Vampire Hunter D (1985 film)

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Vampire Hunter D
Vampire Hunter (1985 film) DVD cover.jpg
Japanese 吸血鬼(バンパイア)ハンターD
Hepburn Banpaia Hantā Dī
Directed by Toyoo Ashida
Produced by Hiroshi Kato
Mitsuhisa Koeda
Yukio Nagasaki
Written by Yasushi Hirano
Based on Vampire Hunter D Volume 1 
by Hideyuki Kikuchi
Starring Kaneto Shiozawa
Michie Tomizawa
Seizō Katō
Keiko Toda
Yūsaku Yara
Ichirō Nagai
Music by Tetsuya Komuro
Ashi Productions
Distributed by CBS Sony Group Inc. (Japan, home video)
Toho (Japan, theratical)
Streamline Pictures (US, original)
Urban Vision (US, current)
Madman Entertainment (Australia)
Manga Video (UK)
Release date(s)
  • December 21, 1985 (1985-12-21)
Running time 80 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Vampire Hunter D (吸血鬼(バンパイア)ハンターD Banpaia Hantā Dī) is a 1985 Japanese horror/science fiction OVA film produced by Ashi Productions, in association with Epic/Sony Records, CBS Sony Group Inc. and Movic. The screenplay is based on the first in the long-running series of light novels written by Hideyuki Kikuchi. Billed by the Japanese producers as a "dark future science-fiction romance", the film, like the novel before it, is set in the year 12,090 AD, in a post-nuclear holocaust world where a young woman hires a mysterious half-vampire, half-human vampire hunter to protect her from a powerful vampire lord.


While walking her guard rounds in the country, 17-year-old Doris Lang, the daughter of a deceased werewolf hunter, is attacked by Count Magnus Lee, a 10,000-year-old, long-lost vampire lord (also known as a Noble), who intends to make her his new vampire bride.

Doris later encounters a mysterious dampiel and vampire hunter, known only as D, and hires him to protect her from Count Lee. While in town with Dan, her younger brother, and D, Doris is confronted by Greco Roman, the mayor’s son, about the Count’s attack and D, and promises to help her if he has Doris for himself. When Doris refuses, Greco reveals what happened to the entire town, including Dan. D requests that the authorities, including Greco’s father, the town sheriff and Dr. Feringo (Fehring in the English dub), should hold off Doris’ incarceration at the local asylum until he kills Count Lee.

That night, D is attacked by Rei Ginsei, Count Lee’s servant and a mutant with the ability to warp the space around his body, and Lamika, Count Lee’s daughter, who is highly prejudiced against humans and dampiels. D holds off the attack and orders the pair to return to the Count’s castle. The next day, he travels the castle and attempts to confront the Count. Aided by the symbiote in his Left Hand, D holds his own against the Count’s monstrous minions, including Rei and his companions Gimlet, Golem and Chullah. While in the castle’s catacombs, he is ensnared and captured by the Snake Women of Midwich. Doris is then kidnapped by Rei and brought to the Count. Using his vampiric powers, D kills the Snake Women, rescues Doris before she can be killed by Lamika, and escapes the castle.

In town, Greco overhears a meeting between Rei and a messenger from Count Lee, who gives the former a candle with Time-Bewitching Incense, a substance powerful enough to weaken vampires and dampiels. Dan is taken hostage by Rei, and D comes to his rescue, cutting off Rei’s hand in the process and discovering that the candle is a fake. Meanwhile, Dr. Feringo, himself a vampire in league with Count Lee, leads Doris into a trap but is killed by Lamika when he begins requesting to share Doris with the Count. Greco then appears, using the real Time-Bewitching Incense to severely weaken Lamika, but is overpowered by Dan and D. Afterwards, Doris, who has by now fallen for D, tries to convince him to live with her and embraces him. D, unwilling to bite her, forces her away from him.

The next morning, Greco is confronted and killed by Rei, who uses the real candle to weaken D, allowing him to kill the vampire hunter with a wooden stake. Doris and Dan are then captured and taken back to the castle. Lamika tries to persuade her father not to allow a human into the family, but Lee reveals that there is no harm in doing so, as Lamika’s own mother was a human - making her a dampiel instead of a full-blooded vampire. Rei also requests that the Count give him eternal life as a member of the Nobility, but he is coldly rebuffed.

As a mutant attempts to devour D’s body, his Left Hand revives him just in time for him to kill the monster. As the processional for the Count and Doris’ wedding takes place, Dan, having escaped his cell, attempts to attack Lee, but falls into a chasm before being saved by Rei. In retaliation for not fulfilling his request, Rei attempts to weaken the Count with the Time-Bewitching Incense. However, Lee, who is too powerful to be weakened by the Incense, kills him. Before Doris can be bitten by the Count, D appears and engages in a climactic battle with Lee, and succeeds in stabbing the Noble with his sword. A weakened Lee attempts to influence Doris into killing D, but she is broken out of the trance by Dan, who arrives with Lamika. D then uses his powers to enact the destruction of the castle, and it is implied, because of these powers and their resemblance to one another, that he is the son of Count Dracula, the legendary Ancestral God of Vampires. He then tries to persuade Lamika into living as a human, but she chooses to die as a member of the Nobility with her father.

D, Doris and Dan escape the collapsing castle. The dampiel then sets off under a now clear blue sky. The Langs bid D goodbye as he looks back briefly to them and smiles.


Character Japanese Voice Actor English Voice Actor
D Kaneto Shiozawa Michael McConnohie
Doris Lang Michie Tomizawa Barbara Goodson
Count Magnus Lee Seizō Katō Jeff Winkless
Dan Lang Keiko Toda Lara Cody
Greco Roman Yūsaku Yara Steve Bulen
Countess Lamika Lee Satoko Kitō Edie Mirman
Rei Ginsei Kazuyuki Sogabe Kerrigan Mahan
D's Left Hand Ichirō Nagai Michael McConnohie
Dr. Feringo/Dr. Fehring Motomu Kiyokawa Steve Kramer
Mayor Roman Yasuo Muramatsu Tom Wyner
Sheriff Danton/Sheriff Dalton Kan Tokumaru Kirk Thornton
The Three Sisters/
Snake Women of Midwich
Kazuko Yanaga
Yoshiko Sakakibara
Joyce Kurtz


Despite following the novel's original plot fairly closely, the OVA makes several notable departures from its source material:

  • In the OVA, Doris's physical prowess is implied and briefly shown when she fends off Greco, while the novel puts a greater emphasis on these traits. It could also be argued that D is more reserved in regards to Doris in the film, never going beyond a mere embrace (at least on camera) and certainly never kissing Doris, as he does in the novel. In the film it is nonetheless made clear that D holds great affection for Doris beneath his cool and stoic exterior. In both formats it takes force of will to resist the temptation to bite Doris, possibly linking D's vampirism to his sexuality.
  • Unlike the novel, the D of the OVA makes few errors in judgment or battle, and is more loath to resort to his vampiric side, resisting it almost to the point of death. D of the novel is more willing to use his vampiric abilities to get out of trouble, though he is also reluctant, albeit to a lesser extent.
  • In the novel, Dr. Feringo/Fehring his and relationship with the Langs is further developed, and he spends more time helping them. He also explains to Doris (and in doing so the readers) that in the seven thousand years in which vampires ruled over man, human DNA was altered so that when a human comprehends the effect of a deterrent (such as garlic or crucifixes), they forget about it. Consequently, crosses do not appear as jewelry or on buildings in the books, as they do in the OVA.
  • In the novel, the only ones besides Dan and D to ever know that Doris was bitten were Dr. Fehring, Mayor Roman, Sheriff Dalton, Greco, and Greco's thugs. Dalton threatens Greco and his friends that if anyone spreads word about Doris' being bitten, "I'll throw you in the electric pokey." We also learn that the sheriff is trusted by Doris, and was thrown into his prison prior to Doris being placed in the asylum.
  • Rei Ginsei's character was almost entirely altered, including his ethnicity. In the novel, he is Japanese and he tries to rape Doris and offers D both power and friendship, but is coldly rebuffed. In the Japanese version of the OVA, his character was evil but honorable, while the English dub places greater emphasis on his villainous nature. His mutant power of warping space within his body, however, remains the same in all versions. His death was altered for the movie, coming from Magnus, rather than D.
  • Rei's three companions were transformed to monstrosities: Gimlet was changed from a mutant with superhuman speed to a glider who laughed; Golem from a large man to a true giant; and the spider-controlling Chullah (not named in the OVA) from a hunchbacked human to a spindly-limbed green humanoid. In the novel, D kills them and cuts off Rei's hand in the same encounter, following Dan's kidnapping. In the OVA, D kills Chullah and Golem while escaping from the castle with Doris, and shortly thereafter Rei accidentally kills Gimlet with his shrike-blade while chasing D.
  • Rei does not rescue Dan in the novel, and apparently intends to kill the boy when he kidnaps him.
  • In the novel, the Time-Bewitching Incense is a substance difficult for vampires to manufacture, and turns day into night and vice versa. Rei's instructions are, as D has some ability to withstand sunlight, to light it near D and put it out quickly to confuse his body, thus weakening him. In the OVA, the Time-Bewitching Incense simply becomes a candle capable of paralyzing anyone with vampire blood. Additionally, the Incense was given to Rei by Lee directly rather than by a servant.
  • In the OVA, Rei kills Greco outdoors, whereas in the novel Greco is killed by a more active Larmika at the asylum.
  • Lamika's (Larmica in the novel) lineage is altered: In the novel she is a vampire, while in the OVA she is revealed to be a dampiel like D. In the book she has blonde hair and Doris has black hair; the colors were reversed for the movie. Their outfits also were changed for the movie: in the novel, Doris normally wears jeans and a shirt instead of a short tunic, and Larmica wears dresses of various colors (white, blue, and black are mentioned); one dress is said to be of medieval styling.
  • The lamia-like Three Sisters, or Snake Women of Midwich, appear more prominently in the novel, with significantly different results. The Midwich Medusas, an ancient trio of demons predating vampires, are famous for their attack on Frontier village of Midwich and have the powers of a succubus. In trying to subdue D, they are instead ensnared by his own formidable powers of seduction, and turned into lovestruck (though short-lived) allies.
  • In the novel, D's pendant neutralizes the technological defenses of the Nobility. In the OVA, it repels many of the demons living within Lee's castle.
  • Dracula's nature, and why the vampires respect him so much, are also explained more within the novel. D even quotes his father as warning of the Nobles' downfall. Dracula apparently did not believe in exploiting humans like mindless cattle, something Magnus Lee has forgotten, and for which D takes him to task.
  • In the OVA, Count Lee is killed when D summons his vampiric side, overpowering Lee and nailing him through the heart to a wall, which crushes Lee to death upon the castle's destruction (which was caused by Lee's defeat); in the OVA however, this is very different: Lamica sets the castle controls to destroy the castle within a certain amount of time, D shows up in time to stop Doris' transformation into a vampire, and he and the count face off. The count has the power to use his cape as a bladed weapon, and as an arm to squeeze and lift things, nor can it be pierced; thus their battle is fairly even. Before D can craft a strategy (his specialty) to defeat Lee, Doris, who is now being controlled by the count, distracts D; Lee seizes the opportunity and grabs D with his cape, taking his sword. Just as Lee is about to behead D, a warning bell alerting Lee of the castle's future destruction goes off. This bell distracts Lee, causing his cape to return to normal and release D. The Count attempts to stab D in the heart, but D catches the blade and breaks the tip off. He then jumps back and throws the tip at Lee. It pierces the count's heart, killing him.[1][2]


Vampire Hunter D is credited as one of the earliest anime productions targeted explicitly at the male teenager/adult demographic in favor of family audiences, and capitalized on the emerging OVA market due to its violent content and influence from European horror mythology (such as the films of British film studio Hammer Productions). The film’s limited budget made its technical quality comparable to most anime TV series and other OVAs, but not with most theatrical animated films.[3] During the film’s production, director Toyoo Ashida stated that his intention for the film was to create an OVA that people who had been tired from studying or working hard would enjoy watching, instead of watching something that would make them "feel even more tired".[4] At the time of the OVA’s production, Ashida was known for directing Toei Animation’s TV series adaptation of Fist of the North Star, and included cameo appearances of two characters from the series, Kenshiro and Lynn, in Vampire Hunter D.[5] Similarly, D makes a cameo appearance in Fist of the North Star.

Yoshitaka Amano, the illustrator of the original novels, acted as character designer for the OVA. However, alternative designs were provided by Ashida (who also acted as the film’s animation director), and elements from both artists’ works were combined to create final designs by the animators.[4] Acclaimed pop artist Tetsuya Komuro was responsible for the film's soundtrack, and also performed the film's ending theme, 'Your Song', with his fellow members of TM Network.

Vampire Hunter D was the first of several film adaptations (both live-action and animated) of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s works. Several of these (Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust) were directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri of Madhouse.


Vampire Hunter D was released on laserdisc by CBS Sony Group Inc. on December 21, 1985,[6] but was also given a limited theatrical release by Toho at the same time. An English-language version of the OVA was produced in 1992 by Streamline Pictures, and was shown on the fine-arts theatrical circuit in the US in August 1992.[7] The Streamline dub was then released on VHS on March 26, 1993.[8] This initial release was followed by a re-release on VHS by Streamline's parent company, Orion Pictures, and a laserdisc release by Lumivison.[9] The film was also shown several times on American television during the 1990’s, including on TBS, Cartoon Network and the Sci-Fi Channel. Vampire Hunter D is considered a flagship title for Streamline, and was marketed in the US as ‘the first animated horror film for adults.’[10]

In 2000, Urban Vision Entertainment, the US production partner and distributor of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, re-released the OVA on a ‘Special Edition’ DVD on October 17, as well as releasing dubbed and subtitled versions of the film on VHS.[8] The Special Edition DVD release was duplicated by Manga Entertainment for a UK release on July 5, 2004, as well as by Madman Entertainment in Australia on August 31, 2005.[11] Currently, the only home video release of Vampire Hunter D outside of Japan that is still in print is Madman’s reissue of the Special Edition DVD, released on July 23, 2014.[12]


  1. ^ Hideyuki Kikuchi (2005). Vampire Hunter D Volume 1. DH Press. ISBN 1-59582-012-4. 
  2. ^ Toyoo Ashida (director), Hideyuki Kikuchi (original work) (August 31, 2005). Vampire Hunter D - Special Edition (DVD). Madman Entertainment. 
  3. ^ Fred Patten (December, 2000). "Vampire Hunter D: The Next Anime Hit in America?". Animation World Magazine. Retrieved August 15, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b The Making of Vampire Hunter D (DVD). Madman Entertainment. August 31, 2005. 
  5. ^ Toyoo Ashida (director), Hideyuki Kikuchi (original work) (August 31, 2005). Vampire Hunter D - Special Edition (DVD). Madman Entertainment. Event occurs at 44 minutes, 3 seconds. 
  6. ^ Toyoo Ashida (director), Hideyuki Kikuchi (original work). Vampire Hunter D (Laserdisc). CBS Sony Group Inc. 
  7. ^ Galbraith, Stuart (2008). The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography. Scarecrow Press. p. 346. ISBN 9780810860049. 
  8. ^ a b "Vampire Hunter D (OAV)". Anime News Network. 1998. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  9. ^ Toyoo Ashida (director), Hideyuki Kikuchi (original work). Vampire Hunter D (Laserdisc). Lumivison. 
  10. ^ Toyoo Ashida (director), Hideyuki Kikuchi (original work). Vampire Hunter D (VHS). Orion Pictures. 
  11. ^ "Vampire Hunter D - The Long Awaited Prequel to Bloodlust!". Madman Entertainment. 2005. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Vampire Hunter D - The Movie (1985)". Madman Entertainment. 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 

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