Hideyuki Kikuchi, the writer and creator of VHD, has created a great and expansive universe to explore. Just watching the first movie, Vampire Hunter D (1985), the universe may seem a bit sparse and the story a bit stereotypical. However, after reading the first novel, which the first movie is based off, did I really get the scope of the playground that Kikuchi has at his disposal. The vampires have taken over and the future may seem dystopian and bleak, but Earth isn’t in complete despair and there still exists hope. Kikuchi’s universe is rich with emotion, story, and detail. There are two movies and more than twenty novels.
Vampire Hunter D begins in the year 12,090. The future has been consumed by rule of the vampires. After taking control of Earth, the vampires ruled over the Earth with an iron fist for many millennium. The books and movies take place after the vampire control has been broken and man’s reign is ascending. The main character, D, is a human/vampire hybrid called a dhampir. The audience is given hints and told early on that D’s father was Dracula, someone the vampires still revere. D has a love for humanity that isn’t shared by his full vampire brethren. He travels throughout the frontier as a hired gun against vampires. Humanity has managed to take back the capital, but the fragile and weak human government cannot deal with the frontier and outer lands. In the outer regions, vampire lords still rule their land from a castle on a hill outfitted with a laser defense systems and personal armies of genetically created monsters. The Vampires have recreated all the monsters from human nightmares. They reinvented the old stories to subjugate their ‘meal source’ as they call humans. Hydra, werewolves, and fear are the vampires control. Even though their complete control has slipped, it is still effective in some towns and villages. Sometimes a town will gather enough money to hire a vampire hunter. Vampires hunters are especially expensive, but if they succeed in their mission then the town might be free for a while. Not having to worry about the dead of the night coming for them.
It is plain to see that Kikuchi was influenced by the motif of the wild west. All the stories have a great western flair to them. Kikuchi does inject sci-fi elements into the story, keeping in line with the idea that ten millennium have passed. However, he keeps the wildly fantastic sci-fi mumbo-jumbo to an absolute minimum. I like this a lot. It keeps the stories uncluttered and focused.
I like what Kikuchi has done regarding the mythology of the vampires, or more accurately, what he hasn’t done to the mythology. Modern incarnations of vampires by Hollywood are secular. Blade, Underworld, and Twilight all remove the religious aspect of the vampire mythos. They also portray the vampires and sympathic character and heros. Blade and Underworld remove the holy water, crosses, and make vampirism a blood-born disease. Just an STD. Twilight takes it a step further and removes the vampires weakness to sunlight. These movies scientifically explain away everything and render their universes sterile and empty. Kikuchi takes the opposite approach, he keeps all the mythology. Vampirism is not a disease; it is a curse. It cannot be described by physical science. In Kikuchi’s universe, Vampires greatly fear the cross. They fear it so much that the vampires went to great lengths to wipe the cross from humanity’s mind. With their advanced knowledge of
genetics, vampires have bred out all memory of the Christianity and the cross. However, even after the technological advancements of ten millennium, the vampires cannot explain their deadly aversion to the cross, sunlight, silver, and all the other mythic weaknesses. The mythology and mystery of the vampire is very much alive in Kikuchi’s incarnation of the demons. It is an interesting and refreshing take from the all the secular cinema vampires.
The movies Vampire Hunter D (1985) and Bloodlust (2000) were entertaining and fun, but the books paint a rich and infinitely more intricate picture of Kikuchi’s undead infested world. The books are easy to read, numerous, quite fun, and now available in a Kindle format. I consider them fluff, but fluff that’s worth it. I highly recommend them. Don’t think of it as anime, manga, or anything foreign if you can’t appreciate that. Just think of it as a sci-fi, western, vampire hunting story. (If that helps.)
Wikipedia entry for Vampire Hunter D
Kindle edition of book one at Amazon.com