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