive if you consider how long ago this was made (1985). The short, in-your-face action scenes are particularly good, but the end felt like an anti-climax.
What appeals to me most about Vampire Hunter D is the surreal world of barren wastelands, ruins of advanced civilizations and the curious mixture of both primitive and advanced technology. Director Toyoo Ashida definitely did a good job of bringing original author Hideyuki Kikuchi's vision to life. Yoshitaka Amano, the book's original illustrator, has his designs faithfully recreated for the screen, but much of the dark, mysterious charm Amano gave hem has dissapeared. The spooky, dark figure of D himself remains unrivaled as one of the most memorable looking vampires ever.
The picture quality on the DVD is admittedly, a little shabby, and just about no re-mastering has been done whatsoever. Thankfully, the dub is in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and helps the films atmosphere immensely. The dub itself is reasonably well done, considering the fact it was done by the infamous Streamline Pictures, Carl Macek's stab at proper translating and dubbing during the late 80s/early 90s. Most of the voices are suited well, but I do have my suspicions as to whether the translating is as close to the original as it should be. Unfortunately for the hard of hearing, and for purists, no English subtitles or a Japanese language track are included in this release, which spoils an otherwise nice package, and leaves my questions about the translation unsolved. At least, they would remain unsolved if it were not for Jonathan Clements informative commentary. Although he does often go a little off-track, and everything is, at times, unnecessarily rushed, it is great for anyone who has seen the movie and wants to learn more, and should be of great interest to everyone who is into their vampire history.
Other than the commentary, other extras include a photo gallery, compromising of some beautiful artwork pieces mixed with some stills from the movie. The character profiles also help flesh out the backgrounds on many of the characters, though it is recommended you leave out going to see these until after you have watched the film. On the extras menu, there is something listed as an Interactive Feature: PC users only! But when I booted the menu up on my laptop, it failed to load.
If you are really desperate for a Japanese audio track, I would say your better off steering clear, but this is definitely one of the better anime DVDs released this year. D and his constant struggle between his vampire and human sides remains a parable to this day.