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All other material is copyright ©Catherine B. Krusberg. 
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Vampire Hunter D novel reviews by Kevin Leahy

Reviews of vols. 1-7 originally published in THE ROSE (Anime Hasshin) 
nos. 43 and 46. Corrections approved by the author.



by Kevin Leahy

What do you get when you slam a Hammer Horror film with a
Lovecraftian twist head-on into an ultra-violent spaghetti
western?  No survivors, that's for sure.  If you're lucky, you
might wind up with one of Kikuchi Hideyuki's Vampire Hunter D

Mr. Kikuchi has combined his love of films, horror, and
science fiction in a number of action-packed tales which have
earned him quite a following.  Anime fans should be familiar
with such works of his as THE NAME OF THE WIND IS AMNESIA,

First published in 1983 by Sonorama Bunko, VAMPIRE HUNTER D
has spawned numerous sequels, going through countless reprints
and even earning special hardcover editions of the series on
its tenth anniversary.  The books are further graced by the
beautiful illustrations of Amano Yoshitaka, Japan's own
Frazetta cum Gustav Klimt.

Before I launch into short summaries of the first four
volumes, let me take a moment to set the scene.  Here's the
future history of the world, so take notes, it might be on the

In the year 1999, the world is predictably devastated by
nuclear war, forcing the few surviving humans to live
underground for years.  When they come to the surface again
and spread out to reclaim the Earth, they find the place
crawling with fearsome mutants.

Hundreds of years pass, and humans, while fruitful and
multiplying, grow ever more barbarous.  When they've
degenerated to a medieval level, the vampires appear, declare
themselves "the Nobility," and take over.  The humans seem to
go along with it.

For 7000 or 8000 years, the vampire Nobility rule the world,
constructing an automated city called the Capital and
regulating the global climate through weather controllers. 
Finally, the Great Rebellion overthrows the vampires, and the
remaining fiends scatter in the wilderness of the Frontier,
where their genetically-engineered monstrosities are already
terrorizing the humans.  These sporadic vampire and monster
attacks prompt a number of humans to form the Hunter class,
which in turn gradually specializes into subclasses such as
Werewolf Hunter, Lesser Dragon Hunter, etc.  The greatest of
these, of course, are the Vampire Hunters.

Volume 1: Kyuuketsuki Hantaa "D" (Vampire Hunter "D") 
  1983. ISBN 4-257-76225-X

Almost anyone who has seen a movie and read a book of the same
story is bound to say that they liked the book better, if only
because the book tends to contain a wealth of material which
would take any director six hours to convey on film.  Such is
the case with this work, which has a far more involved tale
than the anime depicts.

Doris Lang, orphaned daughter of a Werewolf Hunter, hires the
dhampir Vampire Hunter D to take care of Count Magnus Lee.  But
the vampiric ruler of that Frontier sector is only one of her

The Count's daughter Larmica and the werewolf retainer Garou
are determined to see Doris dead before she can be drawn into
their "family."  Greco Rohman, son of the chief of Ransylva
village, has his lecherous eye on Doris.  And dashing, deadly
Rei-Ginsei and his Fiend Corps are also closing in.

From what I recall of the anime, the characters of the lackey
Garou and the blade-hurling Rei-Ginsei have been combined. 
The hair colors of Doris and Larmica have also, strangely,
been swapped.  In the book, Doris is described as raven-
haired, while Larmica has locks of gold.  All in all, the
novel is a pretty good read, and the scenario Kikuchi sets up
would certainly be a dynamite world to role-play in.

Volume 2: Kaze Tachite "D" ("D" -- Raiser of Gales) 
  1984. ISBN 4-257-76274-8

A long, hard winter, due perhaps to problems with the weather
controllers, has isolated the village of Tepes.  Near the
village stands a strange hill, a one-time stronghold of the
Nobility which still contains beautiful paintings and
experimental equipment.  Ten years earlier, four children
disappeared while playing, only to reappear a month later.

Now in 12090 A.D., a new terror grips the village as the
victims of vampires moving in daylight begin to appear.  The
village turns of course to D, who finds that all suspicion has
already fallen on those missing children, three of whom have
now grown into excellent adults.  The girl Lina in particular
is fascinated by vampire art, even though it may cost her a
scholarship to the Capital -- her only chance of leaving the
hick village.

There's a fair amount of action in this tale, and it exhibits
a few more of the kinks that Kikuchi's work is famous for. 
Perhaps the biggest selling point of it is the additional
world-building that takes place -- filling in more all-
important data about the strengths and weaknesses of dhampir
and vampires and giving added details about human-monster

Volume 3: D -- Yousatsukou (D -- Demon Deathchase) 
  1985. ISBN 4-257-76310-8

With his dying breath, an old man begs that his daughter and
the Noble who made off with her be pursued and, if necessary,
slain.  Their destination is a spaceport in the Claybourne
States and their ultimate goal -- a world where their love
might be safe.  The vampire Mayerling is perhaps the only one
humans ever spoke well of, and the girl, who remains strangely
nameless throughout the book, goes with him of her own free

Still, the old man puts a hefty price on their heads, and that
sort of blood in the water draws Hunters -- the notorious
Marcus clan and D.  The four Marcus brothers Borgoff, Nolt,
Groveck, and Kyle, along with their sister Leila, are as
famous for their Vampire Hunting as they are for their
predilection toward killing off the competition, and they hide
a dark secret about their sister as well.

As if all this warfare wasn't lively enough, Mayerling pulls
through the hamlet of Barbaroi and enlists a trio of powerful
bodyguards from the local population -- all of which are
human/monster half-breeds.

For those fans who didn't get their recommended daily
allowance of kinks from the second volume, this tale serves up
a few more.  On top of that, it lays bare one of the dhampir's
greatest weaknesses.  And for anyone who hadn't already
guessed from the above description, it's got ACTION, ACTION,

Volume 4: D -- Shigaitan (D -- Tale of the Dead Town) 
  1986. ISBN 4-257-76321-3

Pausing long enough to rescue a young lady and make an
apparent ally, D rendezvous with his next place of employment,
a city of 500 which floats a meter above the ground and
cruises at 20 KPH (that's 12.5 MPH to my fellow Americans). 
"The Town," long thought safe from marauding monsters, has
suffered a rash of vampire attacks.  But the introduction of
D, the young lady and former tenant of said city Lori
Knight, and the brash John M. Brasselli Pluto VIII does little
to alleviate their woes.  The last of these three wants to be
called by his full name at all times -- something the author
fortunately does not indulge him in.

There's plenty of juicy monster-slaying to be done as the Town
makes a sudden change toward an unknown but certainly
unwelcome goal.  While short on vampire lore, this tale has
some mystery and the beast-busting action D fans have come to

Curiosity about the vampire-ravaged future of Kikuchi
Hideyuki's Vampire Hunter D universe led me to plow through
the final volumes faster than I had expected.

Since Vampire Hunter D Volume #1, Kikuchi's works have become
steadily less descriptive and more action-driven.  His terse
style, I suspect, is as much a result of his habit of writing
several novels a year, as it is of his love of motion
pictures.  As a result, now more than ever, his books read
like detailed movie scripts, with movements carefully
choreographed and the delivery of lines painstakingly
explained.  Which really makes me wonder why all of his novels
haven't been animated by now.

Volume 5: Yume Narishi D (D -- The Stuff of Dreams) 
  1986. ISBN 4-257-76361-2

D goes to a thriving town where, in the past ages, mortals and
Nobility (vampires) lived together peacefully.  The 17-year-
old beauty Sybille Schmitz has slept there for 30 years since
being bitten, neither waking nor aging.  It is dreams of her
dancing in a ghostly chateau bathed in blue light that lure D
there, where the entire village has already dreamt of the
handsome dhampir.

There are a number of folks who feel that by awakening the
sleeping woman, the Vampire Hunter will destroy their peaceful
world, and they would gladly kill D to prevent that.  After
all, their village produces 20 times as much food as they
need, and the exporting of that bounty has made them quite
comfortable.  And the murderous Bio Brothers, Harold and
Duncan, are called in to see to the disposal of the cursed
half-breed D.

While the action is only average, the book describes one
example of a forgotten technology the philanthropic vampires
shared with their human neighbors -- the lost art of baking
apple pie (I kid you not!).

Volume 6: D -- Seima Henreki (D -- Pilgrimage of the Sacred and the Profane) 
  1988. ISBN 4-257-76400-7

A supposedly impassable desert lies between the Inner and
Outer Frontier.  To cross it, the centenarian Granny Viper is
looking for some powerful backup.  Granny is a "people finder"
and she must ferry her latest find, a young woman named Tae,
across to the town of Barnabas in the next four days.

As an "abductee" who lived 8 years in the vampire castle of
Gradinia, Tae is the object of suspicion.  Her only hope for
future happiness is pinned on arriving in Barnabas before the
last of her blood relations move on.  Hoping to play on the
sympathies of frosty D and enlist his aid, Granny offends her
other potential escorts -- those renowned warriors of the
Frontier, Bingo and Clay Bullow.  The following arrangement is
reached: D is traveling to Barnabas on business of his own,
Granny and Tae are free to follow him, and the Bullow Brothers
tag along as well to settle the score with D when the journey
is over.  But it won't be easy going, as the desert has a mind
of its own.

One of the more engrossing facets of this action-packed story
is how one of the two residents of Gradinia castle is someone
D wants to find very badly.  What's more, the relation of
dhampirs to human society and other dhampirs is also explored
with interesting results.

Volume 7: D -- Hokkai-Makou (D -- Mysterious Journey to the North Sea)
    Part 1 ISBN 4-257-76433-3
    Part 2 ISBN 4-257-76438-4 

The 17-year-old Wu-Lin is traveling from the fishing village of
Florence to Cronenberg to have a strange jewel appraised.  No
less than three people try to steal it from her: the young
commoner Toto, an old artist named Professor Krolock, and the
grotesque Gilligan, an obscenely overweight gangland boss in a
custom exo-skeleton.  He has Wu-Lin killed, but her dying
request of D is that he bring the gem back to her older sister
Su-In in their village on the north sea.

Gilligan is determined to have the gem.  He dispatches five
mysterious individuals with the promise that the one who
brings it to him will get all he possesses.  This group
consists of such colorful characters as Shin the Puppetman,
King Egbert, Undiscernible Twin, and Reminiscence Samon.  Also
tailing D from Cronenberg is handsome Glen, a warrior and
"seeker of knowledge" who wants to kill the Vampire Hunter
because he's the only thing he has ever feared.

Everyone arrives in Florence just as its short, week-long
summer is about to begin.  Millennia ago, the area had been a
resort for the Nobility until the day, about 1000 years ago,
when a traveler in black arrived and punished the cruel
vampire residents.  Only Baron Meinster refused to leave, and
the traveler threw him into the sea.  Now, for the past few
years, the village's summer has been marred by vampire attacks
-- "Meinster's Revenge."  Su-In hired D because something
particularly distressing is going on here.  Though the whole
world knows that the Nobility have difficulty with rain or
flowing water, the vampire in Florence seems to be coming from
the sea.

As you can probably guess, the action is fast and furious in
this 2-volume tale.  At a combined length of nearly 600 pages,
it is almost 2-1/2 times as long as the average D novel.  But
the larger cast and broader action of HOKKAI-MAKOU truly give
it the familiar flavor of western horror/sci-fi/adventure
novels.  The structure is also more entertaining than the
average Vampire Hunter D story where everyone crosses D's path
exactly twice -- escaping with a grudge the first time and
getting chopped into fish bait the second. 

D -- Kurai Nokutaan (D -- Dark Nocturne) 
  1992. ISBN 4-257-76586-0

   A collection of three short stories.

Although Dark Nocturne exists out of the numbering system of the 
D series, it was published in 1992, some 3 years after completion of
the 2-volume tale D -- Hokkai-Makou (D -- Mysterious Journey to the North
Sea, 1988).  Accustomed to the telephone book-thick tomes on vampires
published in the U.S, I had always thought the Vampire Hunter D books too
short until the 2-parter, so it was with some reservation that I began
reading this collection of 3 short stories.  Averaging 100 pages each, in
English they would probably take a little over 50 pages each.
Nevertheless, what greeted me was some of the best D action yet.  We see
more of D's facets, both human and vampire, than in considerably longer works.

The first tale, strangely enough titled "Dark Nocturne," concerns Ry, a
young man who goes to Anise village seeking the haunting song he'd heard
from his father on his deathbed.  Many vampires had been entertained at a
chateau there until about 200 years earlier, and they lured young men and
women in their twenties there with a song no one else could duplicate.  That
same song had been heard again 20 years before our story begins.  On his way
to Anise, Ry encounters Price and his cohorts Bijima and Kurt.  Price heard
the ghostly tune while in his mother's womb, and can imitate it.  But he and
his lackeys seem to be up to no good.  D appears in time to save the boy.
The female mayor of the village has hired the Vampire Hunter, among others,
to find out what's going on at the chateau, and to see if the vampires have
returned.  And as no VHD tale would be complete without a fetching lass,
this time D sees his life complicated by Amne, the headstrong daughter of
the innkeeper where D is lodging and just the sort of cat curiosity so often

The second story, "D -- An Ode to Imagined Fall," takes place in a village
called "Shirley's Door," which is famous for its beauty in fall.  A
centenarian known as "Helga of the Red Basket" hires D when she foresees
trouble in the swamp near her home -- a place where the vampiric Nobility once
dwelled.  This particular village long made it a practice to offer up one of
extraordinary beauty so that everyone else might be spared, and Mayor
Murtock is willing to continue the tradition to preserve the peace.  The
real problem there is that his son, Lyle, happens to be in love with the
intended sacrifice -- a girl named Cecile.  D has met the pair on his way into
town, so you can imagine he's not about to sit back and do nothing while
humans turn on humans.

The final section, "D -- Legend of the War Fiends ," begins in a massive castle
carved from a mountain in the center of an "Armageddon Zone" -- an area with a
radius of 2000 KM left barren by a battle between two vampire clans that
lasted 5000 years.  The castle has a nuclear generator that produces 50
million megawatts of power per hour, but where that power has gone for the
last 2000 years is a mystery.  Okay, so it's not a mystery to me, because I
kept reading.  The power went into creating Dynus, a ten-foot-tall man with
a somewhat childish demeanor.  He is one clan's "last strike," and
apparently they weren't the only ones with that foresight.  A girl named
Raya who has been sold into the entertainment business in the Capital is the
other side's sleeper agent.  Her witch-like powers come from genetic 
encoding done centuries earlier by other vampires to stage this one
last battle.  D is on the scene to protect Raya until she leaves for her new
job, but the strange visitors to the area are apparently there to watch the
fireworks and see which of the extinct clans triumphs in the end.  In good
dramatic form, the two ill-fated individuals not only befriend D, but they
also grow quite fond of each other.  But their fate was decided millennia

In light of the amount of material that was cut from the first VHD book in
order to make an animated feature of manageable length, I think these
episodes would be much better suited to the screen than the novel-length
tales.  This wasn't an easy read at first -- I had to read it a second time
after forgetting everything from the first read, and other fans have had
similar experiences.  Still, the last story alone was worth the price of
admission, and I'm glad this was the book I had Hideyuki Kikuchi sign the
first time I met him.

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