screenplay by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, based on the novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi
directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
by Walter Chaw Yoshiaki Kawajiri's name is probably not as familiar to anime's United States fanbase as Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Ôtomo, Mamoru Oshii, Isao Takahata, or Shinichirô Watanabe, but amid those in the "know," his Ninja Scroll is among the best pure action/fantasy films of the last fifty years in any medium. Tightly plotted and drawn in a style that crosses Bernie Wrightson with Kelley Jones's work in Neal Gaiman's Sandman comic series, Ninja Scroll is one of few eloquent stand-alone justifications for Japanese animation as a movement of true cinematic value and lasting merit. Perhaps accounting for his relatively anonymous standing, Kawajiri's other films veer wildly from the sloppily drawn though viscerally intriguing Wicked City to the frankly awful Demon City Shinjuku. With Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Kawajiri's first film since Ninja Scroll six years back, the director takes on Hideyuki Kikuchi's popular manga D--yousatsukou (the sequel to Kyuuketsuki Hantaa 'D', made into 1985's Vampire Hunter D by Toyoo Ashida), and produces something that falls in quality somewhere between the dizzying heights of Ninja Scroll and the occasionally weak Wicked City, while borrowing images and elements from both.