Vampire Hunter D: The Stuff of Dreams
I’m alternating grading blue books with reading. I’m up to volume 5 in the Vampire Hunter D series. The English translations all have postscripts by Kikuchi, some written especially for the translation. And what strikes me again and again is that D seems to be a Western character through and through. And by Western, I mean cowboy. In fact, it seems to me that there are numerous nods to classic Western films throughout. For example, at the first movie, as D rides off into the horizon, a little boy runs after him and calls after him. You can almost hear “Come back, Shane! Come back!” But Dan, the young boy racing after D doesn’t call for D to stay—he offers D his blessing instead.
I suppose this should come as no surprise. As my Dad always tells me, the code of the cowboy and the code of the samurai are the same. Watch The Magnificent Seven and The Seven Samurai if you don’t believe him.
In the postscript for volume 6 (I skipped ahead one because they shipped out 6 separately from 5 and 7 and I didn’t have the will to restrain myself), Kikuchi talks again about how his inspiration for D was Christopher Lee’s version of Dracula in Horror of Dracula. Kikuchi says he wanted D to have the cold, dark elegance of Lee in that movie. Kikuchi also says that apart from wanting D to be like Lee’s version of Dracula, he wanted D to be half-human, half-vampire in order to “intensify his tragic nature.” So here we see our Byronic Hero once again.
It’s Kikuchi’s own references to the Byronic or gothic hero that are really fascinating to me. Ignorant me, I had assumed there would be some sort of Japanese vampire tradition? Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897—not all that long ago. For some reason, I expected D’s mythos to go back further than that. Dracula is hardly the first vampire by any means. But his image is certainly enduring.
I have been SO intrigued by Kikuchi’s explicit references to the gothic in the postscript for volume 1 that I have been on a quest of late to track down Kikuchi himself and send him a letter. It’s taken a few days. I started with The Comics Journal, of course, emailed some manga experts cold at the University of Tokyo (both very graciously and promptly emailed me back), and finally found that the translator for the Vampire Hunter D series, Kevin Leahry, belonged to a Vampire Hunter D Yahoo group. I emailed him directly and he too surprised me with a quick response. To my delight, he said he’d pass on my questions to Kikuchi. Now I’m just waiting, waiting, waiting. And grading those blue books. You’re doing great, by the way, Dane.