Title: Vampire Hunter D Volume I
Author: Hideyuki Kikuchi
Illustrator: Yoshitaka Amano
Publisher: Asashi Sonorama (DH Press)
While Hideyuki Kikuchi is a novelist and not a comic book writer, it’s pretty safe to say that his works have had a tremendous impact on manga and anime (and perhaps video games). With works such as Wicked City and Darkside Blues being adapted into anime, his cool, slick, atmospheric works are something to be noted by any geek who’s a fan of the east. And of course, there’s the Vampire Hunter D series. Which is arguably his most famous work and the big break for both Kikuchi and Yoshitaka Amano.
It’s hard to describe exactly what Vampire Hunter D is. Or at least narrow it down to one genre. It’s sci-fi with it being set in 12,090 AD, and having futuristic weapons such as laser guns. But it also has horses and carriages and many things that make it feel almost medieval. It’s a western, with D being much in the same spirit as the “man with no name.” But at the same time, he has almost a ronin spirit and style to his fighting (not to mention he uses a longsword). You could say it’s a horror, with many of the Hammer horror creatures coming to life. But then again, the novel oftentimes employs action as much, if not more, than scares. So basically, it’s a wonderful mix of many types of styles and genres.
But if I had to narrow the plot itself down to one genre, I’d say it’s very much a cowboy/samurai style story. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where vampires rule as nobles over the human peasants and have genetically engineered monsters to unleash terror upon them. The people’s only hope are hunters, legendary warriors skilled with specific skills, such as fighting werewolves or demons. When Doris Lang gets bitten by Count
Christopher Magus Lee, she has two options. Have Count Lee slain so she can be cured of the curse, or have the dreaded options of being locked up in an asylum or taken in as the count’s wife. Her only hope left is D, a mysterious and powerful vampire hunter who happens to be a dhampir (half human, half vampire). In exchange for slaying Count Lee, she will give D food, shelter, and her virginity (sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me).
Of course, the plot and situation get much more complicated. Rival hunters, demons, and other mishaps plague D’s path as he tries to slay Count Lee. It’s an over-the-top, no holds barred kind of adventure.
Which might turn off some Western audiences. I’m not just talking about the plot, but also Kikuchi’s writing. I don’t mean that he’s a bad writer. Quite the contrary. However, in a time where Americans seem to be having a neo-realism style of fiction, Kikuchi’s romantic, fantastical style of writing might not be for everyone out west. His writing is atmospheric and focuses as much of the beauty (or destruction) of it all as much as he does the characters. As I stated before, this is a larger than life story. Where everyone is fighting faster than the speed of light, and have abilities far beyond real human capacity. Plus, D’s much larger than life. Such as the fact that he’s beautiful and Kikuchi will write in detail about how beautiful he is in every chapter and how every women wants him because D’s so beautiful and how even the men wish they were women because D’s so beautiful.
But that’s half the fun of the writing, believe it or not. Rather than being cartoonish, this is mature in its outlandishness. It’s like one of those serious anime that’s completely ridiculous, but is also something you can’t help but love. Like Akira.
However, this is not to say that the book is strictly Eastern. Actually, more of the influences come from Western works. As I stated before, this is influenced much by the Hammer horror films, and arguably even the old Hollywood horror films. Literature wise, this is similar to HP Lovecraft or even Stephen King, so any fans of those novels can easily read their way through this one. And as far as trivia goes, Kikuchi himself said that the initial creative spark came from the Don’t Lose My Number music video by Phil Collins.
As far as the drawings go, it’s Yoshitaka Amano. You’ve seen his art before (the Final Fantasy series, Sandman: The Dream Hunters). And if you haven’t, feel ashamed for yourself and go check his work out. Basically, he has a certain style and you can take it or leave it. Fortunately for me, I’ll gladly take it and I’ll gladly take his illustrations in Vampire Hunter D Vol. I. The covers for all the Vampire Hunter D novels are amazing. And I always enjoy inside illustrations for books. The only problem about illustrations in novels, is that since they’re often in pure black and white, the illustrations can get muddled and confusing. Which is what happens to these illustrations at times. Still, it’s always an enjoyment to see Amano’s illustrations.
Regardless of its style and translation (which is great, but is odd with the dialog), I think most comic book fans should give this series a try. Especially those who are fans of anime, manga, Stephen King, Hammer Films, and HP Lovecraft. It’s got a little bit of everything, there’s plenty of action, and Vampire Hunter D Vol. I is one hell of a ride.