Vampire Wars

I genuinely, non-ironically enjoyed Vampire Wars. That doesn’t mean I can’t laugh a little at it when it’s being dumb, but I found this to be an enjoyable anime. They’re gonna take away my critics license for this review, I am sure. But I sincerely enjoyed this little OVA from 1990 that Toei created. Sure by the ending it starts to fall apart, but before that it is a solid action romp. And what else can you ask for from an anime titled Vampire Wars. Surely anyone going into an anime with a title like this isn’t looking for deep realistic and well developed characters, meaningful philosophical concepts, or a wonderfully emotional love story. You want a good dose of the ol’ ultra-violence. And this little 40 minute OVA delivers.

Well I best explain the plot. In the future a communist terrorist, Kuki Kosaburo living in France gets involved with the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (French Secret Service) in spying on the CIA. You see the French government agreed to helping the CIA operate more in the country, but the CIA and United States Government is not keeping France up to date on everything that’s going on. In fact they are specifically keeping France in the dark on many secret missions. Monsieur Lassar,  a higher up in the French secret service, believes there is a connection between a recent attack on a NASA base in the Arizona desert and a corpse of a CIA agent found in Paris. This makes Lassar nervous, believing there may be a big terrorists attack planed for Paris, yet he can’t be seen to be investigating an allie. So he finds a terrorist/secret agent (and Kuki is a rather good one at that. We learn for example that Kuki was resposible for some ridiculous plot involving crashing a Drone Aircraft into the center of Tokyo, thus crashing the Nikkei Stock Average ) and arrests him on trumped up charges, forcing him to spy on the CIA or end up in prison. Kuki eventually learns that the famous film star Lamia Vindaw is at the center of everything. Both the CIA and the terrorists are spying on her, waiting to make their move. Toss into the batch the rumors going around that the terrorist are really a vampire clan, and well you have a crazy action film worth watching. A film that uses roughly the same amount of bullets used in all of World War II (including the Second Sino-Japanese War).

I will admit I first went into Vampire Wars  expecting either Crying Freeman level ridiculous and hilarious fight scenes, gore, and violence; or a train wreck like Psychic Wars (may God have mercy on your soul if you’ve seen this one). I was however was presently surprised that Vampire Wars is neither a ridiculous (but cool!) anime where people have 4 minute conversations with knives sticking out of their head (and stomach!), nor is it a boring anime where a doctor fights bigger versions of the cookie monster with the help of time travel and a giant sword he randomly finds on the road. I’d compare this to a Yoshiaki Kawajiri anime, although not nearly as well choreographed. It is merely a solid action movie, nothing more and nothing less. Sure the plot is a tad crazy, and the fights are exaggerated, but the main character is a badass and it’s an entertaining film. And like any good early 90’s OVA, there’s a sex scene (which I find hilarious, Kuki just sleeps with some random informant who he meet 10 seconds ago!) . The fight scenes in this OVA are pretty fun to watch, although as it goes on it becomes more and more unbelievable. But it’s an exciting film, and I can’t be too tough on it for trying to increase the excitement as it goes fourth. The characters are all pretty good, although very 2-dimensional. Kuki is an interesting guy. A die-hard communist, bent on bringing down capitalism by killing civilians. Yet he still desperately holds onto some sort of moral code. Besides claiming to be outright against killing innocent people (which is clearly a lie he tells himself to sleep at night) he treats his hooker neighbors quite well (tossing them wads of cash for no good reason). Kuki may be my favorite character, but the scheming Monsieur Lassar is also pretty interesting. As is Lassar’s meathead right hand man. The leader of the vampire clan/terrorists is another intriguing character. And although the movie star, Lamia Vindaw, is very cute looking I personally never bought into her. She seemed both unrealistic and too strange. But I suppose this makes sense when you learn about her more. But sorry I was never really a fan of hers. She came off as far too annoying.

As far as the story goes here, it’s not terrible and in fact at times is pretty damn interesting. I do feel as though EVERYTHING is moving way to fast, like the writers are in a rush to get to the next super-cool action scene though. Take a chill pill mr.writer, let the story blossom, don’t vomit it at me. But with a time frame of 40 minutes to work with, I guess it does have to move along at a rapid pace. And although the story falls apart at the end, I do have to commend the writers for keeping it together for as long as they did. When they’re not rushing us to the next ultra-violent action scene, they do their job at developing the story and making it come together quite well. The mystery of exactly what the CIA is up to, who or what the vampires are, and how this all involves a hollywood actor is played off quite nicely. Which is something the writers of Psychic Wars completely forgot about, you know actually writing a story not just action scenes that make no sense, or worse bore you to tears (Yes I so have to destroy this anime in a review one day). And although I do admit Kuki changes sides too much for a short OVA like this (preferably the audience should be entirely sure where his allegiance lies if the story is this short), it’s still all manages to work quite well and make sense (until…THAT ENDING). Well I’ll pretend that character who randomly not only knows how to pilot a helicopter, but also owns one isn’t a terribly written deus ex machina. I mean they had to find some way to move the plot along…and besides I know plenty of people who own choppers, don’t you?

The artwork in Vampire Wars is quite plain. Still I liked the art style, it’s got that “manime look” you rarely see today. All the characters are uniquely designed, although no one is that impressive. The guys are all tough brutes, and the girls are sex bombs (except for Lamia who’s very elegant and cute looking). The anime mostly takes place at night, and I think the artsist do this a real diservice. Night scenes in anime can look gorgeous if well lit (think Megazone 23, Bubblegum Crisis, Akira, Cyber City), but the there is a real problem with lighting in this OVA. Some scenes are way to dark, and it just ruins the atmosphere. You also have a hard time seeing everything on screen. The artists who worked on this need a refreshing course in how to make anime. The animation is rather sub-par here too. They cut corners where they could. But it’s not a super cheap effort or anything like that, the action scenes are alright. The music however is very likable. The background music is mostly an exciting rock anthem that really melds well with both the vampire and action aspects of the anime.

If you will listen to dub, be prepared for some cheesy accents, and lackluster acting. The dub was produced at CTV studios Toronto (as far as I can tell anyway), using Canadian and British actors. Roger May plays Kuki, and he has the right voice quality for the job, and overall I do think he holds the dub together. That being said he does overact, and makes the show seem a little campy. But considering where the plot goes toward the end, I can’t blame him for the camp too much. Julia Brahms, who I liked in Appleseed  did a pretty bad job here. It’s not that she’s a bad actor , nor is it that she doesn’t fit the role (I totally understand why she was cast as this girl), it’s just that she seems disinterested. She is rather unmotivated, and I can almost hear her (under her breath) contemplating exactly what choices in life lead her to be dubbing Vampire Wars on this very day. That being said at times she’s quite good, especially when she isn’t crying or worried (and also before the final third of the film…). Uh…to put this in a better way, she’s quite good early on in the film. Frank Rozelaar-Green plays Monsieur Lassar and he puts on a terribly cheesy French accent. But his acting was pretty good, and I pretty much bought him. But the star of the dub (as he usually is in anything they cast him in) is without a doubt the brilliant Peter Marinker as the head of the Vampire clan/terrorists. He made what otherwise would have been a campy character: sincere, realistic, believable, understandable and dare I say likable?  Yes Peter Marinker does it again. And when he wants to be he can be damn near frighting. I will write Funimation, Ocean, or Seraphim Digital a check if they promise to cast Peter Marinker in a dub as a main character. Please? Give this guy some work! The person who plays Lassar’s right hand man is laughably bad. He puts on some corny deep voice that just seems so very fake. It sounds like he never heard what a deep voice actually sounds like (like he grew up in some weird alternate reality where everyone sounds like the chipmunks), but this is what he thinks it would sound like and damn it he’s going to talk like this the entire dub whether it makes any logical sense or not! *Spoiler* I especially like his death scene in which he cries on and on and on and won’t stop. Soda almost came out of my nose when this happened.  *End Spoiler* . Most of the rest of the cast seem either bored, or worse can’t act. I’d describe this dub as a finding a diamond ring (Peter Marinker) in a garbage dump, and then noticing a spare tire with a dirty banana peel on it ( Roger May) you could use next to it. I can’t say I recommend this dub, but if you’re up for dumpster diving, it won’t destroy your soul. I wish Manga Entertainment had instead given this to their studio in London and let Michael Bakewell direct. But it is what it is.

Now to talk about the ending I keep alluding to. Three-fourths into the anime everything clearly falls apart.  Sure it never gets to Psychic Warslevel, but I have to wonder exactly what happened here. Did the writers just stop trying? I mean this was never a masterpiece of cinema to begin with, but the ending is just entirely stupid. I won’t spoil anything here but when you watch it for yourself, try not to hurt yourself when you bang your head after hearing that final exposition the leader of the vampires babbles out. It’s quite rare for a movie to take such a nose dive at the end like this. It’s like we were flying comfortably at 30,000 feet when all of a sudden not only does the plane crash, but it ends up hundreds of yards underground in a crater. It’s truly that bad. It’s a shame the writers gave up trying, because there’s a lot to like here. I do think you should see it, especially if  you like old actiony OVAs. Just pretend the ending really didn’t happen, we all do. Manga Entertainment put this out on DVD, so you can pick it up if you like. Although it is out of print, it’s still very easy to find.

3/5 Stars

PositivesGreat action, badass characters, ultra-violent, script isn’t horrible, likable music, Peter Marinker

Negatives: Most of the dub, simple artwork and animation, the ending is terrible.

9 Responses to “Vampire Wars”

  1. I was kinda skeptical by the cover, but your review made it seem ok. Is this still in-print?

  2. I think this would be perfect for a group anime watch. Especially for those people who still love their anime old skool & extra violent. Everyone else will probably get their enjoyment from this ending you speak so …”highly” of.

    I commend your ability to take risks and sit through this stuff.

  3. I’m one of those rare breeds that likes the 90s style of anime. I’m not a vampire fan but I take exception for anime especially if it is done in a not so stereotypical way.

  4. Your spoilers spoiled me 😦

    This anime sounds like Fractale. Is it the Fractale of the 90s?

    • I clearly warned about the spoilers!! Avert ye eyes all who enter. Still I apologize. Is it the Fractale of the 90’s. depends….because I haven’t seen Fractale. In fact i had to google Fractale.

      • Fractale was an awesome show filled with awesomeness about space elevators and Gods and technological revolution and violent worldwide rebellion and giant flying spaceship duels and moe girls. But mostly about moe girls. Apparently some people say it sucks.

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