Hideyuki Kikuchi "Talk Live" Event in Tokyo, May 2003 

Once again the course of human events conspired to send me into Tokyo's 
seedy Kabukicho section to attend another "talk live" event with Vampire 
Hunter D creator Hideyuki Kikuchi. The theme for the evening was "alien 
invasion," and the films I knew of were interesting enough that I was really 
looking forward to the video portion as much as the drinking and 
socializing. But before the films could even begin, we were told that there 
was a very big surprise guest--Yumemakura Baku. Baku-sensei is the other 
great powerhouse of the modern sci-fi/horror field, and he and 
Kikuchi-sensei are the main pillars of Asahi Sonorama. The rivalry between 
these two best-selling authors is rather well known, but their presence 
together proved that it was a friendly rivalry nonetheless. 

The first film up was a colorized version of Howard Hawks' classic "The 
Thing From Another World," with James Arness (of "Gunsmoke" fame) as the 
lumbering alien fished out of the Antarctic ice. The "shoot first, ask 
questions later" tactics of the characters in the film evoked a lot of 
playful comments from co-host Fumihiko Iino about the questionable intellect 
of Americans. Iino-sensei is a very good friend of mine, and he was trying 
to get a rise out of me, so I played along with the joke and yelled at him 
to shut his pie-hole. Baku-sensei was probably surprised by my outburst, 
but Kikuchi-sensei explained who I was and how I was doing the VHD 
translations, and everything went back to normal (or as close as it ever 
gets at a talk live). The next film was John Carpenter's remake of the 
first, entitled "The Thing." I think most of the folks present must have 
seen this at one time or another, as it had a great influence of Japanese 
sci-fi and horror. Both are definitely worth seeing, though you might want 
to try and find a b/w copy of the Hawks version if you aren't fond of people 
with really orange complexions. Finally, we saw a film adaptation of H.G. 
Wells' "War of the Worlds." Though the effects may look dated now, and the 
Martian war machines were altered from the novel to make the effects simpler 
to execute, it's still an entertaining film. 

After the break, there was a question and answer session with Baku-sensei. 
It seems he doesn't fully grasp the implications of spoilers in the age of 
the information super-highway, because he answered one question about a 
series he'd been working on for 20 years by telling how the whole series 
would ultimately end, with a storyline he's had in mind for 10 years now. 
At this point, Kikuchi-sensei got rather pale and asked him if he really 
wanted to give that away. Baku-sensei figured since there were only about a 
hundred people there it would be okay to let the cat out of the bag, but 
Kikuchi-sensei told him that if one person put it up on the Internet, it'd 
be all over the country the next day. In the end, we were asked not to 
reveal what we'd been told, and if the story did get out, Baku-sensei said 
he'd just come up with something else. Now, if we could just get the 
conclusion to the Vampire Hunter D series.... 

There were so many questions that some films, like "Children of the 
Damned," had to be cut from the program and saved for a later date. We did 
watch some vintage professional wrestling footage from Baku-sensei's own 
collection, as well as tapes of actual Aikido and Judo techniques. And 
there was another unannounced guest--a pin-up idol named Maria Yumeno. 
Ms. Yumeno was there to plug a horror-related photo spread she'd done for a 
forthcoming anthology being put together by Masahiko Inoue, another talk 
live regular. All her talk about her dreams/nightmares about being murdered 
in various manners, and her habit of occasionally staging mock suicides that 
sounded vaguely reminiscent of the film "Harold and Maude" made a few people 
wonder if she didn't perhaps have "issues." 

Moving right along, the only movie we still had time for was the Japanese 
product "Chikyuu Boueigun" or basically "Earth Self-Defense Force." I'm 
sure this turkey was probably unleashed on the Western world years ago under 
some other name, but it's not even worth my time to try and find out what 
title they used. Suffice to say, any movie where the country is menaced by 
a cyborg mole who's way too big through the hips and the military has some 
80-year-old scientist pulling the trigger on their hi-tech weaponry instead 
of someone qualified like a fighter pilot is probably better left unseen. 
This was a Japanese rip-off of "War of the Worlds" just begging for the old 
Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, and the effects were so cheesy I 
thought it would be days before I could have a bowel movement again. Okay, 
after a build-up like that now I know you really want to know the name--it's 
known as "The Mysterian" in English, but you didn't hear it here. 

Finally, I did manage to get some news on the Vampire Hunter D front. I 
had heard from another fan that there was supposed to be another VHD novel 
out in July, but I wanted to hear it from the cyborg horse's mouth, as it 
were. Over coffee, Kikuchi-sensei confirmed that was when the new one would 
be out (at least in theory, my experience tells me). Next, I just had to 
know if this was going to continue the recent string of single-volume tales, 
or if it would be the start of a new multi-volume epic. When I learned that 
it should be complete in one book, I thanked him from the bottom of my 
translating heart--though it will be years before I even have to worry about 
that story. 

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