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May 3, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Vampire Hunter D vols. 1-2

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Vampire Hunter D
Author: Original story by Hideyuki Kikuchi, adapted and illustrated by Saiko Takaki
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Volume: Today, volumes 1 and 2.  $12.95 each.
Vintage: These manga are based on the light novels by Kikuchi (illustrated by the amazing Yoshitaka Amano), which began in 1983.  The novels are published domestically by Dark Horse and Digital Manga.  It’s up to twenty volumes in Japan; volume 14 will be released here in June.  The manga began in November 2007, published in the U.S., Japan, and Europe.  The fifth volume should be out this July, and Kikuchi and Digital Manga have plans to adapt the entire novel series.
Genre: Well, it’s certainly a mature series.  DMP has it labeled as a young adult book (16+).  There’s nudity, some sexual content, violence, blood and gore, vampires, demons, large breasted women who occasionally find themselves naked….  It’s horror and suspense, with some sci-fi elements (it’s set in the future, with some futuristic elements, like robotic horses), but it has an old-fashioned western feel to it most of the time (the cowboy kind, not geographically speaking).

In 1999, a nuclear war destroyed civilization.  The Nobility, ancient powerful vampires, were prepared for the disaster, and became the ruling class, rebuilding the world, co-existing with the humans.  Centuries go by, and vampire technology and society reaches its peak, a sign that it’s doomed to fall…and fall it does, with the great vampire families crumbling into decay as the humans rise back into power.  It is now 12,090 AD.  A mysterious man wanders the land, a dhampir, the child of a vampire and a human (it’s not totally spelled out, but it’s hinted at rather obviously, that the vampire is the King of Vampires, Dracula).  He is D, and he is a renowned vampire hunter, his vampire ancestry providing him with the perfect set of skills needed to destroy the decaying race of beings that have become dangerous to the humans.  D has incredible supernatural powers, with much of the strengths of the vampires, and little of their weaknesses.  His mixed blood aids in his task, but also causes him to be shunned by both vampires and humans, despite his exceptional good looks and commanding aura.  As if he weren’t powerful enough, in D’s left hand resides a symbiote, which (aside from needling D with various wise cracks and taunts) can suck in large amounts of matter, and regenerate D’s body when he’s injured.

D meets Doris at the beginning of the first volume of the Vampire Hunter D manga. That robe looks suspiciously flimsy.

In the first volume, D wanders into the town of Ransylva, where a Noble terrorizes the citizens.  He meets a woman named Doris on his way into the town, who realizes he is a hunter and asks him to be her bodyguard.  She has recently been attacked by the ruling Noble, and wants protection for her and her little brother.  But the Noble isn’t the only danger in the town.  He has a jealous daughter, and she commands a powerful werewolf.  Even her fellow townspeople are on her case, afraid of the mark of the vampire on Doris’s neck.  Toss in a reckless human with a powerful suit of armor, and a quintet of demonically enhanced humans, and D’s got quite a lot to deal with.  However, they all make the terrible mistake of underestimating the powerful dhampir.

D moves along to another town in the second volume, Tepes, which lies in the shadow of an old, ruined, deserted mansion.  Ten years ago, four children wandered up the hill to the old mansion, and disappeared.  Two weeks later, three of them returned – Lina, now the beautiful adopted daughter of the mayor; Cuore, who came back mentally deranged; and Lucas, now a school teacher.  D has been hired because several townspeople have been attacked by some form of vampiric creature, assumed to be the missing child, Tajeel.  The townspeople are suspicious of all four of them, but many want the suspicions cleared, as Lina has been chosen to take an exam that may get her into a prestigious school in the city, which will benefit the entire town.  When D goes to examine the abandoned ruins, he finds the remnants of a strange laboratory that brings back memories from his past.

These books are gorgeous.  The wrap-around book cover is a faded rust color, and is covered by a beautiful dust jacket.  The edges of the pages are colored to match the volume (volume 1 has red pages, volume 2 purple).  They’re oversize like most of Digital Manga’s books, and there’s even a color insert inside (the color images for volumes 1 and 2 highlight each volume’s female protagonist).  The art inside by Takaki is fantastic, if you like the style, and she seems to have taken some inspiration from Yoshitaka Amano’s original character designs from the novels.  Just a couple pages into the first volume you’re greeted with a large breasted, naked woman…but don’t let that mislead you.  She bounces those things about quite a bit, but the books are not overtly sexual in nature (no more so than anything else in the genre anyway), though those elements exist from time to time (it should come as no surprise that D, as a mysterious, beautiful, half-vampire, is incredibly attractive to the main women in the books, and they’re not exactly shy about it).  There’s a lot more in the way of limb slicing and and blood gushing, and even an occasional disemboweling.  The pacing is a little scattered at times, and sometimes a tad cryptic and confusing, but otherwise the story telling is solid.  The girls come and go like Bond girls for now, with both of the first two volumes following separate, contained stories.  D’s past and lineage haunt him in various ways, and seem to tie everything together.

For Wednesday, I’ll either have a review for DMP’s Happy Boys manga, or Previews highlights.  Just picked up Previews yesterday afternoon, and Happy Boys is already written, so it’s more likely to be the latter.


Review copies provided by Digital Manga Publishing.



  1. I’ve seen the anime which was my first introduction to the character but have never read the manga. This looks like a great place to start as any thanks Kris! Though it’ll have to wait until I get through the first two volumes of Blade the Immortal! 🙂

  2. DecapitatedDan

    Thanks for the info on the books. What I wonder about, being new to the horror Manga scene is it being like Hellsing and Priest. I happen to be on Vol. 3 of both, and maybe it is because I am reading them at the same time, but the Monster killer seems to be a big draw for Manga.

    So while I will read VHD, I don’t want to throw all three in the mix at the same time. Even though I tried, but the library system send me the novel instead of the comic version of vol. 1

  3. Kristin

    You mean hunters and slayers? Or do you specifically mean monsters that hunt their own kind?
    That appears in Chrono Crusade (a devil joins up with the Church to fight demons and other devils, including his brother), Vampire Knight (Zero is a vampire hunter, but eventually becomes the thing he hates the most), Hellsing (as you already mentioned, a vampire that hunts vampires), Blood (Blood +/Blood the Last Vampire, a vampire that hunts other vampires, specifically her sister), Vampire Hunter D (half-vampire that hunts vampires), Witch Hunter Robin (craft users that hunt other witches), Trinity Blood (vampire joins up with the Church to hunt vampires)….

    Huh, I guess it does come up a lot. I hadn’t really noticed.

  4. Billy

    @Kris -Hey, I just watched Blood: The Last Vampire the other day! It was really cool. I think it was on SyFy? I DVR’d it and watched it another day because it was on late. I think it actually followed a live action version?

  5. Kristin

    If I remember correctly, Blood started out with the animated film Blood the Last Vampire, then went on to become a manga and anime called Blood+, and there were several other manga and novel titles that spun off that.

    The live action film, which is from…last year I think, is loosely based on the animated film. I actually watched the LA movie just yesterday! Had some problems, but was a decent film; entertaining anyway.

  6. […] on Roses (Stop, Drop, and Read) Kate Dacey on vol. 1 of Twin Spica (The Manga Critic) Kristin on vols. 1 and 2 of Vampire Hunter D (Comic […]

  7. […] on Roses (Stop, Drop, and Read) Kate Dacey on vol. 1 of Twin Spica (The Manga Critic) Kristin on vols. 1 and 2 of Vampire Hunter D (Comic […]

  8. Billy

    @Kris- It was really cool seeing this little girl (speaking about her stature), running around slicing these other vamps or aliens or whatever they were, up into pieces.

  9. […] Vampire Hunter D volume 5, by Saiko Takaki.  ”In a world where even the smallest and most remote village is being terrorized by the monsters that stalk the night, there is a hamlet, prosperous and peaceful, where mortals and vampires have lived in peace for years.  It is there that sleeping beauty, Sheavil Schmidt has slept, neither waking nor aging, for thirty years since first receiving the vampire’s immortal kiss.  The mysterious Vampire Hunter D is lured to the tranquil oasis by recurrent dreams of the beautiful, undying girl bathed in an eerie blue light and dancing in a ghostly chateau.”  December 2010, $13.95. […]

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