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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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12/09/2007 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Vampire Hunter D, Vol. 1"

Vampire Hunter D, Vol. 1
By Hideyuki Kikuchi
Adapted and Illustrated by Saiko Takaki
Digital Manga Publishing

Review by Tom Good

In the year 12,090 A.D., many people ride horses and dress like cowboys. But some high technology still exists, leading to great lines like "Directions are being transmitted to your horse's navigational system." Vampires also roam the land, carrying out a wide range of humanitarian aid projects . . . well not really, this is a typical vampire story so you can imagine the plot. The odd details keep it from being too predictable, and the hero's goth / cowboy / Road-Warrior style makes a good hook.

The writing seems unpolished at times. For example, early on when the hero D meets Doris Lang, we learn that he is a "dhampir," but the word is not defined. Later, other characters react with shock when they hear about the dhampir, but the reader is still in the dark. Finally, a vampire tells D, "That's quite a boast for a traitorous dhampir. The bastard spawn of the union between our kind and a lowly human." This informs the reader, but the conversation makes no sense. A vampire has to explain to a dhampir what "dhampir" means? Are we supposed to believe that everyone knows what it means except D himself?

Doris fights using a whip, and one of her battle tactics is to strip naked to distract her male opponent. But this only makes sense if she can remove all her clothes so quickly that her adversary cannot attack her while she is doing it. Wow, Doris must be the fastest stripper in Ransylva! (Another cool detail is that the village is called "Ransylva" -- the middle part of the word "Transylvania.") Perhaps the "vwoom" sound effect when she disrobes represents her superhuman speed. She is like The Flash, but only when flashing.

The art feels more like a collage of different elements than an attempt to portray a consistent three-dimensional world, but this is not necessarily a problem, just a stylistic choice. Any given page usually has as many points of view as there are panels. This, combined with the frequent use of straight and spiraling "speed lines," gives a sense of constant motion.

The abstract collage effect shows up in a panel where an old man looks out a window. But there are no walls, no floor, in fact there is no room at all -- just an open window and windowsill hovering in space in front of him. A series of vertical lines forms an abstract background for the scene, yet these lines also seem to be reflected at an angle in the window glass as if they are real. This may not be completely logical, but it does create an eerie mood.

Doris Lang and D have very similar looking faces, which seems like an odd choice. They both have pointed noses and chins, earrings, long black hair, and feminine features. Because of this, when they are shown close up face to face, it almost looks like D is looking into a mirror. Of course, from a distance there is no confusion, because D has a giant hat, whereas Doris has what Lene Taylor calls "giant inflatable tits" -- an affliction at least as common as vampirism in this story.

The best part of Vampire Hunter D is D's left hand. It has a mind of its own, it has a face, it can talk, and when severed from D's body it can crawl around on its own. This is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen in a horror comic, and it is very well done. In some scenes where D appears to be talking to himself, he is really having a conversation with his hand.

Though it is easy to mock aspects of Vampire Hunter D, that doesn't keep it from being a fun read. In some ways it made it even more fun, because I could imagine the MST3K version as I went along.

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