It was hard to read Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D: Dark Road Part 1 and 2 without scrambled images from the hero’s 1980s anime popping up in my head. Doris with the giant saucer-shaped, anime-eyes and ample cleavage, hunting dinosaurs at midnight in a little skirt and a laser rifle. Speaking quickly when she encounters D to relay her story without taxing the dub constraints of her animated mouth. The Vampire Hunter D anime was a first for me. Up until then, my anime understanding was Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, and Captain Harlock (in Spanish on Channel 47 UHF, New York City).
Vampire Hunter D introduced me to the term, “dhampir,” a half-human, half-vampire child. It overtly drew inspiration from European myths and folklore (Fullmetal Alchemist wouldn’t air until almost two decades later). It set classic monster movie villains (vampires and werewolves) in post Apocalyptic sci-fi universe. According to Wikipedia, the movie is set in the year 12,090 AD but instead of flying cars, people travel in covered wagons drawn by robot horses. The people in D’s world also live in crude houses with stone walls and thatched roofs. Dark Road’s main antagonist, General Gaskell lives in a 15th century castle. To its credit, the book addresses the Nobility’s obsession with 15th-century styles and customs. However, it never fully answers the question. As the name implies, the Nobility are the highest order of vampire. They are the oldest, the most savage, and the hardest to kill.
In addition to the Nobility’s obsession with 15th century design, the book also never satisfactorily explains Lady Ann’s obsession for D. Instead it seems to excuse the behavior by commenting on Lady Ann’s apparent age. Though she is a millennia-old vampire and part of the Nobility, she looks and behaves like a tween (imagine an age-appropriate Claudia from Ann Rice’s Interview with a Vampire). In one scene, Lady Ann bursts out a window, carrying an unconscious D. All I could picture was a tween-age Kirsten Dunst in her Interview with a Vampire costume, leaping out a window with a young 80s Ric Ocasek slung over her shoulder.
Vampires are said to possess a glamour, the ability to “charm.” Wikipedia credits the show True Blood with this definition but I would swear the same power was described in Bram Stoker’s original Dracula. If it is a vampiric power, then D is dripping with it. And for D it works equally as well on vampires. He “charms” Lady Ann to go against her father, the Duke, another member of the Nobility. Lady Ann is sent to attack the party D is traveling with. However, when she sees him she forgets her mission. Throughout the pages of Dark Road, Kikuchi is quick to remind us that D is gorgeous – so much so that his hero dhampir might have been called “Gorgeous D” instead of “Vampire Hunter D.”
I admit that I am not being fair to Dark Road. Though the book could stand on its own (meaning you would not have to read the preceding books to understand the events in the current book), its similarity to the anime are overly distracting. In the anime there was a larger-than-life-seemingly-unbeatable villain and a damsel in distress whose importance to the villain and D seems to be nothing more than a whim. At the end of Dark Road Part 1 and 2, it is the General admits that he is unsure why Rosaria (this book’s Doris) is important to him.
Digging around the internet, I found that Dark Road is book 14 out of a current 23 Vampire Hunter D books. I also found out the anime was based on the first book. The story concludes in Book 15, Dark Road Part 3. It may be made clear why the General values Rosaria in the final book but I already know D is gorgeous so how much more do I need to learn?