A while back, a fellow Vampire Hunter D fan on my friends list posted about why she regards Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust as more sexist than the book it's based on (Vampire Hunter D: Demon Deathchase by Hideyuki Kikuchi). She made good points, but her comments also made me smile ruefully and reflect on the inherent subjectivity of perceptions of sexism in media. Having seen VHD: Bloodlust first, when I read Demon Deathchase, I remember gaping at it and thinking, "Wow, you know your writing is sexist when Yoshiaki ‘Ninja Scroll' Kawajiri manages to adapt it into something less rapetastically offensive."* Still, on reflection I think she's right about the film's treatment of Charlotte. Kawajiri takes a token stab at developing her motivations, but they all end up with her life revolving around Meier Link, her vampire lovein part due to personal guilt, granted, but it's never very compelling. (It doesn't help that the English-language version glosses it over.) Charlotte's written equivalent, who remains nameless throughout the book, also lets her life revolve around Baron Mayerling, but no less than his revolves around her, and she's rather more realistic about it, realizing well before he does that they were never going to be able to escape the people chasing them down.
On the other hand, I respectfully disagree that Leila's treatment in VHD: Bloodlust is especially sexist. (I say "especially" because I do agree that it has its sexist aspects, some of which I'll get into in the course of this essay.) One of the scenes in the film that the poster who inspired this essay particularly took issue with is where D suggests to Leila that she should get out of hunting, a scene inspired by a similar one in the book. While the movie's version of this conversation bothered her more than the book, I was much more rankled by the book's version and find the movie version mostly successful for a number of reasons related to how I see the film as a whole.( A lengthy essay follows. )
A note: In the course of this essay, I make reference to the Japanese-language version of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, which I have seen but which has not yet been released in North America. The translated script that I cite from was given to me by a friend, who has confirmed to the extent that her limited Japanese skills will allow that it appears to conform to Kawajiri's script in the VHD: Bloodlust storyboard book.