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Manga presents
Vampire Wars (2002)

"If their code name is 'Dracula', mine will be 'Bat'"
- Kuki (Roger May)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: June 26, 2002

Stars: Roger May, Alan Blyton, Jonathan Keeble
Other Stars: Lesley Rooney, Julia Brahms.
Director: Kazuhisa Takenouchi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (extreme violence, gore, sexuality, nudity, some language)
Run Time: 00h:54m:23s
Release Date: June 25, 2002
UPC: 660200406028
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- C-B+B C-

DVD Review

A mixture of spy-thriller and horror, Vampire Wars is a strange combination of ideas and genres. While it might lure in several viewers with the promise of a tantalizing vampire story, this short anime has more in common with the classic Golgo 13 cartoons than anything else. Think James Bond versus the supernatural, and you'll get a fairly accurate picture of Vampire Wars. The core plot deals with infamous and debonair super-criminal Kousaburo Kuki. While living his usual life, he's apprehended by French police in Paris who blackmail him into working for them. What do the French police want? They want Kuki to investigate the destruction of a top-secret NASA facility and its repercussions. Rumor has it, vampires were responsible for destroying it, but why they'd want to and what's going on is part of the mystery Kuki is assigned to uncover.

Right off the bat, the first thing noticeable about Vampire Wars is that for a 54-minute film, it has a 3-hour plot. At times, it gets maddeningly complex with tons of exposition and background details being cram-packed into the first half. The plot makes little sense, and there's tons of loose ends. The plot about vampires set loose upon Paris is the center of everything, but it's also the last thing handled in the storyline. Typically, shorter anime films usually get to the point quickly and stay there until the end. Vampire Wars, on the other hand, is very top heavy with characters and set-up, leading to a disappointing pay-off in terms of the action and adventure that's promised. A strange amount of screen time is devoted to extremes of violence and totally pointless sexual situations, none of which offer the least bit of clarification to what's going on.

To a certain extent, Vampire Wars works as an experiment with genres, but nothing really comes out of it. If this were the pilot for a whole series, the pacing and general treatment would make sense. As a stand-alone movie, though, this really doesn't come across very well. I wasn't particularly excited by much in the film, either; the action is rather lackluster. There's a lot of gore, bloodshed, and basic violence, but it doesn't have much context within the rest of the program. For example, early on in the film, Kuki discovers that a girl he knows has been savagely murdered by a bizarre, axe-wielding maniac. Kuki kills the maniac, but who was he? Why was he in the story? Where did he come from? Little questions like these eat away at the fabric of things until the end credits roll and you may well find yourself saying, "What the hell did I just watch?" In retrospect, Vampire Wars felt like a blur of mixed concepts and confusing bursts of action. It is far from terrible, but it doesn't seem to have any real structure.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The full-frame image runs at a 9-10mbps bitrate and is free of defects and digital flaws. While the source isn't digitally perfect and the black-level is a bit faded (the "photography" is generally a bit hazy), the transfer manages to handle everything without any issues. Colors could have been a bit more brilliant and well defined, but this seems more a problem with the source than the direct transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Japanese stereo audio is basically what you'd expect from a film like this. Sound effects and music are presented well, but dialogue is sometimes a bit obscured by background action. The livelier sequences offer some directionality and more emphatic effects. The English dub is offered in a similar stereo track and a Dolby 5.1 track. The 5.1 track is nicely done, with a lot of surround ambience added in for good measure, but doesn't really make any enormous leaps over the 2.0. The basic clarity is roughly the same in all mixes, but the English dub isn't particularly satisfying and sounds a little goofy at times.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Manga Video Catalogue
  2. Manga Catalogue Preview
Extras Review: There are no feature-specific extras, but there is a short collection of video clips from other Manga releases and an interactive catalogue of other titles which provides a cover image and technical specs. There's also weblinks to websites associated with Manga, as well as little video, logo snippets from the companies.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Vampire Wars is worth checking out for the anime fan, but if you're looking for a good vampire movie or something in that vein (no pun intended), watch Vampire Hunter D (the original, not Bloodlust). As a slick thriller with a spy angle, it doesn't quite work either. The mixture is modestly entertaining, but nothing special.

 


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