Vampire Hunter D
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Cover of the English edition of Vampire Hunter D Volume 1
|Published||1983 - present|
|Published in English||2005 - present|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
To date, twenty-six novels have been published in the main series, with some novels comprising as many as four volumes. The series has also spawned anime, audio drama, and manga adaptations, as well as a short story collection, art books, and a supplemental guide book.
D wanders through a far-future post-nuclear Earth that combines elements of pulp genres: western, science fiction, horror, high fantasy, H. P. Lovecraftian mythos, folklore and occult science. The planet, once terrified by the elegant but cruel Nobles (vampires), ancient demons, mutants and their technological creations, is now slowly returning to a semblance of order and human control — thanks in part to the decadence that brought about the downfall of the vampire race, to the continued stubbornness of frontier dwellers and, to the rise of a caste of independent hunters-for-hire who eliminate supernatural threats.
The year is approximately 12,090 AD. Some time in 1999, a nuclear war occurred. The Nobility were vampires that planned for a possible nuclear war and sequestered all that was needed to rebuild civilization in their shelters. They use their science combined with magic to restore the world in their image. Nearly all magical creatures are engineered, with a very small number being demons who survived the holocaust. Despite their technology being great enough to create a blood substitute as food, they still prefer to feed on humans. As such, they create a civilization where vampires and humans coexist, eventually developing the planet into parklands and cities. The society eventually stagnates when vampire technology perfects scientific prophecy, which determines they are at their zenith of existence and thus are doomed to fall, overthrown by humans. The human race was also transformed at this time, with fear for the vampires being woven into the genetic level, and the inability to remember vampire weaknesses such as garlic and crucifixes.
Unlike vampires from traditional lore, the Nobility have the ability to reproduce sexually, although their offspring will permanently cease aging after reaching physical maturity, having inherited their vampire parent's immortality.
D is a dhampir, the half-breed child of a vampire father and human mother, the ideal vampire hunter. He is renowned for his consummate skill and unearthly grace, but feared and despised for his mixed lineage: born of both races but belonging to neither. Often underestimated by his opponents, D possesses surprising power and resourcefulness, having most of the strengths of the Nobility and only mild levels of their common weaknesses. It has been seen in both movies that his power is not only physical, but extends into the magical realm as well. His supernatural powers make him one of the strongest beings in the world, if not the second strongest second only to his father. However, D prefers his physical abilities, only using his magic in times of great need. Unlike most dhampirs, D is able to live as a "normal" human; however, he is marked by his unearthly beauty and exceptionally powerful aura, and thus rarely accepted by human settlements. In terms of weaknesses, he is randomly susceptible to sun-sickness, a severe type of sunstroke, about once every five years (far less than most dhampirs). D also recovers from it at a rate far greater than other dhampirs. Usually it takes several days to recover from sunlight syndrome, longer if the dhampir is exceedingly powerful, but D recovered in a few hours (around 1–6 hours approximately) despite being one of the strongest if not the strongest dhampir alive. Otherwise, D does not appear to suffer from other vampiric weaknesses usual to dhampirs, being able to physically restrain opponents with his aura and having godlike reflexes surpassing even those of Nobles.
His symbiotic left hand states, in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, "Dracula became impatient with the Bloody Countess, and your father, The Vampire King, became impatient with her gluttony. And impaled her on 'The Sword'". Speculation on whether 'The Sword' is D's sword or not is debatable. It is important to note here, however, that the movie differs sharply from the book it takes its story from, Vampire Hunter D: Demon Deathchase and future entries in the novel series do not differentiate between Dracula, The Vampire King, and D's father, proposing that they are one and the same.
D is the host for a sentient symbiote, Left Hand, a wise-cracking human face residing in his left palm, who can suck in massive amounts of matter through a wind void or vacuum tunnel. Left Hand enjoys needling the poker-faced D, but only appears as needed, rarely witnessed or heard by anyone other than D, yet aware of many of D's thoughts and actions. At all other times, D's left hand appears normal. Besides providing a contrast to D's reserved demeanor, Left Hand is incredibly useful, possessing many mysterious powers such as psychometry, inducing sleep, determining the medical condition of a victim, and the ability to size up the supernatural powers or prowess of an enemy, even beyond D's keen senses. In the first and second novels, Left Hand can also revive D when his physical condition is suffering, by consuming the four elements and converting the resulting energy into life force. This ability even saved D from the usually fatal stake through the heart he received from Rei-Ginsei in the first novel. Left Hand has its own mind and will, and acts as D's guide and sole permanent companion, providing a reservoir of knowledge pertaining to the lost Noble culture. So far, Left Hand's origins are unknown, and it is unclear how they came to be joined. However, some of its nature is revealed in the third book, which features a similar creature; it is implied he was one of the Barbarois (human/monster hybrids) who served in the personal retinue of Dracula.
D rides a cybernetic horse with mechanical legs and other enhancements, wields a crescent longsword which looks similar to Yoshitaka Amano's scimitar sword design found in many of his works of art, but the sword has a hefty length, similar to that of a Japanese nodachi. D always wears a mystical blue pendant; it prevents many of the automatic defenses (such as laser fields and small nuclear blasters) created by the Nobility in past millennia from working properly, and allows him to enter their sealed castles. In the novels and game, he also uses wooden needles which he can throw with super speed. He protects his milk-white face from the noonday sun with long black hair, flowing black clothing and cape, and the shadow of a wide-brimmed hat. Though he appears to be only 17 or 18 in the first novel (slowly aging as the series goes on), D's age is unknown (although in the novel Pale Fallen Angel parts I and II, it is made known that he is at least 5,000 years old). His beauty is mesmerizing, often unintentionally wooing women and sometimes flustering men.
Very little is known of D's past and the identity of his parents is ambiguous, but his innate power suggests that his father is an extraordinarily powerful vampire. Regarding D's birth, some Nobles whisper dark rumours about their vampire progenitor, the Sacred Ancestor known as Count Dracula, bedding a human woman called "Mina the Fair" (perhaps named after Mina Harker). Dracula conducted bizarre crossbreeding experiments involving himself and countless human women or even other vampires, with the only successful product of the experiments being D. D, wanting nothing to do with his father save for killing him, refuses to go by his true name. Instead, he shortens it to the first letter. In Twin Shadowed Knight it is revealed that D has a twin who goes unnamed. The twin states that he and D were born from the same woman in exactly the same conditions.
Dracula's role in the novels is very mixed, appearing both as bane and savior to isolated towns, and deified as a legendary god-king to the vampires, many of whom have never even met him in person. D quotes Dracula's precepts ("Transient guests are we" — implied to refer to the Nobility) in the first novel. Dracula appears both as a lawgiver honored for his intelligence, who showed some interest in preserving humans, and as a ruthless scientist (in the second novel), conducting hybrid breeding experiments with humans in order to perpetuate his own dwindling species. D appears to have encountered his alleged father on at least one occasion, as when at times D reaches a place where the imprint of Dracula's power remains, D remembers Dracula telling him that "You are my only success." Like D, Dracula is portrayed as a mysterious and handsome young wanderer who deals out both life and death.
Beginning in 1983, Kikuchi has so far written twenty-six D novels. All of the official publications in the series were originally published by Asahi Sonorama, however the Sonorama branch went out of business in September 2007. The release of D - Throng of Heretics in October 2007 under the Asahi Bunko - Sonorama Selection label marked the transition to the new publisher, Asahi Shimbun Publishing, a division of Asahi Sonorama's parent company. From December 2007 through January 2008, Asahi Shimbun Publishing reprinted the complete Vampire Hunter catalogue under the Sonorama Selection label.
On May 11, 2005, the first official English translation was released under DH Press, translated by Kevin Leahy. As of December 2013, fifteen novels have been translated into and released in English, with volume twenty-one, Record of the Blood Battle, to be released in June 2014.
In January 2011, Hideyuki Kikuchi published the first spinoff set in the Vampire Hunter universe, a series of prequels titled Another Vampire Hunter: The Noble Greylancer (吸血鬼ハンター／アナザー 貴族グレイランサー Kyūketsuki Hantā/Anazā: Kizoku Gureiransā?), illustrated by Ayami Kojima, artist and character designer for the Castlevania series of video games. It takes place over 5,000 years before Vampire Hunter D and focuses on expanding the history of the Nobility, following the exploits of the vampire warrior Lord Greylancer.
Beginning in 2013, Viz Media's Haikasoru imprint released the first official English translation of the prequel series, retitled Noble V: Greylancer, translated by Takami Nieda with newly commissioned cover artwork by Vincent Chong.
1985 animated film
One of the first anime films released outside of Japan, Vampire Hunter D remains a cult classic among English-speaking audiences. Billed by the Japanese producers as a "dark future science-fiction romance" Vampire Hunter D is set in the year 12,090 A.D., in a post-nuclear holocaust world where vampires, mutants and demons "slither through a world of darkness" (in the words of the film's opening introduction).
The film features strong classical Western overtones and memorable voice-acting performances in both English and Japanese, most especially in regards to the title character, D. It was ground-breaking in that it effectively brought together elements of Gothic horror and dystopian post-apocalyptic science fiction in a Western framework that some have argued appears to be largely a homage to the film Shane.
1988-1990 audio dramas
Asashi Sonorama created audio drama adaptations of three of the novels, in five parts:
- Raiser of Gales "D" (January 1988) (the book it was based on was published May 1984)
- D - Demon Deathchase (June 1988)
- D - Mysterious Journey to the North Sea I: To the North Sea (March 1990)
- D - Mysterious Journey to the North Sea II: Summer at Last (May 1990)
- D - Mysterious Journey to the North Sea III: When Winter Comes Again (June 1990).
Most of the voice cast for the original OVA reprised their roles. Originally released on cassette tape, in 2005 they were re-released as a special edition, five-disc Vampire Hunter D - Audio Drama Box, including a small supplemental booklet with a new short story by Kikuchi and an "art cloth" with an illustration by Amano.
1999 video game
A video game based on Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust was also made for the PlayStation game console, titled Vampire Hunter D. It is a survival horror game, but also similar to a standard adventure title. The player can see D from different pre-rendered angles throughout the game, and allow D to attack enemies with his sword. D can also use magic, Left Hand's abilities, and items. The story of the game is similar to that of Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust, although it takes place entirely within the castle as D fights all the enemies. Only two of the Barbarois mutants appear as enemies. There are 3 endings, 1 of which is similar to the end of the anime.
2000 animated film
The second film, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust garnered respect for its advanced animation techniques, voice-acting originally recorded in English (English voice casting/direction by Jack Fletcher), and its sophisticated orchestral soundtrack composed, arranged and conducted by Marco D'Ambrosio. Its art style closely mirrored that of the illustrator and original character designer of the first movie, Yoshitaka Amano.
The storyline features a larger cast than the first film. The second Vampire Hunter D movie (VHD2000; Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust in the USA) is based on the third of Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D novels (Demon Deathchase in English). The movie is rated NC-16 in Singapore, M in Australia, 15 in the UK, R13 in New Zealand and R in the USA.
2007 manga adaptation
On November 2007, the first volume of Saiko Takaki comic book adaptation of Hideyuki Kikuchi's series was published simultaneously in the U.S., Japan and Europe. The project, overseen by Digital Manga Publishing and Hideyuki Kikuchi, aims to adapt the entire catalogue of Vampire Hunter D novels into manga form.
2008 American comics crossover
In July 2008, Josh Blaylock announced that Devils Due Publishing had acquired rights to publish an English-language Vampire Hunter D comic book mini-series titled Vampire Hunter D: American Wasteland. The project was confirmed to be cancelled at the 2009 Long Beach Comic Con. The story would follow the typical Vampire Hunter D setup and remain true to the mythos, but with a "noticeably North American feel." It was to be written by Jimmy Palmiotti and pencilled by Tim Seeley.
Live-action film and Animated series
- Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust on IMDb, The Internet Movie Database, September 26, 2008
- LBCC '09: Jimmy Palmiotti (Jonah Hex, Powergirl and More) ComicVine, October 6, 2009
- Mag Reports: New Vampire Hunter D Anime, Live-Action? Anime Vice, February 20, 2010
- Vampire Hunter D Official Website
- The Vampire Hunter D Archives
- Dark Horse
- Digital Manga Publishing
- Asashi Sonorama - Japanese publisher of the Vampire Hunter D series books and audio dramas.
- Hideyuki Kikuichi Official Fan Club (Japanese)