FEBRUARY 25, 2000 After the string of monthly talk live events from September to December, it was a little strange going a month without a Kikuchi fan fix -- even for those of us who'd attended the new VHD movie screening at Nippon Herald in January. And the fan-to-fan interaction is one of the things that people seem to enjoy most about these events. Sure, it's cool to meet Mr. Kikuchi and get him to sign some books, and the movies are always entertaining (especially if Iino-sensei takes it upon himself to play MST3K), but you should see all the things that people bring and trade or pass out before, during, and after the talk live. It starts at McDonald's, where many of the regulars from Unknown-san's VHD BBS meet to catch up and kill time until we can go line up at Loft Plus One. This is in Kabukicho, the most infamous combat zone in Japan, and with all the puking and pimping going on out there you really don't want to be hanging around outside on Friday night. Fans trade 'zines, videos, cards, paperbacks, artwork -- just about anything you can imagine there in the burger joint. And everyone seems to go by their fan/internet name. In fact, aside from Unknown and one or two others, most of these people have never told me their real names. But they are the nicest bunch of people and everyone gets along so well -- I consider them part of my Japanese family. Getting back to the actual talk live, the subject was supposed to be the classic monster movies from Universal Studios, but Mr. Kikuchi decided it would be better to start at the beginning of special effects films. Now, special effects in the form of in-camera tricks are as old as motion pictures themselves, so there was plenty to show. To our CGI-jaded eyes some of these tricks seem laughably simple, like overcranking, double exposures, or sudden cuts to make objects seem to appear and disappear like magic, but it's nice to consider that there was a time when these things amazed people and that future generations will look at "The Matrix" or "Jurassic Park" and laugh at the hokey effects. Still, there's a certain childish charm to movies such as "A Trip to the Moon", which many folks will recognize from the Smashing Pumpkins' video. There was also a report on the VHD anime screening at the Yubari film festival in Hokkaido. Always ready to go that extra mile in the interest of fan service, Mr. Kikuchi was on hand for the screening at a gymnasium -- the largest venue of the festival. Though the sound system at Nippon Herald had the seats shuddering at the January private screening, this time the sound system was playing at deafening levels (kind of makes me wish I'd been there). And the attendees were in for another pleasant surprise -- someone at Madhouse pulled an all-nighter to get Japanese subtitles onto the film in time for the festival. Among those in attendance were a couple of diehard Hokkaido-based Kikuchi fans who occasionally make the trek down to Tokyo for the talk live events, and they showed their support for the author by showing up with banners and acting up. All in all, it seems the film was very well received. For those interested in such things, there was still no word on the status of my translation of the first Vampire Hunter D book, but Mr. Kikuchi did take this opportunity to ask me to finish the second book and do the third for good measure. So who am I to argue?