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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fred Patten Reviews Vampire Hunter D, Volume 1


Vampire Hunter D
Author: Hideyuki Kikuchi
Illustrator: Yoshitaka Amano
Publisher: DH Press/Digital Manga Publishing
ISBN 10: 1-59582-012-4
ISBN 13: 978-1-59582-012-9

This Japanese novel was known to anime fans for twenty years as the basis for the popular 1985 anime movie, one of the first American anime releases. Kikuchi became known as the author of a large series of Vampire Hunter D novels and short stories, but none were available in English until DH Press began publishing translations by Kevin Leahy in 2005.

Kikuchi has synthesized the American pulp genres of science-fiction, adventure fantasy, horror, and Westerns. In 12,090 A.D., civilization is slowly rebuilding after millennia of destruction by global atomic war and terrorism by mutated monsters, followed by dominance by vampires who formed a ruling class of immortal Nobility until they became decadent. Human townships are now throwing off the rule of their local vampire lords, often with the help of wandering mercenary Vampire Hunters.

Doris Lang, a young woman near a frontier town trying to run her late father’s farm, is bitten by vampire Count Magnus Lee. Lee is amused by her proud spirit and intends to make her his latest wife instead of a common mindless bloodthirsty vampire. Doris is also threatened by both her own townspeople, who want to kill her before she becomes a vampire, and Count Lee’s haughty daughter Larmica who tries to eliminate her rather than suffer the humiliation of gaining a human stepmother. Doris’ plight is desperate until a lone stranger rides into town on his horse; the mysterious Vampire Hunter known only as “D”.

Kikuchi’s writing style is awkwardly both stilted and florid, possibly in a deliberate emulation of 1930s pulp fiction, or World War I-era French thrillers such as Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. Here Count Lee is talking with his daughter after they have temporarily trapped D under their castle:

“Last night, when you returned from the farm and spoke of the stripling we just disposed of, the tone of your voice, the manner of your complaints – even I, your own father, cannot recall ever hearing you so indignant, yet your indignation held a feverish sentiment that was equally new. Could it be you’re smitten with the scoundrel?”

Unanticipated though her father’s words were, Larmica donned a smile that positively defied description. Not only that, she licked her lips as well.

The setting is colorful, though; an original blend of horror stereotypes and decayed futuristic s-f technology. And old-fashioned pulp writers still have many fans. Kikuchi’s style may not be for everyone, but more than just anime fans will enjoy this first Vampire Hunter D novel.

1 comment:

Katie said...

this is one of my all time favorite books. Vampire D is really fantastic.