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Direction: Right to Left
by Hideyuki Kikuchi, Saiko Takaki
Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, Supernatural, Seinen
The year is 12,090 A.D., and what little is left of humanity has finally crawled out from the ashes of war and destruction. From the darkness of fallout, mutants and a race of vampires known as the Nobility have spawned. They rule the weak with no remorse. Once bitten by a Nobility, one is cursed to become a member of the undead. Villagers cower in fear, hoping and praying for a savior to rid them of their undying nightmare. All they have to battle this danger is a different kind danger - a Vampire Hunter. Enter D - a lone, mysterious vampire hunter, sought out by the desperate Doris Lang. Bitten by the vampire lord Count Lee, Doris is destined to her unholy fate... Can D deliver her from her curse and bring her to salvation, or will she forever be part of the unholy dead?
There are several characters of note in this volume. D of course, the main lead of the story. Doris and Dan Lang, the brother and sister who hire D this time, The main evil this volume is Count Magnus Lee and his daughter Larmica. There are a few other minor characters, but I will cover those separately in my general thoughts section.
Vampire Hunter D, our reticent lead. His cold stand-offish character is perfectly formed. Over the volume he does not change at all, since he's a fully formed character. Rather he acts as a catalyst for the characters around him.
I am not all that keen on his actual character design however. D is supposedly this late teen looking man with unearthly beauty (due to him being a Dhampir). Yet for the most part I did not get that feeling from the design. Rather he looks like a walking plague victim, with huge lines under his eyes, pale, gaunt, and looking like a strong breeze will blow him over. However at the same time there are some really amazing bits where we get to see the real D, and the unearthly aspect comes through perfectly.
Doris Lang is the damsel in distress this volume. I loved her personality which is a mixture of the weak and vulnerable, but also strong willed and determined. These two supposedly disparate traits mix into a character that is perfect for the setting.
Sadly I am again torn over the character design. Doris in this manga version is more of a mature woman, into her mid to late twenties, and does not real fit the description we get in the novel. Though I will admit that like D she has her moments.
Dan Lang, Doris's little brother, and as wild as Doris ever was.He looks up to D as an ideal sort of man, and is unafraid when D's dhampir origins are revealed. Rather he's convinced D will save his sister. Dan is probably the character that changes the most over the course of the volumes, despite not being a lead character. He goes from a cry-baby to a more resolute and determined character.
Count Magnus Lee, our arch nemesis this volume really lives up to his role. His personality like D's is fully formed from the outset. I liked the way he acts, playing the bad guy out to the max from beginning to end. There's no grey area at all in the character.
His design I thought was a bit off, and also feels a bit inconsistent. Over the course of the volume he grew fatter, and his fangs well, they stopped looking like vampire fangs and more like a wolf jaw. He also does not exude an aura that a elder vampire like him should. Rather I never felt any sort of fear from him.
Larmica on the other hand creeps me out on so many levels. Her personality is amazing, and goes through subtle changes over the course of the volume. When I first read the volume I have to admit I didn't like her. The first time we get to see her it looks like she's got a Weeping Willow sprouting out the top of her head, and does not really look good.
Over the volume though my thoughts changed, and while she was never beautiful. she has the feel of regalness and poise that Magnus Lee lacks. At the end of the volume I actually felt really bad for, but also proud of the way she ended things. It has a very noble and regal feel to it.
Doris Lang needs a vampire hunter, but not just any, she needs the best. So much so that she attacks those that look like hunters trying to test them, going so far as to go naked to distract them.
Finally D arrives, and after effortlessly defeating her agrees to help her hunt and kill the vampire, Count Magnus Lee.
Things aren't going to go as easy as that though, as the Count is one of the older nobility and powerful. Also his daughter has decided to kill Doris rather than allowing a human to pollute the bloodline.
As if that was not enough to contend with the mayors son has his sights set on making Doris his woman, and will not accept no as an answer. And another man, a dangerous criminal with a gang of thugs to back him up, has decided he likes Doris as well.
In the end it's a four way battle with Doris Lang and her sanity as the prize.
While I feel that this was a good adaptation of the novel, I do feel it could have been better done.
The art of the volume is pretty bad at times, with some panels resembling lumps of black, rather than action panels. However I will give a thumbs up to the colour panel at the beginning of the volume. In it we see Doris as I envisioned her, sexy, fiery, and dangerous/ Sadly the same is not true of Larmica, who looks like a guy with serious fatigue for some reason.
The characters do mesh well together in this volume, with each of the active characters complimenting the other characters.
Greco is one of the supporting characters, he's the mayors son who has his eye set on Doris. However he isn't a 'nice' guy out to woo a girls hand, he'd rather force her.
I liked the role he plays in this volume, though it never amounts to much. We do get a sense though that his father is just as bad and sadistic as him, which makes sense given the way he (the mayor) talks to Doris and Dan.
Rei-Ginsei is another of the supporting characters who sets his mind on having Doris. However in his case it starts off as lust, but turns into a quest to simply beat D by having her after he saves her from him.
The way all of these characters fight amongst themselves, form alliances and betray each other makes for excellent reading. The ending, while a bit clichéd and cheesy works really well.
While I admit I have a few issues with the way the conversion was done, including a bit of fumbling by Digital Manga Publishing, I still none the less enjoyed it. It's also worth noting that the eManga version is a lot easier to follow and understand. See the next section for why.
DMP have released three versions of this title so far, an eBook version for the Kindle, the afore mentioned eManga version, and of course the print version. I've not seen the kindle version, but I have the print version and the eManga version.
Firstly lets talk about the print version. I got this on the day it was released in the UK, and at the time I loved it. The pages were tinted a reddish colour that at the time looked awesome. The slip cover was well designed and drawn, though the under covers sucked. Finally like a lot of DMP titles it's a bit oversized. All in all it was a good volume that looked and felt great in the had.
Sadly the inner workings were not as good as the outer ones. Because the pages had been dyed a reddish colour it makes the art look ugly, and at really ugly. The copy I have was tight bound, and when I say tight I mean tight. The pages creak when turned and it's hard to open the manga fully to read the side panels.
Sadly it has not aged well, in fact it's aged very poorly. The reddish tinge has faded and now some of the pages look like they a Dalmatian dog, only with red spots. Also the slip cover has shrunk and no longer fits snugly onto the book, causing the covers to bend. It's a bit disappointing really, since I have manga from the 80's and early 90's that have aged better than this.
The eManga version however is immensely better. Gone are the icky reddish pages and in it's place we have a nice white page. Also the double spreads look awesome and seamless, something you can not get in a manga, unless you do a pull out page.
The effect of the different format is staggering as well. The crisp white background I found made the art look a lot better. This was also true of some of the art that I hated in the printed edition. It made the art look cleaner, sharper and just generally better. This was true with several scenes of Larmica and Magnus Lee that I had hated in the print version.
The editing of the manga was done really well, with no issues reading the text in either format. And as I said, overall I enjoyed it.
Mankind at last turns upon itself and unleashes weapons of unimaginable horror against themselves, despite knowing what the final outcome will be. The cities fall, towns collapse, and humanity is swept back into a Dark Age amidst ruins of past advanced civilisation. Mutants spawn in the fallout, and THEY appear. Creatures of ancient legend, they roam the darkness. Indescribably beautiful, powerful, ultra intelligent, thirsting for blood, they are vampires. Herding humanity under their care, they husband the last remnants of civilisation and advance the frontiers of science forward once more. For five thousand years they reign over the Earth, until their own base natures seem to envelop them, and their time, too, seems to come to an end. The children of mankind, having lived in the shadow of the Nobility and their own past human civilisation, expand on their own, trying to survive and grow in a world where monsters spew forth in unexpected places, rogue Nobles hunt in the dark, and their own frailties expose them to mortal danger. Amongst the humans though, occasionally one finds a useful mutation. Appearing human, they have an ability that sets them apart and makes them more akin to the demons stalking the world, perfect for becoming hunters. They work for a bounty, stalking the terrors that crawl and creep forth, and Nobles who come to take prey.
Amongst them is one so famed, his exploits precede him even to the furthest corners of the human frontier. His name is D, and his appearance often misleads people when they first lay eyes upon him. He is slender, and exceptionally beautiful in a way that turns the heads of men and women. He is solemn, dressed ready for his work as a hunter, and riding upon a cyborg horse. He is just, but when people realise just WHAT he also is, they often shun him or try to send him away despite his contract. Vampires and mutants call him traitor. No matter, he is who he is, and he knows a lot more about the Origins than those who despise him can ever lay claim to. His name is D, and he is a dhampir. Half human like his mother, half vampire like his father. His father, an ancient vampire of legend, whose name is revered and worshipped amongst the Nobles: Dracula.
D keeps his lineage under tight wraps, which is just as well, for his enemies often make assumptions about his weaknesses by what they know about dhampirs in general. D however comes from the wellspring of vampire blood, and so possesses the very best of their strengths, and due to his human blood, is not so strongly affected by their weaknesses. With a demon of sorts as a symbiote in his left hand, which he keeps hidden from view, he has unusual tactical advantages. This being has supernatural powers of its own, used to aid D, and indeed is shown to be able to act independently as the need arises. The occasion when this is the case arises all too soon on this occasion. D is out riding along the frontier, currently jobless, when he encounters a woman blocking his path.
She challenges him after asking if he is a hunter, and the two fight. D defeats her and she proclaims herself satisfied, and asks him to come save her town from a Noble, revealing she has been bitten. Once bitten, she knows the Noble will return again and again until she joins the ranks of the undead. Wishing to avoid her fate, and to save all that she holds dear, she offers the only payment she has: a place to stay, food to eat, and if he so wishes, the use of her body. D agrees to the bounty, though shows no interest in the carnal offerings. He soon discovers that the woman Doris has troubles other than just a Noble out to make her his bride, however, as she is trying to run a farm with her brother, Dan, who is still a young boy, and fend off the unwelcome advances of the mayor's loutish son. The farm is in need of maintenance, and with only Doris and Dan, much needs to be done to keep it going. D takes on the role of handyman, mending fences and whatnot, while keeping watch, observing, defending, and showing an unexpected tenderness towards children. The Noble Count Lee is not alone however; his daughter Larmica is about with her own ideas about what should be, and they have a team of mutant servants at their beck and call. When one of them, Rei Ginsei, manages to cut off D's left hand and then stake him through the heart, it at first appears everything is over. But D and his hand have a couple of aces up their sleeve, and when they use them, the Nobles realise they have much to fear...
Part science fiction, part fantasy and horror, and part western, Vampire Hunter D is a landmark within the seinen manga genre. Author Hideyuki Kikuchi originally wrote the series as light novels, short prose novels with illustrated pages scattered throughout. The novels number 21 in total and are still ongoing, and two have been adapted into anime feature films. The cult popularity of the books and anime led to Digital Manga Publishing approaching Kikuchi about a collaboration that would turn his prose novels into graphic ones. Kikuchi chose a self published manga artist and Vampire Hunter D fan, Saiko Takaki, to illustrate the manga versions. This works quite well, as Takaki is intimately familiar with the plotlines, characters, settings, the often occult like science, and fairly Lovecraftian mythos interwoven with folklore that make up the backbone of the series. Her illustrations with their dark and occasionally heavy lines married to the delicate sweep of the facial features and the beautifully expressive eyes fits in perfectly with Kikuchi's prose. It leaves the reader with an experience that tastes the best of both worlds: the enthralling storytelling prowess of Kikuchi and the frame by frame imagery of this world previously only glimpsed at from the anime. This is D as you have you have never seen him before. Bewitching, beguiling, and deadly, a glance at only the very first page being enough to sweep you away.
****I would like to thank Digital Manga Publishing for providing the review copy. This title is available as a paperback from manga retailers, or as digital copies for the I phone and I pad (via the iTunes store), the Kindle book reader (via Amazon.com), or rented online at Emanga.com, as well as a version for the PSP via the Playstation store.****