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Yashakiden Vol.2: The Demon Princess - Hideyuki Kikuchi

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Genre: Graphic Novels / Comics / Author: Hideyuki Kikuchi / Paperback / Reading Level: Young Adult / 200 Pages / Book is published 2010-06-09 by Digital Manga Publishing

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      23.07.2010 12:01
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      Dr Mephisto & senbei baker Aki Setsura face off again with a 4000 yr old bloodthirsty princess

      Chemotherapy essentially is a medicinal method whereby toxins are put into the body to hopefully kill off a greater danger (i.e., a cancer). In this case, Tokyo is the body, and it is the Shinjuku area that has a plague- a demonic plague. Following on from a tremendous earthquake, Shinjuku has crossed a line that most mortals fear: parts of it straddle another dimension, where demons and time itself seem to slip, sliding into our reality. Now known as Demon Shinjuku, it becomes a tourist attraction for seekers of the macabre and a haven for the supernatural beings who already inhabited our world. One entire housing block is home to vampires, who reside side by side with humans and the other inhabitants with ease, following a set of rules set out. 

      But rules are all too often broken, usually by creatures who creep across from the metaphysical chasm. Other times, the supernatural also fall prey to illness. Times like these, there are really only two people to call upon: the otherworldly Dr Mephisto and senbei (rice cracker) baker come private eye, Aki Setsura. These two are the chemo to thwart the cancers that invade their city, but at what price? It doesn't matter, for when a ghostly koto plays its haunting melody, bringing forth a river carrying an ancient ship, everyone takes notice. This is no run of the mill demon encounter; this is something that forebodes something even worse. It is bad indeed, as an ancient sorceress and vampire 4000 years in the making has come to claim her throne, with the dust of the current Demon Shinjuku vampire leader and the bodies of all who oppose her beneath her feet. With people in key positions being added to her following of the undead, it is obvious something must be done, but is the treatment going to be effective, or have Setsura and Mephisto met their match?  Uncertain of their victory, the two team up with the new leader of their peacefully resident vampires and a mysterious witch.

      The tables seem to be turned, until they discover that even the ancient vampire ally is no match for this demonic vampire princess. Attacking Aki himself and leaving him in the shocking state of impending vampirism , the battle seems far from won. But when the koto music plays once more and portals into the other worldly realm the sorceress and her minions reside in are discovered, things begin to look up. But just what will they find there? And just what motivations does everyone have for their part in the battle, and is Mephisto showing signs of being mesmerised to the demonic vampire sorceress' will? The actions of the enemy show they are not just physically attacking, but employing psychological tactics as well. Is Shinjuku ever going to rest in its uneasy peace ever again?

      Hideyuki Kikuchi returns us to his alternative vision of Tokyo set during our era, and what a visit it is too. Setsura Aki and Mephisto are just as intriguingly self motivated as they were in the first volume, with a deeply rooted but self protectively cautious camaraderie that defies the usual description for friendship. Their innate sense of justice is obvious, both by the words they parry at the enemies they face and with each other as they talk, bicker, and plan out their strategies. Their primary motivations may differ, and indeed, may be rather selfish upon closer inspection, if we knew precisely WHAT those were, but that is all part of the fun. Just as in his perhaps better known work, Vampire Hunter D, the inner thoughts and motivations are not readily apparent in the protagonists, but revealed layer by layer over the course of events and from the looks of it, over several novels. Like D, this is action packed with very little sedentary scenery along the way.

      Kikuchi's usual pell-mell style is somewhat restrained here though, with hidden inner plot layers making an appearance to stop the action and cause the characters to have a need to regroup and think. Indeed, while it is extremely graphic in nature with extreme violence and sexual imagery fully rendered in prose, this time Kikuchi himself seems to have regrouped and so it is all there only as it needs to be for plot purposes and not for shock value. While it is not a manga, it does contain scattered full page black and white illustrations by the original artist Jun Saemi. The stark imagery once again fits in beautifully with Kikuchi's forthright, pulp fiction style. We also see the return of Eugene Woodbury, the translator of the first Yashakiden novel, and once more he renders the prose so that it is as if Kikuchi had written it in English to begin with.

      Please note that once more, Play.com has refused to stock this title due to its content, but it is readily available from Amazon and manga specialists such as Forbidden Planet.  Preview pages are available over at the publisher's website at http://www.dmpbooks.com/books/642/  . Overall, another worthwhile, heart thumping read from Japan's master of pulp horror, and certain to thrill fans of demons and vampires. With its extremely beautiful male protagonists and sexually deviant female antagonists, there is as much here for the ladies as there is the lads.

      ***I would like to thank DMP for kindly providing me with a review copy***

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