Manga Video // 1991 // 55 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // July 19th, 2002
"I don't need your help. I can look after myself. That's my style." -- Kuki
When vampires attack a NASA operation, it is up to rogue French agents to kill a CIA operative with the help of a former terrorist before space vampires can stop the mysterious Project D, which stands for Dracula. But the former terrorist, using the code name "Mr. Bat" must protect a pop singer whose blood holds the key to saving the galaxy from an interstellar invasion from which the vampires really want to save us. Does that make sense? Good, then you can explain it to me.
Vampire Wars is allegedly based on a novel, but I suspect that in cramming the entire book into less than an hour (45 minutes without the credits), an awful lot got lost in the translation. Characters drop in and out of the story, plot turns arrive but veer off into the distance, and the story cannot make up its mind what genre it wants to be. We begin with a film noir that makes decent use of its Paris locations, presenting us with our hero Kuki, an amoral thug trained by the KGB and getting by as a freelance terrorist. And not the warm and cuddly kind of terrorist: his favorite score was blowing up the Tokyo financial district. His favorite pickup line with women: "I need to check the inside of your clothes." This guy is a real winner.
Nevertheless, he is the hero in this overly violent muddle. Director Kazuhisa Takenouchi seems to insist that every scene in the film's first half strain taste with too much blood, too much sex, and a bevy of unlikable characters. By the time the vampires start showing up in the second half, the story wanders off into confusion. There are far more gunfights than vampire antics, but this is probably a good thing, as the audience is having a hard enough time figuring out the spy plot to worry about making sense of the supernatural elements of the story. In this way, Vampire Wars tries too hard to cash in on the success of genre-mixing films like Wicked City. And everything falls apart.
To make matters worse, Manga Video has done an appalling job with the English dub. In order to make the story more "mature," they have punctuated the dialogue with pointless cursing. At one point, Kuki (ever the charmer) snaps at an enemy in Japanese, "You bloody fag." The English dialogue makes this even more tasteless: "You're a real sick shitfuck." Is this necessary? Certainly the story is already clearly for mature audiences, filled with plenty of naked women and arterial spray. Indeed, the realistic art design (the Asian characters even look vaguely Asian, unusual in most anime) helps ground the story as much as, well, you can realistically ground any story about reformed terrorists teaming up with space vampires to fight the CIA.
When done right, realistic violence in anime can help accentuate the horror of the story (Blood, Wicked City). But there is a fine line, as anyone who has ever watched a Joe Eszterhas movie knows, between heightened suspense and mere perversity. And the English dub makes an already confused and messy film completely tasteless and offensive. And with no extras and a pinched and clipped Japanese soundtrack, Manga Video does nothing to add value to Vampire Wars. Not surprising, since the film has little to recommend it anyway.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Manga Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated