DECEMBER 22, 1999 New Year's parties, or "forget the year parties" as they're called here, are very popular with company workers who need a break after toiling like automatons for 12 months. Even those of us who don't work all that hard are always on the lookout for a good excuse to party, so when the suggestion of a New Year's talk live came up in the Fall all were in favor of having one. This was going to be a little different from the other events, but no one was sure exactly what to expect. We were hoping for a full screening of the completed VHD anime (a possibility that had been discussed at the post-talk live bull session), but there were problems in that Kikuchi-sensei really wasn't entitled to show it to anyone first (a curse on you, Urban Vision!). But what we ended up with was at least as good. There were many writers in attendance, as well as a few other special guest. One was the somewhat infamous Ms. Toya, Mr. Kikuchi's girlfriend in his Aoyama Gakuin university days and a character in many of his books. Also present was the lovely Ayumi Kojima, a fantasy illustrator who may be the next Amano. Her work already graces many of Mr. Kikuchi's other series, as well as appearing on trading cards and in video games. Even talk live regulars like Mr. Kikuchi and authors Fumihiko Iino and Masahiko Inoue gave their all for complete fan satisfaction ... by appearing in costume! Mr. Kikuchi was D, of course, in an outfit that one of his biggest fans helped put together. Iino-sensei was leading physician of the Makaitoshi, Dr. Mephisto, though the white robes and long black wig he had on made him look more like imprisoned Aum leader Shoko Asahara. And Inoue-sensei was dressed like the lead from "Darkside Blues", though it might have been some other pretty boy from the Kikuchi universe. There were a few funny things about this -- first, the turn-of-the-century fop clothes he was wearing were already in his wardrobe, and second, he was very insistent that he get to wear make-up for this. But since Inoue-sensei gets raked over the coals every talk live, whether he's present or not, I'm sure he wouldn't mind me sharing that with you. As Ms. Toya's birthday was approaching, some festivities had been planned especially for her. This included flowers and a cake, of course, as well as plenty of personal service by dashing representatives of the fan community -- D-Nix homepage master Unknown, aspiring author Gren, and foreign language major Man Searcher, to name a few. And the pros weren't the only ones dressed up for the occasion -- almost everyone was attired better than usual, with some of the ladies in those sexy Chinese dresses I, for one, can't get enough of. For my part, I had on my musical Christmas tie and matching socks. Each of the 100 or so folks in attendance then got a card with a number for the lottery that followed. Prizes included signed novels and comics by the authors in attendance, posters, the movie pamphlet from End of Days (which Iino-sensei wrote up), and boxer shorts signed by just about all the pros there (and clean, I assure you). But clearly the coolest item up for grabs was an all-new Makaitoshi Blues story -- twenty pages long, penned by Mr. Kikuchi that day, never published and given to the lucky recipient along with all future reproduction rights. The winner of that particular item was Dune, but he has plans to share it with everyone once he's deciphered the whole thing. You see, Mr. Kikuchi writes everything out in longhand, and the infamous reputation of his scrawl is well-deserved. Having seen it firsthand, I tried to warn Dune that night, but he had to find out about it the hard way. I didn't go away empty-handed either -- I managed to win a signed copy of a Young Van Helsing book by Masahiko Inoue, which I then had illustrator Ayumi Kojima sign. As if we hadn't had enough fan service yet, Mr. Kikuchi went around with a couple of big bottles of beer and poured drinks for his fans -- still in full D regalia! Now that's service! Not having a camera with me, I had a friend snap a pic of me with D and plenty of beer. And then there were the home movies. Now usually the words "home movies" conjure up images of Aunt Bertha and her trip to the Grand Canyon, but this was a little different. Always thinking about the next book, Mr. Kikuchi had gone to Transylvania to look at ruins and get a feel for the place. And in the interest of realism, he'd gone to Guam with some gun-fanatic acquaintances to discharge just about any kind of firearm they could get their hands on. There's dedication! When the regular event wrapped up, most folks still weren't ready to call it a night. Well, there's nothing like a little karaoke to get the blood pumping at 4:00 in the morning, and what started as a relatively small group soon snowballed to include more than 40 members. The local establishment wasn't set up to handle quite that many people in one room, so the group ended up in three seperate rooms or "karaoke boxes." My box was all pros except for myself, Kuchiba, and a pair of far-ranging fans from Hokkaido. As I'm not the world's biggest karaoke fan, I was rather grateful that no one even attempted to sing the entire time we were there. Instead, we just sat around and heaped abuse on Iino-sensei, who was beyond caring. But he and Mr. Kikuchi made the rounds in the other rooms and joined the livelier fans in singing. From what I heard later, Mr. Kikuchi actually has a rather good voice. And that was pretty much it for 1999. It had been a pretty good year all told -- I'd been to 5 talk live events, met Mr. Kikuchi and tons of Japanese fans, learned about the new VHD anime, and even got the ball rolling on the English language version of the Vampire Hunter D books. Kind of made me eager to see what 2000 would have in store for me.