VHD Books-on-Tape

by Kevin Leahy
written June 2001

Though the Vampire Hunter D series was relatively young in December of 1985 when the animated film was simultaneously released to movie theaters nationwide and on video, it was clear that it had a definite following among the Japanese youth. Now that the second theatrical feature has been released, it might be interesting to take a look at what VHD junkies have used to get their dramatic dhampir fix in the 15 years between films.

The first of the VHD books-on-tape, a dramatization of Kaze-tachite "D," was released in December of 1987 as #5 in the Sonorama Bunko-Cassette Ban series. Priced at 1600 yen, the 50-minute tape featured several voice actors from the '85 film. Kaneto Shiozawa and Ichirou Nagai returned in their respective roles of D and his left hand, while Michie Tomizawa, the voice of Doris Lang, played the part of the troubled teen lead/D-admirer Lina. Though the basic plot of an isolated village plagued by vampires who can move by day is unchanged, the players have been pared down to D, his left hand, Lina, her teacher and fellow abductee Myer, a vigilante punk named Hague, "the voice" out of D's past, and a narrator. Aside from doing away with several subplots and sub-characters, like another abductee named Cuore who was the sort of gentle giant/village idiot you always find in classic horror movies, the story also adds a few oblique references to Doris that were never in the original. At the very beginning, D's left hand chides him about how he still seems to be moping over "her." Later, when Lina suggests that it might have been better if she'd been turned by the vampires, D tells her about another young lady he worked for once who resisted that fate with all her might. But despite the cuts and changes, it's still an entertaining tale, with music and sound effects that help to paint the scene.

A number of tapes followed, each with a color cover illustration by Amano that differed from the original novel covers. Released in June of '88, cassette #11 in the series was an adaptation of D -- Yousatsukou, the story that also serves as the basis for the new VHD movie. Oddly enough, the voice actor who portrayed Borgoff Markus way back then -- Yuusaku Yara -- is the same man who did his voice on the Japanese language tracks recorded for the new movie's DVD release. Cassettes #32-34 came out in March, May, and June of 1990, adapting the two-volume story D -- Hokkaimakou. It's hard to gauge how popular the series of books-on-tape was, but surely they must have been a hard sell to the junior high to college age crowd who are Asahi Sonorama's core readership -- they were several times the cost of a paperback or video rental and about double the price of a movie ticket, which is quite a bit for a group with rather limited means for funding their entertainment. I know hardcore VHD fanatics and "Talk Live" regulars who had to settle for copies duped from a friend's tape.

At present, the best place to find these tapes is on Yahoo Japan's auction page -- which doesn't do most people any good unless they understand Japanese and live in Japan. Making matters worse, these tapes aren't cheap by any stretch of the imagination -- the first tape seems to go for anywhere from 3-4000 yen, while later ones fetch anywhere from 8-11,000 yen. A complete set of five brought over 60,000 yen in one auction. In light of this, the fact that tapes enjoy a shorter lifespan than vinyl or CDs, and the renewed interest in this series generated by the new movie and untimely death of Kaneto Shiozawa, I suggested to Asahi Sonorma editor Susumu Ishii that they consider re-issuing the series on CD -- though there are no plans at present to do so to the best of my knowledge. However, we can still hope against hope that the masses will be able to hear the classic voice of D again in cool opposition to the creatures of the night.

Update by the site maintainer: Asahi Sonorama released a five-CD box set, Audio Drama Collection Kyuuketsuki Hantaa "D" CD Box, in July 2005. More information is on the Miscellaneous Merchandise page.

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