Known in the west as Tomb of Dracula, this made-for-TV animated special has an almost mythical status in some quarters - there are those who still refuse to believe that it exists at all and, given its relative scarcity, that's hardly surprising.
Made in 1980 and shown just once on TV Asahi, Yami no Toei Kyuketsuki Dracula was the product of a strange and ill-fated relationship between US comics giant Marvel Comics and the Japanese production company Toei Animation. Toei negotiated the rights to several Marvel characters in the mid-1970s, but all they managed to come up with was a peculiar live-action take on Spider Man (Toei no Supaida-Man) in 1978. But in 1980, they dragged out a treatment for a filmed version of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's (both names miscredited as Mary Wolfman and Jean Colan) Tomb of Dracula comic and made the cheap looking Yami no Toei Kyuketsuki Dracula.
The special was subsequently picked up by Harmony Gold (the same company who imported the anime series Chojiku yosai Macross (1982), Kiko soseiki Mosupeada (1983) and Chojiku kidan Southern Cross (1984), re-editing them into the hugely successful Robotech (1985) series) and given the appalling dub that's typical of all of their imported work. The result was truly horrible, a real let-down for fans of the comic, but to be fair to Harmony Gold they were hardly working with the best material here. The animation is the very definition of limited, the character designs for the supporting cast are uninspiring, the pacing is all over the place and the voices almost completely inappropriate.
The show has some extraordinary ideas as to what Dracula is all about - in one jaw-dropping scene, a now mortal Dracula (he's been 'punished' this way by Satan himself) seeks to satiate his cravings by eating burgers, still wearing his full vampire garb! It's a genuine laugh-out-loud moment, but is just one of many in a film that really could have been so much better. The comic could sometimes be florid, over-the-top and cheesy but was, in its earliest issues, an indisputably creepy and atmospheric work - actually this was even more true of the black-and-white UK reprints in the weekly Dracula Lives! title; everything always seems creepier in black and white.
Clumsily plotted (it throws in far too many of the sub-plots from the comic for a 90 minute movie to bear), badly animated and just plain unscary, this is a quite terrible adaptation of a much loved comic, though of course if you're a fan of Wolfman and Colan's work, you'll want to track down a copy anyway.
When Yami no Toei Kyuketsuki Dracula was first added to EOFFTV several years ago, it generated many emails claiming that the title was made up, that the special simply didn't exist. In both the UK and the States, it was given brief and now hard-to-find video releases but there still existed the feeling that somehow, this couldn't possible be for real. But recently, collectors markets have been turning up bootlegged DVD copies and the awful truth is beginning to dawn - that there really is a quite horrible anime version of Yami no Toei Kyuketsuki Dracula out there. And what's even more extraordinary is that a second TV special was made, based on another Marvel horror comic, The Monster of Frankenstein (1983).