Vampire Hunter D Volume 1
For those who don’t know the story or haven’t seen the anime, Vampire Hunter D takes place in the year 12,090, when vampires have long ruled the earth and humanity’s fallen back into a SciFi-Medieval state of being, with laser rifles used to defend the farms where they scratch out meager sustenance. One of the farm girls, a Werewolf Hunter named Doris, finds that the evil Count Lee-loosely based on Christopher Lee’s vampire movies, a real treat for anyone with taste in horror actors-is in search of a bride and has decided she’s beautiful and strong enough to be a vampire queen. She enlists the aid of the quiet, stoic Vampire Hunter who goes by “D” and they do battle against the evil Count.
Dark Horse Comics brings the Vampire Hunter D novel to American shores with the first English language translation of “D” ever published. The landmark anime has legions of fans, mainly for the cool main character. D is a man in black, a mysterious vampire hunter who says very little, then performs awesome feats of stylish swordplay. Clint Eastwood cool with anime style. However, in the first anime, D is not all that developed-the newest movie changes this-and the novel makes him a living, breathing character with all sorts of interesting flaws and tics. Instead of being an archetype, the guy who rides into town and cleans up the place, he actually winds up being fully developed as an interesting character, not just an object of lust for fangirls. The plot of the novel mirrors the anime, though a sideplot with some fiendish bandits came out of nowhere, but it fleshes out the story into more than another evil vampire story.
The translation is a little difficult to read. It seems like-keeping in mind I speak English and bad English-the novel was translated as literally as possible, and so everything comes across kind of awkwardly. What the author meant is obvious, but I think the translator went a little too far for authenticity’s sake. It just seems like he tried to capture every “the,” every “a,” and every literal word of metaphors, instead of just capturing the spirit of what the author was saying. Once you get used to the translation, it’s not that bad, but it takes a few pages to get a feel for it and requires more patience than it should.
The artwork merits another mention. It’s not a manga, this is a fully-fledged novel with a few nice pictures in it. The pictures are outstanding and had a certain tickle of familiarity and a little bit of research brought a shock of recognition. The illustrations are done by Yoshitaka Amano, who did some work on Sandman and for Final Fantasy games. The illustrations in the book are sadly black and white, but capture the spirit of the series without being just tracings of the anime. And I would do unspeakable things to tiny villages and legions of wide-eyed moppets for a good-sized print of the cover art.
Some people are going to stand by their first love and defend the anime. Personally speaking, I like the book a lot more than the anime. The dated art and music of the anime, and the lack of character development in favor of cool monsters, may be cool to some, but I prefer more storyline and background on the characters from the novel. The novel develops the characters a lot more, adds several subplots, and makes the anime as a whole far more interesting. While D may lose some of his mystique by talking and thinking and not just being a brooding shape in the shadows, I think it’s possible to get much more involved with the story when you actually know who’s who and what’s what. I’d give this to fans of the anime, even if they threw it back at me, and I’m going to try and pawn this off on other people as well. It’s a different kind of novel than most, and well worth the read.
Plot and Characters: 8.5
Loses some points for the fairly common storyline, gains some points for the development of D and some of the other characters.
The translation is kind of hard to read and some of the metaphors are near nonsensical, but once you get into it, it hums right along.