MAY 26, 2000

After a break of 3 months, it was good to see the old gang. Following
February's topic of early films and in-camera tricks, the focus this 
time was on the heyday of German fantasy cinema following World War I.
But the first order of business was a birthday party for Fumihiko Iino,
author of the "Wings of Honneamise" novelizations and Mr. Kikuchi's 
sidekick for the talk live events. The birthday boy came out under 
the name "Mister X" and wearing a white mask of the kind wrestlers are 
so fond of. Among the gifts he received were flowers, a bust of H.P. 
Lovecraft, nudie playing cards, and a birthday cake loaded with trick 
candles. Eventually the two authors got the better of the pesky tapers
and the evening could proceed as planned.

Mr. Kikuchi began by explaining how Germany's persona non grata status
after the first World War helped foster a great fantastic film industry.
We watched portions of "A Student of Prague," "Siegfried," "The Golem,"
"The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," and "Nosferatu" of course.  The video 
portion of the program ended with a montage of original German scenes 
by directors like Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau and the influence they had
on later Hollywood films.  Particularly impressive was the dragon in 
"Siegfried," which was executed with a skill that equals anything 
modern-day animatronics can produce.

Perhaps the best part of the evening was when Mr. Kikuchi treated us to
some behind-the-scenes stories from the early days of his career.  The 
hero of his first book, "Makaitoshi (Shinjuku)," was just too much of a 
heroic stereotype in hindsight, so the author found himself in a bind 
as to how to do it differently for his next book.  He wanted to do 
something with vampires, his favorite subject, but they had the 
unfortunate tendency to be cast as the heavy.  How about a vampire who 
kills vampires, then? With this thought he remembered the dhampirs of
vampire mythology -- half-breeds ideally suited to vampire hunting.  
In addition, he wanted this hero to be the kind who gets the girl in 
fiction (if not in real life) -- strong, silent, handsome, and looks
good in black.  At this point Mr. Kikuchi went off on a little riff
about how the "silent" part in particular isn't usually too conducive 
to real-world relationships.  Returning to the genesis of D, he said
that to keep the characters from being too one-dimensional, he found it
useful to give them something of a split personality -- or in the case
of D, his left hand.  The interesting thing about D is that while he's 
to all appearances a quiet loner, he has this thing in his hand that 
never leaves him alone.  And then, once the first Vampire Hunter D 
book was finished, he went in a completely different direction to 
create the hero for the Treasure Hunter series -- a rich, 
skirt-chasing, happy-go-lucky blabbermouth.

As 4 A.M approached it was time for Mr. Kikuchi to give us an update 
of the many projects he had going.  He was working on a new book 
featuring Dr. Mephisto, the popular physician of the Makaitoshi series. 
What's more, he had just started the latest D book that day, and he 
estimated it would take him two weeks to finish it (hey, about the 
time it takes me to READ one of them).  Another book in the works 
concerned the half-breed child of Taki and Makie, the Dark Guard 
agents from the Wicked City series.  Finally, there is some sort of 
manga deal in the works involving a MAJOR character that he wasn't at 
liberty to discuss yet.  Now, in the Kikuchi Universe, the major
players are D,  Dr. Mephisto, and Setsura (also from the Makaitoshi 
series), so anything really big might involve one or more of them. 
In the category of "no news is par for the course," Mr. Kikuchi made 
it quite clear that he has no idea what is going on with the release 
of the new VHD anime, but his speculation was for it to hit Japanese 
theaters at the end of this year at the earliest, or the end of next 
year at the latest.  People didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the 
last part of that.

And that was about it for the evening.  The follow-up party consisted,
as usual, of a lot of good-natured ribbing of the heavily inebriated 
birthday boy by the assembled writers, directors, and reporters.