December 3, 2011
Hideyuki Kikuchi – Dark Horse – 2005 – 22+ volumes
this is a novel
I have a confession to make: as many horror manga as I’ve read, as much anime as I’ve seen, and as many terrible horror movies I’ve sat through (you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced everything that the Hollywood Ape Movie genre has to offer), I have neither seen nor read Vampire Hunter D. Shame on me. I’ve just fixed that.
I have seen House of Dracula, and can vouch for the fact that it is a fine movie. Apparently it is one of Kikuchi’s major inspirations.
I knew almost nothing about the plot of this series going in, and had even forgotten about D’s hand. This book in particular features D, a Vampire Hunter and dhampir, defending a girl named Doris. Doris is the breadwinner on a large farm in the wastelands, and her family consists of her and her younger brother. Doris is bitten by Count Lee, and is struggling to keep from falling under his spell. As a mortal, there is nothing she can do, but D is willing to defend her against the Count.
But what can D do? Vampires are incredibly powerful, and have spent millennia building their empire and defending themselves against humans that might attack while they are vulnerable. They are no match for human strength or weapons, and dhampir powers don’t even come close to matching real vampire powers. But D has an ace up his sleeve. And on his hand.
This is a strange and unique mix of post-apocalyptic, western, and horror elements. There’s some interesting technological relics, such as mechanical horses and super suits and advanced defense weaponry, scattered here and there, but most serious technology such as cars and computers is missing from the landscape. Vampires seem to have chased humanity into scattered settlements spotted around deserts. And most western vampire rules are in effect: they sleep during the day and are weak against sunlight, a stake through the heart kills them, and their weaknesses are as you remember. And the grandfather of them all is referenced in passing a few times, though he doesn’t specifically come up in this volume.
D is a stoic figure, and difficult to figure out. Why is he helping this poor farming family? Why put himself through all the trouble of going up against the Count, his daughter, and a local band of super-ruffians? Where does he get his power, and just how much of an upper hand does he possess? It’s clear that the women in the story are falling for D by the end, but how does D feel towards them? And what is that weird thing on his hand?
D’s stoicism made things a little awkward, since he was performing kindnesses and other actions without any explanation. Some scenes made me uncomfortable for that reason, but that was about my only complaint with the novel.
There’s lots of awesome touches. Rei-Ginsei makes for a wonderful villain, and I loved his dimensional techniques. I also loved the scene where D confronts the gorgon underground. The gorgon was wonderfully described and quite the elaborate threat.
The Count and his daughter, along with… well, almost all the other threats in the novel, were very by-the-book. The Count was in love with Doris and wanted to make her his bride. The daughter was in love with D, and very much against Doris. Rei-Ginsei was the typical power-hungry bandit, with the usual thug entourage. And Doris even had a romantic interest who was fairly typical bully material as well. But the elements all worked well, and I didn’t find myself wanting any character development, since the elements that made up the story were so unique, along with D himself, that everything moved along very smoothly.
The first novel leaves off in a good place, so it’s not really necessary to continue the series from here. On the other hand, I am very curious about the further adventures of D, and will probably be reading at least the second one just to get another taste.