Vampire Hunter D

There's a new guest reviewer tonight - let's have a warm welcome to Sean Teeter!  He collects vintage and new Star Wars, McFarlane, and assorted movie related figures, and lives up in the Great NorthWest.  It's all yours, Sean!

Yet to be released in English, few people outside of Japan know that Vampire Hunter D got his start on the printed page as opposed to the screen. The series has been going strong for a while, and hopefully the books will eventually make it onto the national scene where all us hungry fans are waiting. Hideyuki Kikuchi’s creation jumped the page and became a successful movie in 1985. Vampire Hunter D’s script was taken from the first story of the series and was offbeat, violent, and exciting enough to draw a new base of fans into the fold. By today’s standards the animation is somewhat quaint and the characters are all too familiar, as various anime have rehashed the same stock players over and over again: the annoying little brother, the pig-tailed girl who flashes panty-shots for the fan-boys, the silent warrior, etc. 

Even so, Vampire Hunter D continues to remain a cult favorite even to this day. When the long-awaited sequel came out in 2000, there was a sudden –albeit muted—explosion of renewed interest in the tales of D. Bloodlust is supposedly based (loosely) on the third story of the series, and introduces a whole new slew of characters. Besides D, the only other familiar “face” is Left Hand, the parasite living in D’s palm. While several fans thought the story wasn’t as good as the first, most mainstream viewers thought it was a more cohesive plot. One point not up for debate was the artwork –the look of the film was stunning in comparison to its predecessor, as well as being a lot closer in feel to the original Vampire Hunter D artwork created by Yoshitaka Amano.

A little late for the release, Epoch in association with Cworks has produced two 1/10th scale actions figures from this latest movie: Vampire Hunter D and Leila. 

Packaging - ***1/2
The figures are packaged on heavy-duty blister cards approximately 9” x 12” in size. Both the bubble and backing are quite sturdy, and can take a few hits before damage begins to show. The front of the cards have a promotional silhouette of D in front of the moon; the same image used on the DVD’s slip cover. The back has pictures of the two figures currently offered and a few stills from the movie. All the accessories are displayed for easy viewing within the bubble; each segmented off into their own little compartment. The segmented tray is also covered with a molded top sheet of plastic, negating the need for tape to hold things in place. Overall it looks really nice and displays well if you want to leave the figure on the card.

Sculpting - ****
Both figures truly shine in this category. The wrinkles under Leila’s shoulder pads, D’s upper body muscles, everything looks stunning –the figures almost look as if they’ve stepped off the screen (and become 3-D, and smaller, and plastic . . .). One small gripe off the bat is that D only has one ear. While his hair may cover the left side of his head, it can be easily pushed aside to show a smooth spot where his ear should be. This just feels sloppy in comparison to the detail throughout the rest of the figure. D’s belt, cape, scabbard, and hat are separately sculpted items, but they’re permanently attached. While this all looks good in a static action pose, there are some problems. D’s hat is at such an extreme tilt that you can’t see his upper face. While this works for some poses –and is very reminiscent of the original Vampire Hunter D movie—it gets annoying when a figure can’t seem to look around him. A removable hat would have been much better. The design of D’s cape severely limits the pose ability of his arms, especially the left one. He can’t hold his sword with both hands because of the incompatibility between the sword’s handle and his hand sculpts to begin with, but he also has a hard time faking it as well with the open left hand. The sword fits snuggly into the scabbard but because of physics as well as the cape sculpt, D cannot draw the weapon –he can’t even grip the hilt. The cape would have been better as a cloth accessory as opposed to a permanent sculpted piece. The details make up for these flaws however: D’s gauntlets are beautiful as is his body suit. In the original Amano artwork, D is always pictured as being somewhat androgynous –a feature that was brought more into his design in the newer film. Epoch resisted the temptation to make D a muscle-bound action hero, like some of the early figures in Hasbro’s second Power of the Force line in the 1990’s. D is 7 ˝ inches tall.

Leila is a dead on sculpt as well, but unlike D, her sculpt doesn’t limit her movement as much. Her shoulder pads do cut down on some of the allowable ball-joint motion, but nowhere near as much as D’s cape does. The main body of her jacket is a separate sculpt permanently fixed to her body. Leila’s hair, corset, wrist guards, and boots are all nicely rendered and true to the source material. Her hand sculpts also allow for some versatility. The two action hands are made to either hold weapons or her bike’s handles. The right one’s trigger finger is extended just enough so as not to look out of place when empty, but to also assume the proper position when holding Leila’s gun. She still retains the physical sex appeal from the movie along with her bad girl toughness. Between her sculpt and her articulation, Leila can either kick some undead butt or pose for the cover of the next issue of Heavy Metal. Leila is 6 ˝ inches tall.

One thing about both of these figures: they each have very long legs. While this adds to D’s character, it still makes kneeling or crouching poses rather strange for both figures. Leila’s legs are so friggin’ long because of the articulation used to ride her bike, that in several poses she could be Aeon Flux’s sister. 

Paint - ****
What can I say? The paint looks great, especially for characters that mainly sport one color. 

D’s dark outfit is highlighted with thin gold lines and silver clasps in all the right places. Leila’s red jumpsuit has a light black wash to accent shadow and texture. Her corset also has black highlights in all the right places. The hair on both figures looks great, but the faces are another matter.

While the paint detail generally looks fine for the faces, they give off too much of a generic anime feel as opposed to capturing the look of the characters they’re supposed to represent. Leila’s got her big reflective blue eyes, but her look is completely placid. She has none of the attitude her movie counterpart constantly displays. D’s eyes are also too generic; they’re missing his lashes. One minor gripe is that D has no earrings. Even though he has only one ear showing, a pin-prick of gold paint would have helped.

Articulation - Leila ***1/2; Vampire Hunter D ***
While both figures have a whopping 23 points of articulation, their placement is not the same on the two figures.

D has articulation at the ankles, calves (boot tops), hinges at the top and bottoms of his knee caps, a cut at the top of each thigh, hip joints, neck, ball shoulders, bicep cuts, joints at the top and bottoms of his elbows, and wrist joints –where the hands can be removed. D’s legs can basically do almost anything, but the length inhibits certain positions. One major gripe is the complete absence of waist articulation. It just seems forgetful with a figure as tricked out as this one. The arms have ball joint articulation at the shoulders, but the sculpted cape prevents them from doing much in the “over-the-head” department. The neck is somewhat of a sore spot as well, mainly because of the hat. D can turn his head slightly to the left or right. A ball joint would have been great. It’d be nice to see his eyes once in a while.

Leila’s articulation is almost flawless. She’s got double articulation at the ankles, joints at the top and bottoms of her knees, cuts right above her top knee joints, hip joints, a ball joint waist, ball joint shoulders, a neck cut, a ball joint head, bicep and elbow cuts, and limited ball joint wrists –where the hands can be removed. The waist is limited but is nice for natural posing and upper body turns. The legs are articulated for Leila’s bike, as is her head. Since her body leans forward when she rides, she can look up at the same time. Her elbow cuts work all right, but I would have preferred the same elbow articulation on her as D. Her arms are much thinner however, and this may have been part of the reason behind the cuts as opposed to elbow joints. Her shoulders are slightly limited by the huge shoulder pads Leila sports, but it’s nowhere close to how bad D’s cape interferes. The wrist joints are subtle. They’re really pegs to hold the interchangeable hands on, but they’re designed to offer enough circular movement for small adjustments. This comes in handy for holding the handlebars. The only reason Leila doesn’t get four stars is the weakness of her leg joints. The ankles are especially weak and keep sliding in different kneeling and standing positions, making it hard for her to hold static poses. 

Accessories - Leila ****; Vampire Hunter D ***
While all the accessories look great, there are some disappointments to be had. First off, D comes with five accessories, three of which are various interchangeable hands. You get his long sword, one right hand, two left hands (one with the parasite’s face sculpted in the palm), and a two-piece base for display. Left Hand and the sword are prerequisites for this figure. The sword looks excellent and is sculpted to look exactly like its anime counterpart. Because of D’s right hand sculpt; the grooved handle can’t slide into his grip. Instead, the handle is removable at the hilt for easy insertion into the hunter’s closed fist. Left Hand’s sculpt is a little off compared to his onscreen visage but for his small size, it’s a decent job. The mini column display base looks all right and actually fits in with the Lake Chiffon scene from the film. However, this leaves D a little bare. All his hands are interchangeable, but there’s only one for the right socket. His cape, hat, and scabbard are all permanently attached to his body sculpt, so no variation is allowed there. The major thing missing is D’s horse. It’s always been part of his overall look, and the absence of his ride does make him feel incomplete. Of course, it wouldn’t have fit on this card, so maybe a deluxe version of D is needed down the road.

Leila doesn’t have that problem however; she’s got a ticket to ride, and the uni-wheeled bike to do it on. In addition she also gets a removable belt and holster, her sidearm, four interchangeable hands, a pair of goggles, a rocket launcher, and a small wheel stand for display purposes. The hands are nice, not only can she have both neutral and action poses with them, but the joint where the hands come off is also used for wrist articulation. The bike is very nice and looks just like the one Leila speeds around on in the movie. The problem with this is that it only has one wheel. Epoch has fixed this for us though: Leila’s weight is on the back of the bike and the wheel stand keeps the vehicle from falling sideways. When not in use, the front grill bends down and acts as a kick bar. Also, the back pedals fold out from the side and there’s a cradle for the rocket launcher near the front. Unlike D’s belt, Leila’s is removable. Strapped to it is her sidearm holster; her pistol fits perfectly inside. The holster’s a little big and blocky, but it’s not that bad. After the excellent bike, the surprise of this bunch was the rocket launcher. Both ends extend just like in the movie: this was a nice little touch that I wasn’t expecting. The disappointment of the lot is definitely Leila’s goggles. In the film they’re clear with a targeting crosshair. Here, the view screen is solid silver. I could forgive that if it wasn’t for the way Epoch decided to attach them to Leila’s head however. The inside of the goggles are coated with a sticky substance. That’s right, you just smash them on her head and hope they don’t fall off! What happens when the semi-adhesive stops being sticky? Couldn’t we have gotten a strap for the goggles instead? However, the other accessories are so nice that I’m willing to overlook this one flaw and give them a perfect score.

Value - Vampire Hunter D: ** to ***; Leila: *** to ****
It all depends where you pick yours up. Even though Leila was originally priced more than D, D’s popularity usually drives his cost up. It’s hard to find these anywhere offline, so here are a few online stores: 
Matrix Collectibles has D: $19.99; Leila: $16.99 (on sale; $19.99 regular), Anime R Us has D: $18.95, and Anime Castle has D: $14.95; Leila: $15.99

In the end, the best place to find these figures is probably eBay. Anime Castle is currently sold out on the D figure. I got my D from Anime-R-Us for $18.95, plus shipping. Leila was $9 on eBay. Leila’s a great value anywhere below $14. Above that price, it’s a personal call. D looks great, but just doesn’t pack as much value per buck as Leila does. I haven’t seen him cheaper than $14.95. He even runs around $20 on eBay, but occasionally a $15 or $16 sale slides by. He would be excellent around $10 , but realistically, your best bet would be to find him at $16 or under.

Overall - Vampire Hunter D: *** ˝; Leila: ****
Despite her flaws, Leila is a must-own figure in my opinion. She looks great and comes with great accessories. Although her leg joints tend to be weak, her primary pose is either riding or leaning on her bike, so there’s not much problem with stability there. Vampire Hunter D looks great on display, but there are only so many decent poses you can put him in. He does have name recognition going for him however, which is way his prices tend to be higher than they should be. 

Each of these figures also come with a sculpt variation for collectible fun! Each case of twelve contains two variant figures (one of each). They are: D with his fangs bared, and a battle-damaged Leila.

The real drawback to this line is that there are only two figures available, neither of which were really enemies in the film. The lack of interaction between the two leaves these figures in the realm of display only. There are tons of other interesting characters that could be made for battle poses and whatnot. The vampire Meier Link would be a natural addition, since he’s the bad guy for the majority of the movie. So would the three Barbarois monsters that serve as his bodyguards. Carmila the Bloody Countess would be a beautiful figure, even though she didn’t have much screen time –or even better, what about some of the characters from the first movie such as Count Magnus Lee, Ray Ginsay, or Doris Ran? D needs someone to face-off with, as does Leila. But even before that, D could use a ride of his own . . .

Figure from the collection of Sean Teeter.

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