In the work of a master like Hayao Miyazaki, Japanimation’s eclecticism can be fascinatingly allusive. Lots of anime features, however, are just grab bags of thematic and visual borrowings. That’s certainly true of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, a bloodsucker epic whose mix-and-match aesthetic is drained by its generic story. Outfitted as a sort of Napoleonic samurai cowboy, pale-skinned D is the son of an undead father and human mother. He’s vowed to destroy the world’s dwindling population of vampires and is currently chasing Meier Link, who’s just abducted Charlotte, a seemingly standard-issue damsel in distress. The scion of a wealthy family, Charlotte is worth a big reward, so Meier is also being tracked by the Markus Brothers, a tank-driving quartet of sibling bounty hunters who employ Leila, a sexy anti-vampire vamp who just might like to get to know D better. As D and the Markuses pursue Meier, they travel through a land of anachronisms, where horse-drawn carriages elude armored personnel carriers and grandiose Bavarian-style castles loom just down the road from humble adobe churches. Meier is trying to reach the castle of a vampire queen, from which he can hop a rocket ship to a cathedral-like space station, far from persecution by humans. Meanwhile, the script—adapted from the third of Hideyuki’s Kikuchi’s 23 Vampire Hunter D novels—tries to convert Meier into a sympathetic figure: He’s not a monster, he’s an endangered species, and he and Charlotte are truly in love. As translated into clunky English dialogue—and spoken by a cast of noncelebrity voice actors—this material is utterly uncompelling. Postmodernism buffs may enjoy the juxtaposition of European, Islamic, Wild West, Egyptian, industrial, and Japanese motifs, but the narrative is recycled with considerably less flair than the design.

—Mark Jenkins

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