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The seventh volume in Saiko Takaki’s of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D is the first two parter of the series! D finds himself pulled into a situation involving a mysterious pearl and a fishing village near a former Nobility (ie. vampires) vacation spot. To complicate matters, the pearl has attracted the attention of a mysterious artist, a vampire hunter in training, and a gangster as well! What is the mystery of the pearl and will D be able to defend it and the woman who possesses it against this myriad of foes?
The story is one I’m not familiar with, so I can’t really view this an adaption and comment on how good or bad of a job it does at retelling the original novel’s story, but I can definitely comment on how enjoyable or not enjoyable a read it was and how competently done it was. Sadly, I must admit that I found it to be a little lacking in several areas. For one thing I found some of the scene to scene transitions to be a little awkward and difficult to follow, I also found myself scratching my head over the flow of time in one or two instances as well. Beyond that the story seems like your typical Vampire Hunter D tale with one big exception. Usually D befriends one or two people in the town he wanders into, or who he randomly encounters in his wanderings, and usually they offer to stay with him or offer him the opportunity to stay and make a life with them and typically he has no interest. That’s not the case here. There seems to be an unspoken desire within D to actually settle down in this fishing village, something that had previously been utterly unthinkable. There hasn’t really been any explanation given, and he hasn’t vocally expressed interest, but long time readers and fans will notice that he reacts to the offers in a very different way, and that it’s portrayed differently in its visuals. At this point one can only speculate, but I think it’s telling that the villagers haven’t completely rejected him or reacted to him with fear and paranoia as they have in almost all past Vampire Hunter D novels. It’s an interesting change in his character and one I hope gets explored a bit more in the second half of the story.
Visually this is a rather lovely book. Saiko Takaki’s art has come a long way from the first volume, the action scenes are a bit clearer, and the expressiveness of D’s eyes are absolutely lovely. I do have some minor issues with her noses, which often times appear as tiny triangles, something that clashes with her otherwise detail heavy and lush artwork. I can’t imagine how long she must spend on a single volume, D’s hair alone must take hours of work. She also manages to imbue quite a lot of emotion into the eyes of the characters. D’s haunted and lonely gaze is beautiful, and she’s able to tweak it just enough to give his one, brief, rare smile in this volume a fair amount of impact without making his emotional change too blatant or obvious. Saiko Takai also gives us one of the best interpretations of D and his costume that I’ve seen, she does a fantastic job at depicting the beauty and complexity of Amano’s original design in action. Still, it’s not all perfect. The aforementioned transitions can be a bit jarring and confusing visually, and there’s even a few panel to panel moments that left me a little unsure of just what happened. The fight scenes also look a tad messy in places, especially in one scene where one of the weapons appears to be some sort of strings or wires. It just blends in and gets lost amongst the various speed lines and trailing locks of hair.
Vampire Hunter D, Vol. 7 felt like a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot going and I can’t help but feel that Saiko Takaki might have encountered some difficultly in making the larger than normal cast and their varying motivations clear and coherent in the adaption process. The highlight of the book is D’s aforementioned apparent uncertainty regarding his future is intriguing and a lovely plot twist and I’m curious to see how it plays out in the next volume. Admittedly, given that there’s something like 10 more Vampire Hunter D novels out, I think his ultimate decision is obvious, but how he reaches it and why will hopefully be interesting!
Vampire Hunter D, Vol. 7 is available now. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.
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