Welcome to Vampire Valentines!
This blog series in honor of Valentine’s Day is where I fangirl throughout the month of February about some of my favorite takes in multimedia on vampires, dhampirs, and their blood-sucking ilk.
I don’t remember exactly when I discovered the world of Vampire Hunter D, or in what order. I suspect that I found the light novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi (illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano) first in the now-extinct shelves of Waldenbooks in my early twenties. It was probably during a relatively brief period where I was newly employed and living on my own. At the time, I was deeply invested in anime, manga, and their accompanying conventions, and had enough cash to burn on acquiring whatever fed my obsession. So I am pretty sure that I started reading the light novels first, then ordered copies of the two movies.
The world that D lives in is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic one many centuries into the future. The land is ravaged by the effects of long-ago wars. Radiation, rogue technology, and biological experiments have created many monsters that roam the landscape. Humans are mostly scattered into small towns and villages that struggle to survive in this hellscape. There are also vampire lords, called “Nobles” or “the Nobility,” who rule control various territories throughout the world and command technologies so advanced that it’s nearly magic. While the vampires long ago created an artificial supplement for blood, many still prey on humans.
Enter the Hunters. There are many different kinds of Hunters, either individuals or small groups who hire themselves out to track down and destroy various monsters. The most elite of these are the Vampire Hunters… which brings us to the title character, D.
Contrary to the title of this entry, Vampire Hunter D is not a vampire. He is what is called a “dhampir” (“dunpeal” in Bloodlust‘s English dub), a being who is half vampire and half human. In D’s case, his mother was human and his father was a very powerful vampire. Although D’s father’s name is never actually mentioned in any of the media, with a little deduction, the identity of D’s father is pretty obvious. Due to his heritage (and a stubborn streak a mile wide), D is far stronger and more powerful than other dhampirs and even many vampires. He’s described as intensely beautiful, but also giving off a frightening aura, is a consummate swordsman, is able to keep his vampiric desire for blood under strict control, does not suffer the same weakness from sunlight that other dhampirs or vampires do, and is apparently indestructible, although he can be injured. “Exceptional” would be his middle name if he had one (which, to be honest, can get a little tiresome about 12 books into the series.) He doesn’t talk very much and since the novels are written in third person, we don’t get much insight into his inner thoughts. The biggest window we have is through Left-Hand, a helpful if cantankerous symbiote who can form a face in D’s left hand and does all kinds of useful things. Although D is often very distant from people, he does show a great deal of compassion through his silent actions rather than through words in the tradition of a ronin samurai or Western gunslinger, the “stranger with no name.”
Most of my fascination with D comes from trying to uncover bits and pieces about his past, his feelings, and motivations, which are sprinkled in tiny fragments throughout the books. I haven’t read the entire series (there are currently 31 stories spanning 44 books, 21 of which have been translated into English), so I don’t know how much is revealed. The novels are, for the most part, more interested in seeing what kinds of scrapes D gets into as he travels the world hunting and destroying vampires and their minions who terrorize humanity. There’s also a manga series that adapted the first 8 books, if manga is more your thing.
The movies only adapted the first and third books and don’t provide much more insight into D’s character, but are still visually stunning examples of animation representative of their time periods. If you don’t feel like reading 24+ books, then I recommend watching Vampire Hunter D and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust if you’d like to get a feel for the series and the character. (But please watch the 1985 film with the Japanese dub/English sub, which is much more accurate to the story and contains far less annoying voices. The English dub butchered the translation and the majority of the voice actors were just… not good for the parts.) However, the soundtracks for both films are simply amazing, so give those a listen!
So if tall, dark, and stoic silence while swinging a sword in the middle of a nuclear wasteland is your thing, then I recommend checking out one (or all) of the many incarnations and adaptations of Vampire Hunter D.
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Vampire Hunter D
Written by Hideyuki Kikuchi
Illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano
Published 1983-present (Japanese – 44 books)
Published 2005-present (English – 24 books)
For ages 16+
Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D
Written by Hideyuki Kikuchi
Illustrated by Saiko Takaki
Released: 2007-2014 (8 volumes)
Vampire Hunter D
Released: 1999 (Japan), 2000 (North America)