.Anime Vampires article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 4, No. 11, October 2001
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
The mystery, power and darkness of vampires have fascinated audiences since Bram Stoker's Dracula was first published in 1897. Over the years, countless stories have been derived from this supernatural tale of Vlad the Impaler. Recent incarnations include the popular TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, films such as Blade and Shadow of the Vampire, and novels by the reigning queen of gothic horror, Anne Rice. Japanese creators never pass up a good story idea and have offered vampire stories for years. With the recent U.S. release of Blood: The Last Vampire, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and the Vampire Princess Miyu TV series, vampire anime is the perfect choice for this year's Halloween topic!
In December 1985, a different kind of anime film was released, a film of unabashed gore in a grim, monster infested setting. Based on the popular novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi, Vampire Hunter D would go on to inspire more than 20 books and eventually a second film fifteen years later. Kikuchi's characters were brought to life by the ethereal art of Yoshitaka Amano, who has done character designs for series as varied as Gatchaman, Final Fantasy and Honeybee Hutch.
In the distant future, humans have become peasants under the rule of self-appointed vampire nobles. Lord Magnus chooses heroine Doris to be his next bride, but Doris has other plans -she decides to hire D. Like a hero out of the old West, D rides in on his mechanical horse, and the melodramatic blood bath begins. Combining elements of science fiction, Westerns and gothic horror, Vampire Hunter D became an instant cult classic. But making a novel-length plot into a 75-minute film seldom develops the best possible results; the new film easily overpowers the original in length, technical skill and plot complexity.
For U.S. fans, the original Vampire Hunter D has recently been re-released by Urban Vision. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust was released in select theaters this summer with a tentative video release in December. There's even a video game for PlayStation fans, released by Jaleco last September. While the novels are yet available, there are people trying to negotiate the rights to bring Kikuchi's epic fantasy to English.
Rivaling D for the most famous anime vampire spot is Miyu from the modern-day series Vampire Princess Miyu (also known as Vampire Miyu). There are several different Miyu stories --two shojo manga series, an OVA series, a TV series, a novel, and CD dramas-- each telling different tales. Most early Miyu fans were first exposed to the hauntingly beautiful 4-volume OVA series, released in 1988. A Buddhist exorcist named Himiko is brought to Kyoto on a case involving a girl who may be possessed. During the course of her investigation, Himiko meets Miyu, and it is through Himiko's eyes we peer into Miyu's world. Long ago, Gods and Demons lived as one but were cast into the Darkness by humans. When the eternal slumber of these ‘Shinma' is disturbed, they wander into the human world, and it is Miyu's responsibility to send them back. Immortal in a mortal world, the only relief from Miyu's lonely existence is in the form of her mysterious, powerful, laconic companion, Larva. Miyu's situation allows for a wide variety of touching and mysterious stories, for most Shinma in the human world feed on suffering.
First released in English by AnimEigo in 1992, the OVAs were recently re-released on DVD. Antarctic Press translated the first Vampire Miyu manga in 1995, and the entire second comic series, New Vampire Miyu, has been published in English by Studio Ironcat. TokyoPop has announced their English release of the Vampire Princess Miyu TV series on DVD, starting August 2001.
From the producers of Ghost in the Shell comes the latest vampire anime --Blood: The Last Vampire. Perhaps destined to become another classic, this 48-minute film revolves around Yokota U.S.A.F. Airbase during the Vietnam War. Strange deaths have been occurring in the area and the mysterious girl Saya is sent to investigate. The resulting story is chilling, violent and intense. This film is unusual in several ways. Aside from the high production values you'd expect from Production I.G. and Mamoru Oshii (Jin-Roh, Patolabor movies), the setting results in half the cast speaking English. One of the first completely digital anime films, there is also an interesting blend of traditional and computer animation. Released in the U.S. by Manga Entertainment this August, this suspense-filled film will make an excellent addition to anyone's Halloween anime collection.
Whether you're a video game fan or not, you'll probably recognize the characters of the 1997 OVA series Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge*. Based on the Capcom fighting game series Darkstalkers (a.k.a. Vampire Hunter), the videos cover the most popular characters of the game as best as four 45-minute videos can. Packed with all action you'd expect from anime based on a fighting game, the series is about different characters trying to affect world domination. There's the Dracula-esque Demitri who has control over the human world and is trying to take over the Demon World ruled by the succubus Morrigan. Donovan is a half-Darkstalker half-human determined to destroy Dimitri and free humanity. The Fire God Pyron wants to dominate the universe and is intent on eliminating all who are strong enough to defeat him on Earth. Supernatural sisters Mei-Ling and Hsien-Ko and the catwoman Felicia also make appearances in this stunningly animated series. The anime has been released in English by Viz on VHS and DVD.
Cross the animated P.I. series City Hunter with the Buffy spinoff Angel and you'd get something close to Night Walker: The Midnight Detective. Like City Hunter's Ryo, Shido has a young, female partner-wannabe who has come into his life through tragedy. Like Angel's lead, Shido is a vampire working to eliminate supernatural beings who plague and possess humanity. Like both Ryo and Angel, Shido has a sexy female law officer who works with him. There's also a sarcastic, feisty urban fairy to round out the cast. This 12-episode TV series has a surprising variety of episodes, from suspense-filled mysteries to touching tales of tragedy and poignant flashbacks to Shido's early, bloody days as a vampire. The series has been released in English by Central Park Media.
Not all vampire stories have to be serious. Master Mosquiton (a.k.a. Master of Mosquiton) is often hysterical. Set in the 1920's, the 6-volume video series involves the eccentric adventures of Inaho as she searches for the legendary artifact, the "O-Part." Inaho's goal is immortality and eternal beauty. Upon discovering the remains of Mosquiton, Inaho decides a vampire would be useful in her quest and revives him, thus becoming Master of Mosquiton. Inaho is not the only one searching for the "O-Part"; she and the reluctant Mosquiton must face a variety of powerful beings as the plot escalates. The result is an adventure series filled with action, supernatural suspense and irreverent sarcasm. The video series is available from A.D. Vision, but the 26- episode TV series has yet to be released in English. The TV series is set in 1999 and emphasizes slapstick more than suspenseful action and has the kinds of character differences you often get when an OVA turns into a TV show.
While vampires may not be the main characters, they are the main topic in the 1991 video Vampire Wars. A story combining international espionage and vampires, the plot is somewhat contrived, including the CIA, the French Secret Service, a master spy and superstar Lamia Vindaw. Lamia is apparently the target of a vampire cult which is also involved in terrorist activity against NASA. Naturally, there's plenty of action and gore. This film was released in English by Manga Entertainment.
Not all anime vampires have made it to English, like Osamu Tezuka's goofy Don Dracula. There are many more manga vampires who have never made it to anime, but the variety of stories involving these creatures of the night is a testament to their popularity both here and abroad. Whether you're looking for something seductive or supernatural, dramatic or comedic, thoughtful or action-packed, there's probably an anime vampire for you. So celebrate this season of things that go bump in the night by trying some vampires done Japanese style... and don't forget Buffy's moving to UPN this fall!*
I'm using the names for Darkstalkers (and everything else) as they're spelled on the Viz site.
Feel free to cut out "and don't forget Buffy's moving to UPN this fall"; I just couldn't help myself.
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