I haven't seen the first Vampire Hunter D movie, nor have I read the books, but the story here is simple and straightforward and doesn't rely on an intimate knowledge of the series which is refreshing.
The simplicity of the story is this movie's greatest strength - because I wasn't sitting there desperately trying to parse out what the hell was going on and why, I could take the time to savour the other delights the movie had to offer.
Like the animation, which showcased a gorgeous blend of gothic architecture, and high-tech sci-fi elements, and rich natural backgrounds. Seriously, I think even if I turned the sound off and just watched this movie for the artwork I would have been happy.
The characters were well thought out and given plausible backstories and motives. They behaved rationally, and had a depth not often found in horror or fantasy flicks, especially the abductee girl. She could have been just like any other waify damsel in distress and it wouldn't have changed the dynamics of the movie a whole hell of a lot, but she wasn't, she was complex, going above and beyond my expectations. D and the other mercenary girl, even the vampire guy, are also interesting characters and as such I actually gave a shit about what happened.
My excitement about watching a movie with good characters was exacerbated by the similarities that movie Priest had to this movie. Even though Priest was loosely based on a comic series and had the same plot as The Searchers but with vampires, it could very easily have also been a live action remake of this movie, except that it was boring and predictable and the characters were terrible.
Another thing I liked about this movie was that it had a good old fashioned vampire because I for one am getting tired of all these new and improved vampires they keep coming out with. When I was a kid, vampires burned up in the sun, cast no reflection in mirrors, had noble titles, and were extremely difficult to kill, which is exactly what this movie's vampire, Baron Meier Link, delivers. As well, one of the characters is the old-school vampire Carmilla (if you're not familiar with horror fiction, Carmilla was the titular character of one of the first pieces of vampire literature ever written)
At the same time, the movie feeds my craving for weird and different monsters by featuring such innovative creatures a woman who can turn into trees, and a guy that lives in shadows.
Plus Bender plays like five different people in the English dub which is a nice treat.
The only qualm I had with the movie is that it does wander into the overly melodramatic which is difficult not to do in a vampire-romance I guess, but still. Like, D talks a lot about how ruthless and vicious this Meier Link is but all we get to see of him is a brooding, tortured romantic. Bram Stoker's Dracula already showed us that a man can be romantic as hell and also a throat-ripping vampire so I don't see much excuse for that. Also the abductee, while a good character, does have a bad case of "but daddy I love him" syndrome, which probably would have appealed to me ten years ago but does nothing for me now.
That being said, the movie is well written enough and has a good spattering of humour to keep the tragic love drama from getting overwhelming, and it all works out to be one of the best horror-scifi-fantasy-western-hardboiled-romance fusion movies I've seen.
Written and Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri based on the novel Demon Deathchase by Hideyuki Kikuchi. English Version Written by: Ellen Moore, Jack Fletcher. Voices of: Andy Philpot, Mike McShane, John Rafter Lee, Pamela Adlon, Wendee Lee, John DiMaggio (English Dub).