A Love Letter of Gothic Horror & Science Fiction
One of the most popular and iconic horror stories of the 1980s is Vampire Hunter D. There have been 40 novels released and it’s still ongoing with many different stories and arcs telling the adventures of D, a vampire hunter who scours the land for monsters to kill and people to help.
Many modern works of gothic fiction and anime in the horror genre owe many of their tropes and styles to the success of Vampire Hunter D and its adaptations. Even western films and comics are inspired by the success of these works.
Story Development & History
Hideyuki Kikuchi began writing Vampire Hunter D in January 1983, citing his inspiration for his work on gothic horror films like House of Dracula in 1953. Vampire Hunter D was published on Asahi Sonorama until 2007 when the novels’ publication rights transitioned to Asahi Shimbun. Under the new publisher many of the older novels got reprinted.
Starting on May 11, 2005, Kevin Leahy translated the novels for DH Press. By 2020, 24 out of the original 40 novels have been translated and released in english with Dark Horse comics releasing omnibus collections of the series. Vampire Hunter D has received acclaim with compelling stories and arcs throughout its ongoing run.
Plot & Premise
The main storyline of Vampire Hunter D follows Earth 10,000 years into the future when Vampires known as Nobles rule over a ruined dystopia. Warriors that are experts at hunting monsters known as bounty hunters started to hunt for nobles across the world. The basic storytelling of Vampire Hunter D is similar in tone to Spaghetti westerns and Japanese wandering ronin stories.
The main wandering warrior is D, a dhampir with special skills to kill monsters, mutants, and fierce vampires. The premise of the main story follows the adventures of D as he travels across the world and gets caught up with the local threat whether it’s a local vampire infestation or one of the nobles revealing themselves.
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Art Style and Characters
The illustrations for the novelizations are done beautifully by Yoshitaka Amano, who is well known for his commissioned illustrations in Final Fantasy and Speed Racer. Amano’s style has a lot of dynamic posing and striking visuals. Vampire Hunter D did an impressive job combining the medieval aesthetic with futuristic cyberpunk.
Along his journey, D meets other bounty hunters and eccentric characters connected to his mission. Many of the characters are diverse in persona and aren’t just distressed damsels or elite warriors given the worf effect. D also has an augmented left hand that’s a snarky homunculus helping D in battle by eating matter.
Adaptations of Vampire Hunter D
Vampire Hunter D has had multiple adaptations and releases including a manga that emulates Amao’s artstyle. The first original video animation premiered in 1985 and was dubbed in 1992. It was an adaptation of the first novel of the series showcasing D’s introduction and the characters he came across.
After the initial success on TV it got an animated sequel called Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, which will have a video game based on it that plays similarly to Resident Evil. Recently an CGI animated series called Vampire Hunter D: Resurrection produced by Digital Frontier is planned to be released in the future.
Vampire Hunter D has left a massive impression since its publication and multiple adaptations. From Amano’s beautiful illustrations to the gothic storytelling and set pieces in the OVAs, the series got a loyal following and is one of the best selling books in history. Definitely a must read for novel readers and a must watch.
Many works within gothic horror and ideas were inspired by or expanded on the ideas introduced in Vampire Hunter D, from making a dhampir protagonist to the attire of a monster hunter like Van Helsing in 2004. Even combining medieval fantasy with cyberpunk elements and technology started here. Its inspirations and marketing also led to the gradual popularity of anime and animesque styles to western audiences.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000) Official Trailer
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