Evil Geek Book Report – Vampire Hunter D Manga, Volume 1
Growing up in the 1980’s Anime was ready to explode in America in no small part thanks to imports of Akira and Vampire Hunter D. I had strange recollections of both of these movies from childhood and since I’ve been recently been trying to broaden my horizons with anime and manga I rewatched the 1985 version of the movie as well as the 2000 movie, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.
Watching them as adults I thought both movies were ok, but it was the premise and the atmosphere that made it so interesting and dynamic. Basically, the gist is that in the far flung future things get a little crazy and the entire world more or less blows itself up thanks to nuclear war. Humanity has to build itself up from scratch since most of the planet is very poor and destitute but advanced technology does exist. Vampires which once ruled this planet when humanity was its lowest have slowly become extinct and hunted down. This mixes up genres enough to be familiar yet unique. What you have is a very gothic Castlevania type tone that is also mystical but incorporates technology. For example, the people ride on electronic horses and while conventional medieval weapons exist, people also have guns.
Out of the two movies I prefer the original. It is steeped much more in that old creepy gothic flavor, where the new tends to tip the scale a little more in the other direction. People often complain about the animation from the 1985 version and how it’s subpar and hard to watch compared to the more modern sequel. While that may be true, I don’t have any issues with the animation quality, in fact I might prefer it. It’s the era where I began watching any kind of animation so while it may seem crude to some I’ll always have a soft spot for it.
While doing some research to see what else from this strange world I could get my hands on I found out that the basis for the entire franchise was formed via a series of novels by author Hideyuki Kikuchi. Starting in 1986, 26 have been published in the author’s native tongue of Japan and as of 2005 15 have been released in English. I took one look at those via an Amazon.com preview and thought this is definitely not for me. I’m not sure if it’s a translation problem or if that’s just how they were originally written, but I just couldn’t do it. However, these do contain beautiful art by Yoshitaka Amano who also a majority of the concept art for the Final Fantasy franchise. So with that out of the picture I had one more alternative, the Vampire Hunter D manga.
In 2007 a manga adaption of the first novel was released in hopes to someday have the entire catalogue adapted. Sadly, Yoshitaka Amano was not involved as the artist, but author and creator Hideyuki Kikuchi did hand pick Saiko Takaki. So what about the manga? That’s what this review is about isn’t it? I got a little carried away there, so let’s get to it.
I decided to start from the beginning with volume 1. While in theory this makes perfect sense, I maybe should have skipped that one. The manga is adapted from first in the novel series, which was also served as the basis of the anime from 1985. There are some noticeable differences but the bulk of it remains unchanged. If you’re not familiar with the story I’ll give the cliff notes version.
In a small village young Doris is bitten by Count Magnus Lee who plans to make her his bride. Trying to keep this a secret she challenges hunters in combat to find one good enough to hire to defeat Count Lee. A mysterious dark clad rider passes through and easily thwarts Doris’ attack and his hired immediately, he is known only as D. As the story progresses we learn that D is a Dhampir, the offspring of a vampire and a human (it’s heavily implied that Dracula is the father). Of course some twists and turns pop up along the way that give our “hero” some problems. Two different men from the town are interested in Doris and want D out of the way eventually turning the town against them. Not only that but Count Lee’s daughter Larmicais disgusted by the idea of a human ruining their royal bloodline and wants to kill Doris before Count Lee can officially marry her.
It’s an interesting set of circumstances with some very imaginative creatures and monsters populating the pages. D comes off as a virtually silent loner wandering the country, not unlike Clint Eastwood in the Man With No Name films or many other movies of the Western genre. I thought based on my passing interest in the movie version of Vampire Hunter D the manga would help flesh things out and give me a little more rounded version of what I was looking for. It didn’t. When I finished it, I had the exact same feeling as when I finished the movie again recently. “Meh”. It was good enough and I’m interested in the ideas and mythology behind it but it didn’t necessarily deliver the goods.
The story itself is fine; it’s pretty standard for this type of thing and exactly what I would expect. My problem specifically with the manga is the action scenes they are extremely cluttered (and being that its standard manga size for the book) the smallishness of the panel lay out makes it even more confusing. With that being said though, that’s the only real complaint I have with the art. Saiko Takaki’s style is very much in the vein of the Yoshitaka Amano original. That is despite Doris looking like some kind of strange Alison Mosshart/Kristen Stewart mashup…which I’m more than ok with.
It just didn’t do it for me. Perhaps, things get better as it goes along? This was their first attempt after all. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to try another volume in the future. With that being said though, I’m so on the fence proper persuasion wouldn’t be out of the question to get me attempt to read another one. We’ll see what the future brings. Perhaps an art book shall I seek….
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