Report by Kevin Leahy of the December 21, 2001 Talk Live
Posted to December 30

Hi, all! On Dec. 21, I had the pleasure of attending the annual new year's
party in Tokyo with Kikuchi-sensei and friends, and there was plenty to 
report that might interest you in the group.

Unlike the usual "talk live" events, which begin at midnight and run
until 4:00 A.M, this time the festivities started at 7:30 and ran through
the night. I arrived around 8:00, with my wife, daughter, and a friend who
produces DVDs here, and Kikuchi-sensei was already chatting on stage with
Tanaka-sensei, a well-known Japanese writer involved with many of the
Godzilla movies and other giant monster flicks. Mr. K's sidekick, Fumihiko
Iino, spotted me there with my baby, and the next thing I knew we were up on
stage. My daughter Anna was dressed up in her "Chibi D" outfit (I'll get a
pic of her up somewhere later), and Kikuchi-sensei seemed very comfortable
holding her--though he probably frustrated a lot of the photographers by
turning her toward himself instead of the crowd of 140 or so fans present.
I heard him ask her to read "her uncle's" books when she got older.

After walking my wife and baby back to the hotel, I jumped back into the
fray. My friend and I headed into the "green room" as it were, where the
next guests were just arriving. Now, the guests had been kept secret on
both Kikuchi-sensei's official homepage (run by Rin Sei) and on that of Loft
Plus One, but I had an inkling it would be someone good--Amano or Kawajiri
or something like that. In fact, VHD director Yoshiaki Kawajiri was there
with animation director Yutaka Minowa. Kikuchi-sensei introduced me to the
director as the person who would be translating the novels if they were
published in English. I took the opportunity to thank Kawajiri-kantoku for
making the film in English, told him how much we've all enjoyed his film,
gave him my card, and asked him to get in touch with me if I could be of
service in the future (I was thinking "no more dunpeals" at the time, but
held my tongue). I also complimented Mr. Minowa on his awesome characters,
and told him that if he were to do future D films we could rest easy with
the character in his hands.  While I was at it, I got him to do a neat
little sketch of D in the pocket notebook I use for
translating/interpreting, though other fans had the foresight to bring more
appropriate materials.

Now I know what you probably want to know is what they had to say to
fans about whether they'll be doing any more VHD films, and if so which
ones, but I was in the green room talking to Asahi Sonorama editor Susumu
Ishii the whole time they were on stage, and I only caught occasional bits
from the monitors or through the open door. However, I explained the
situation to Rin Sei, and asked her for a copy of the videotape she was
shooting, and between that and the reports that other fans will undoubtedly
be posting on the web I should eventually be able to get some more info on
this out to you.

So what was worth missing the dirt on the animated film? Well, aside from
Kikuchi-sensei himself, no one on Earth knows more about the VHD series
than Mr. Ishii, who has edited it from the very beginning. While I do
occasionally talk with him on the phone, I've had very few chances to speak
with him in person due to his busy schedule, so I was able to get answers
to a few questions I've had about the VHD novels.

1. The first and third books were given new covers as a movie tie-in, and I
asked if they were ever going back to the old Amano covers--yes, and people
seem to like the Amano artwork more. This started a discussion about how
many Japanese fans came to read the VHD series because they like Amano, and
how some folks overseas mistakenly believe Amano to be the "creator" of D.

2. Amano came out with a new artbook called "Kiten" this month, so I asked
if there was a new story by Kikuchi-sensei in it--no, as the book contained
no new art but rather collected his early work from "Maten," "Biten," and
something by another publisher (whether this artwork has undergone any of
the "revision" that horrified some fans in his last VHD artbook I can't

3. Since Amano has a reputation for being very kind to his fans, I wanted to
know if there was a chance he might attend a future talk live event--Mr.
Ishii thought he would also enjoy it, so with luck he'll pass the idea along
(I also mentioned that since a number of people I know in the States have
met him, I wanted a chance to, too).

4. Though I didn't ask about it, the DC Comics/Amano situation came
up--apparently there's still interest there and slow progress, but I'm not
holding my breath. I did, however, tell both Mr. Ishii and Kikuchi-sensei
that the short story "D--Village in the Fog" would be much better suited to
the graphic novel format (it helps that I only have a page or so of it left
to translate).

5. Still on the Amano-related thread, I just wanted to confirm what I'd
heard from Kikuchi-sensei about Mr. Ishii being responsible for pairing
Amano with the D series--yes, that was indeed the case, though usually the
author requests a specific artist from the very beginning. When I asked him
if he had the problem of every writer wanting Amano to do their
illustrations, too, he just laughed.

6. Seeing that first VHD novel has gone through about 80 printings since it
first came out, I wanted to know if there was a set number that they made in
each printing--no, they just print up whatever they think they can sell at
that point.

7. Given that Kikuchi-sensei's handwriting is very difficult to read, I
asked if Mr. Ishii had thought about trying to get him to use a word
processor--but the handwritten manuscript has become tradition now, and the
editor seems resigned to typing everything up himself. He says they could
send the handwritten pages to the publishers, they just wouldn't like it
very much.

Other than that, we also talked about the latest VHD novel, which had just
hit stores a day or two earlier--"D--Jajin Toride" or basically "Fortress of
the Elder Gods" ("Jajin" is commonly used in Japanese to refer to the
Cthulhu mythos, but I can't say more without actually reading it).  This is
the first single-volume VHD tale since "Rose Princess" back in 1994!

Well, I couldn't stay in the green room forever, because the costume
contest was coming up! Those who thought my frilly white poet's shirt was
just a fashion statement were in for a rude awakening! From about 20
participants last year, the ranks had swelled to over 30 "cos-players" this
time. In addition to my sword-girt, black-caped rendition of the Sacred
Ancestor (or Chibi D's Papa), there were a number of characters foreign fans
would have recognized--Carmila, Mashira, one of the Elbournes' gun-toting
hands, and two couples as Meier and Charlotte. Most of these folks put a
lot more time into their costumes than me (just call me Mr. Ebay), but folks
were really blown away by my Custom Dracula Fangs. Mashira was notable for
the fact that he opened his jacket to reveal a giant racoon head (actually a
hilarious hat). And one of the Meiers was my friend Guren, who actually
met his Charlotte at last year's talk live and announced that they're going
to be married (Kikuchi-sensei wished them a happier lot than the characters
they were portraying). I actually won the "Hideyuki Kikuchi Award," which
included a video put together by the author--the Japanese-dubbed version of
the movie, plus the DVD contents, and apparently other cool stuff.  I'll
have to post my impressions of the Japanese-dub in another thread, but
suffice to say that through the quiz and drawing that followed, a good time
was had by all.