This time around, the film VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST
For Christmas, my awesome wife got me both the original VAMPIRE HUNTER D film, from 1985 (only a year or so after the first novel was published) and the second one, subtitled BLOODLUST, that came out in 2001.
The first film isn't a bad movie, but it's very much a product of both low-budget and its time period, with its Rumiko Takahashi-influenced (as every 80s anime and manga seemed to be, but I digress) character designs and simplified story, and I didn't like it nearly as much as the original novel or the manga adapted from it. To the filmmakers' credit, though, they did do a good job capturing D's essential character, without which the film would have been a total failure. Bottom line, I liked the move all right, but it wasn't what I wanted in a VHD film.
The second film, however, I absolutely loved. It's everything you could want in a VHD movie adaptation and an entertaining film in its own right.
Based on the third VHD novel, "Demon Deathchase" in English, and separated from the first film by almost sixteen years, BLOODLUST was intended specifically for theatrical release in both Japan and the US (as opposed to the first film, which was OAV), and the difference in budget, technology and attention to the source material shows big-time.
First, the film is gorgeous. Unlike the generic designs of the first film, this movie's designers took care to capture the visual aesthetic Yoshitaka Amano created with his covers and illustrations for the novels. They also captured perfectly some of the more surreal visuals that Hideyuki Kikuchi describes in his prose. Beyond the designs, the color palette was both marvelously well-suited to each scene and surprisingly varied, which was no easy task considerating much of the film takes place either at night, in darkened ruins or in a half-dead post-apocalyptic wasteland. Honestly, I was very impressed with that aspect alone.
Second, the story - it was only loosely based on the novel, but instead of being a partially-accurate recap like the first film, it was more that a different storyteller told the same tale in their own way. It wasn't 100% accurate to the novel, of course, but it did an excellent job of capturing the feel and spirit of the novel while feeling like something almost-original. Some people have complained that the story is thin and while that's valid to a degree, those are people missing the point of the the story: it's the characters that make it interesting; the plot is merely the vehicle that drives them forward.
My one real complaint about the film is a technical one: it has horribly-mixed sound. The dialogue and BGM/SFX were at such vastly different levels I had to keep constantly adjusting the TV's sound to hear the dialogue, then quickly turn it back down to keep from blowing my eardrums out. It was annoying and took me out of the experience multiple times.
Overall, though, that complaint aside, I give it a 90 out of 100 and definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of VHD, action/horror movies or just beautiful animation in general..