Reviews are copyright ©Kevin Leahy. All other material is copyright ©Catherine B. Krusberg. This material may not be reproduced without permission of the creator. Volume 12: D -- Jaoh Seidan (D -- Star Squad of the Evil Overlord) 4 parts, 2000-2001 Part 1 July 2000; ISBN 4-257-76909-2 Part 2 November 2000; ISBN 4-257-76915-7 Part 3 February 2001; ISBN 4-257-76927-0 Part 4 April 2001; ISBN 4-257-76932-7 In what's a rare move for the "Vampire Hunter" series, "Jaoh Seidan" picks up shortly after the "Dark Road" series ends and carries over the character of the vicious vampire warlord Gaskell. The story begins with D squaring off against Count Brohj, a ten foot tall vampiric Nobleman who has sat in the same spot for 5001 years. D has been hired to dispatch him because the Capital wants to claim his treasure, and the two are just about to throw down when something crashes back to earth, destroying half the northern Frontier in the process. This is what Brohj has waited long millenia for--the return of the renegade vampire Lawrence Valcua from his exile to outer space. Valcua is also known as "the Ultimate Noble," and he wields a mystic sword named Glencaliber that can open or close the fabric of space with a single slash. But despite being the hero who led the Nobility's attack against the alien homeworld when the O.S.B (outer-space beings) tried to take Earth from the vampires, he eventually earned him the wrath of others of his kind, including the Sacred Ancestor. When he was exiled to outer space, Valcua took his entire kingdom with him, and swore that when the time was right they would be back to have their revenge. But Brohj has been waiting for more than just a fight with a skilled opponent. There's a promise he must keep. Back in the days when the other Nobility were trying to overcome Valcua, they found him a very worthy foe, indeed. The warlord Gaskell, Count Brohj, and Duke Harness were traveling to their showdown with him when they found a human by the side of the road. A former prisoner who'd been kept in the Ultimate Noble's castle for experimentation, something about him moved Brohj to give him some medicine, and the man swore he'd repay that kindness. The vampires laughed and told the human he should accompany them to the castle then, and gave him no more thought. But after Harness was slain and both Brohj and Gaskell were ready to fall to Valcua, the man appeared on the scene and saved the pair by knocking the Ultimate Noble back with a cross he fashioned from two swords, allowing them to escape. The grateful vampires were prepared to grant him any request, but knowing that someday Valcua would return and have his revenge on all those responsible for his defeat, he only asked that his descendants be protected from the horrible wrath that would eventually come. That man's name was Winslow Dialith. Now Adele Dialith lives in the village of Somui with her teenage children Matthew and Sue and a good-for-nothing drunk of a husband. Brohj and Duchess Miranda, the widow of Harness, rush to protect the Dialith family from certain retribution. But seven of Valcua's powerful henchmen have already been sent to settle some long overdue accounts. Among the superhuman fiends there's a female water sprite named Lucian who can appear wherever there's water, a web-spinning mutant from the lunar colonies by the name of Spi'ine, the mesmerizing traveling preacher Kulbe, the ax-wielding Giuseppe the Beheader, and a young giant named Sula. D has agreed to postpone his business with Brohj until he's had a chance to honor his agreement, and Mrs. Dialith is also clever enough to enlist the Vampire Hunter's protection for her children. And so an unlikely party of humans, vampires, and a dhampir set off across country on a thousand page adventure. There are a lot of really neat touches, such as when D goes to a poison-producing village to ask one of the craftsmen to make Time-Bewitching Incense for him, so that the vampires can meet their opponents by day. Valcua himself is also quite interesting--he can do things and go places that should be impossible for anyone not of the Sacred Ancestor's bloodline. And then there's the strange silvery figure who sometimes wears D's face, while at other times he has the face of Valcua. Finally, this story introduced the "Akashia Record," which contains all events that ever happened, or will ever happen. It is said that some people, such as Nostradamus, based their predictions off glimpses of the Record, and that the Sacred Ancestor has also seen it, but any creature that attempts to tamper with it will be erased from existence. As always, there's plenty to see and do in the world Kikuchi-sensei has crafted for us, as well as things to think about when the journey's done. Following this long haul, the author turned back to shorter, simpler tales about the Vampire Hunter, which was also a nice change. Volume 13: D -- Jajin Toride (D -- Fortress of the Elder God) December 2001. ISBN 4-257-76952-1 Before I launch headlong into recounting the action in the first single-volume tale the VHD series has seen since 1994's "Baraki," I thought I might explain a little about the significance of the title. In Japanese, the works of H.P. Lovecraft are extremely popular, and "jajin" is the term most writers use to cover the whole Cthulu mythos--so while a direct translation would be "evil god," for Japanese horror fans (Kikuchi-sensei included), the word itself carries a heavy connotation of inhuman deities from beyond our own dimension. The story begins in the true tradition of an Irwin Allen disaster flick--a nun delivers a mysterious orphan named Toto to a futuristic airport, where we meet the rest of the passengers who will accompany him on the flight to the Capital. There's the old married couple of Mr. And Mrs. Stow who left the center of known civilization to travel around the Frontier visiting their fully grown children. In rather sharp contrast to these normal folks is Jan, a petty gangster with a crescent scar on his face and a machete he'll pull at the drop on a hat, and Maria, a blonde boozer. A pair of cops called Wiseman and Goseau will also be onboard, along with the "suckling" they're escorting--a hooded prisoner who's felt the bite of the Nobility. And in the part of the obligatory wildcard there's Bierce, an arrow-hurling warrior who's past his prime. When the group's aircraft is ravaged by an unknown force and goes down in the middle of a deadly zone strangely nicknamed "the playground," the passengers know that nearly all hope is lost--no search party would ever venture into the area, they're hundreds of miles from anywhere, and strange beasts are beginning to close in on them. Luckily for them D happens to be riding by, and being the big softy that he is, he agrees to be their guard at Toto's request --but only after he's taken care of business at a strange fortress in the area. Given the choice of waiting there alone or traveling along with the Hunter on his perilous errand, the party chooses the latter. The fortress is question has a chilling history. Thousands of years earlier, the Sacred Ancestor's army laid siege to it, because the Nobles there had taken to worshipping a tentacled "god" named Kururu. Vampires, it seems, don't have much of a knack for taking their own lives, so they wanted this dark god to destroy the whole world, themselves included. Three hundred believers in the fortress were able to hold out against 30,000 attackers for thirteen months due to their great faith and the power their "god" gave them. That same number of troops was killed in a single day, with only Arch Duke Valcua (from "Jaoh Seidan") surviving the incident. Finally, the Sacred Ancestor alone made it through the doors and came out a year later--apparently so exhausted that he slept for the next century. But no one has been inside in the last 5000 years. Once D arrives, the fortress goes back into operation, and another of the Sacred Ancestor's armies--at least 30,000 troops who were tucked away in another dimension waiting for such an occurrence--shows up to lay siege again. The army is hell-bent on getting into the fortress and destroying everyone inside, which is bad news for D and the stranded travelers since they've taken shelter in it. But they have more than the enemy at the walls to worry about, as a voice speaks to many of them and promises tremendous power in exchange for following its secretive instructions. It was nice to see another single-volume VHD tale, since they used to be the rule instead of the exception. I probably would have had more reservations about getting into the Vampire Hunter series both as a reader and a translator if the 750-1000 page monstrosities had come out in the early 90's. And now that I've finally caught up with all the books in the series, I don't want to be stuck in the same boat with the Japanese fans, waiting 9 months for the next installment or a year in a half for the whole story to be written. Over the past couple of stories, I've also noticed an interesting development in the way characters like Gaskell and Valcua have been carried over--we see that even the vilest of the vampires have been both heroes and villains in the eyes of the Nobility. It fits in well with the shades of gray Kikuchi-sensei had already established in this universe--not all humans are good, not all vampires are bad, and those that are bad might not always have been so. I can't wait to see what happens next. Volume 14: D -- Youhei Kaido (D -- Highway of the Enchanted Troops) 2003. ISBN 4-257-76994-7 Just when I was thinking that last year's single-volume tale, "Jajin Toride," was merely a brief departure from the multi-volume epics that have dominated the Vampire Hunter series in recent years, here we have another story that wraps itself up in just one book. When Hideyuki Kikuchi was still working on this tale last fall, he had told me that it would be finished in a single volume, albeit a hefty one, but I took that with a grain of salt--when he intends to write one volume about D, he usually writes two, and when he thinks he'll need two volumes, he ends up taking four. Well, true to his word, the author delivered a tale complete in one volume, and weighing in at a respectable 289 pages. The action begins on a lazy day in Bosage, one of the Frontier's more prosperous towns. A ruthless quartet robs the local bank, slaughtering everyone present--and the chilling account of their actions is given by the first guard slain! His spirit has been channeled to explain that one of the four bank robbers is possessed by something that the guard fears even beyond the grave. The mayor of Bosage is trying to hire a pair of skilled warriors--a flamboyantly dressed man named Strider and a woman in dragon-scale armor by the name of Stanza--to go down the "Florence Highway" after the bank robbers, as well as to rescue people from the surrounding area from another threat. It seems that a mysterious army once covered the road to Grand Duke Dolreack's castle, so that the "Florence Highway" is also known as the "Highway of the Enchanted Troops." And now reports have filtered into town that the enchanted troops are back, threatening everyone in the area. The mayor needs someone to go to the now-abandoned castle and rescue any humans who might have taken shelter there, since the castle is a kind of holy ground for the troops and should keep them at bay. He's just about to pay Strider and Stanza twice as much as he originally bargained for when a traveler in black rides into town--and you know from the cover art that we're not talking about Johnny Cash! With D around, the two warriors will be lucky if they can get in on the job now at half the going rate, but the mayor didn't make his town rich by being stupid. He wants the added insurance of having the warriors go with the Vampire Hunter, whether any of the three likes it or not. When he's not being pestered by either of the warriors, D is visited by a rather rotund and hirsute man with the unlikely appellation of "Beatrice." A decade earlier, Beatrice was part of a group of Hunters who ventured into Dolreack's castle, and he barely made it out alive. Although he no longer remembers what happened inside, he does have a notebook full of things he wrote in his delirium shortly after escaping the former lair of the Nobility, and he thinks this may be of interest to D. While D and his companions are out battling their way through the rapidly growing forces--soldiers dressed in ash-gray military apparel who are roughly human except for their glassy green eyes and lipless slash of a mouth--they rescue a girl named Elene Slocum, then encounter the bank robbers. While all of these humans are essentially baggage to the Vampire Hunter, they end up traveling together anyway. As they make their way to the castle, they try to discover who has brought the enchanted troops back, and for what purpose. This book has all the ingredients for a slam-bang VHD tale--Hunters, warriors, soldiers, scumbags, vampires, and the odd human everyman caught in the middle. The end in particular was great, which makes it all the harder knowing that it may be another year before we see another novel in the Vampire Hunter series. Volume 15: D -- Masenshou (D -- Account of the Demon Battle) July 2003. ISBN 4-257-77014-7 The story begins by describing a pair D has seen several times in his travels--a woman and a man, always together, always on the road. Cut to a village called Genevez (the "z" is silent) on the western edge of the Frontier, where D encounters the pair for a third time. The man, named Rust, is the sheriff there, and the woman, Lira, assists him in his duties. D is among the warriors and mercenaries summoned to defend the village from a notorious bandit gang known as the Black Death. But now it appears the Black Death won't be descending on the village, and the mayor wants to dismiss the hired help at a fraction of their agreed wages. The deputy mayor, Odama, wants to pay them even less, or kill the itinerant warriors so they won't join forces with the Black Death. D rewards Odama for his scathing character assessment by lopping off his nose. No sooner does D leave the scene of his improvised rhinoplasty than he's struck by "sunlight syndrome"--the periodic ailment unique to dhampirs last seen in "Demon Deathchase." Strangely enough, the staff of the local hotel have been taught what to do for a dhampir in these dire straits, so D is in good hands. But while D is recovering, and his left hand is running the show, Rust and Lira ask him to hang around a while longer and help them out. It seems the Black Death is going to pay a call on them after all. So what's so tough about this gang that a couple of well-traveled warriors like Rust and Lira would need D's help? Well, for starters the gang is led by a pseudo-vampire. Pseudo-vampires are humans who've been bitten by the genuine article but didn't change completely. They have some of the strength, enhanced senses, and regenerative powers of a true vampire, but can also walk in daylight. If the leader of the Black Death is any indication, they're also every bit as blood-thirsty as the real thing, if not more so. As if having a superhuman killing machine for a leader wasn't enough, the gang is also armed to the teeth with advanced weaponry like a tank and missile-launchers. And did I mention their penchant for sending spies into a village years before they attack? I hate it when that happens! One of the sleeper agents attacks D with poisonous bats while the Hunter is still recovering from his bout of sunlight syndrome, taking more of the wind out of our hero's sails. In a scene that's more like a Tom Clancy covert op than something you'd expect to see in the VHD universe, D leads a trio of mercenaries on a daring night strike on the Black Death encampment. They succeed in destroying many of the more imposing armaments and butcher a good number of the bandits, but in the process D's left hand (which was off on a mission of its own) gets chopped in half. So now the Hunter's hand has its healing energy turned toward putting itself back together. If only that was the extent of the bad news. The Black Death's leader turns the surviving members into pseudo-vampires like himself, but when even that doesn't seem like enough to beat the Vampire Hunter the voice of the Sacred Ancestor offers to make them true vampires. So, let's assess the situation. D hasn't completely recovered from sunlight syndrome, still has poison running through his system, and is without the use of his left hand. Okay, sounds fair enough. Now he's up against multiple vampires with a handful of villagers and mercenaries, some of whom can't be trusted. And the Sacred Ancestor is backing the other guys. All we need now is a serial killer running around the village... okay, got one of those, too! If you get the feeling this book grabs you by the collar and pimp-slaps you into submission, you're on the right track. I can hardly wait for the next novel, due out in December. If it's anything like the last two, it'll raise the bar once again on vampire hunting action. Volume 16: D -- Kettoufu May 2004. ISBN 4-257-77024-4 [No review yet.] Volume 17: D -- Hakumasan Part 1 February 28, 2005 Part 2 July 2005 [No review yet.] Notes from the VHD Archives site maintainer: There are also a few short D works. "D -- Armageddon" (or "D -- Harmageddon") is in Yoshitaka Amano's artbook MATEN and in THE CHASER, a collection of Hideyuki Kikuchi's short stories. A Japanese correspondent tells me it is a "scene" rather than a story and describes it as "D's father vs. D." "D -- Portrait of Ixobel" appears in Yoshitaka Amano's artwork collection KANOKE in both Japanese and English. (My review of KANOKE is here.) "D -- Village in the Fog" appears in Yoshitaka Amano's Vampire Hunter D Art Book, in Japanese only. My review of this book appears elsewhere on this site.The Kyuuketsuki Hantaa D doku hon (Asahi Sonorama, 2001; ISBN 4-257-03546-3) includes these three short stories. The doku hon is described on the Miscellaneous Merchandise page."Seshiru no Dengon" ("A Message from Cecil") is in the booklet that accompanies the five-CD Audio Drama Collection Vampire Hunter D, described on the Miscellaneous Merchandise page. Many thanks to Hakuba-san for providing information on later Vampire Hunter D novels and "D -- Armageddon"!
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