REVIEW: Vampire Hunter D – Demon Deathchase (1985)

A Book by Hideyuki Kikuchi, third in the series

It’s been a while since I last read through a Vampire Hunter D novel, and with FORTY on the market, I bet get to reading soon! Last year, I read a bunch of vampire books around Halloween, so I may try to do some more of that this year and this is the perfect start to my fall reading. Like most people in The West, I am coming at this book from the vantagepoint of somebody that previously watched the 2000 animated feature film Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, which was based on this very novel. For the most part, the stories are pretty similar, but unlike the first novel which served the basis for the 1985 original film, the two diverge from each other in quite surprising ways. This is honestly one of the few times where, upon reading the book, I feel that the movie was a lot better than the source material.

“The third volume of the popular Japanese series Vampire Hunter D comes to America in Vampire Hunter D: Demon Deathchase. The vampire hunter known only as D has been hired by a wealthy, dying man to find his daughter, who was kidnapped by the powerful vampire Lord Meierlink. Though humans speak well of Meierlink, the price on his head is too high for D to ignore and he sets out to save her before she can be turned into an undead creature of the night. In the nightmare world of 12090 A.D., finding Meierlink before he reaches the spaceport in the Clayborn States and gets off the planet will be hard enough, but D has more than just Meierlink to worry about. The dying man is taking no chances, and has also enlisted the Marcus family, a renegade clan of four brothers and a sister who don’t care who they kill as long as they get paid. Beautiful illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano complement the post-apocalyptic plot, filled with chilling twists.”

One of the more significant differences lies in the Marcus Brothers themselves, a group of rival vampire hunters that are after the same noble that D has been hired to kill. It seems it is commonplace in the future to hire large groups of hunters to go against nobles, since the survival rate against such a foe is pretty low, thus why the rival even exists. In Bloodlust, the group is never as antagonistic as they are in the book and are somewhat likeable. If they aren’t cracking jokes and otherwise serving as the comic relief, they have a somewhat playful rivalry with D, more helping each other than not. When members of this group start dying off, you genuinely feel bad.

In a direct contrast, the book version of these characters are reprehensible villains that have a reputation for basically trying to murder anyone they see as threats. One of the brothers, a sickly man named Grove, has the special ability to astral project a super-powered “soul” from his body that can lay waste to any foes that comes in his way, the cost of this is that Grove is seen teetering on the brink of death. It is implied that he is likely to die if they use his abilities too often. In the movie, the brothers invoke this state by pumping him full of drugs to induce a comatose state. In the book, however, they sexually assault their own sister, Leila, in front of him until he starts having seizures from the trauma. This was rough.

The Marcus Clan as depicted in a manga based on this

Speaking of that, one of the main things that I’m not super fond of in this series is the author’s use of rape and sexual battery as a way to motivate characters to act. The book overall has a sexist side that one could hand-wave a bit due to the age of the story, but this is the third book where just about every male antagonist has a goal of having their way with every woman they come across. Hopefully this changes as the series moves forward.

I enjoy Hideyuki Kikuchi’s writing style because it’s not completely like most modern fiction writers, and somewhat harkens back to the age of pulp writers such as Robert E. Howard (Conan). This book is interesting as the titular gothic pretty-boy vampire hunter, D, is more of a side character for a lot of the book, as we see him come in contact with other groups of characters such as The Marcus Clan and The Noble Meierlink and his associates including the human love of his life. In some ways this adds to the mystery of the character, but in others it makes the book feel somewhat odd in that The Marcus Family are not exactly the best characters to share a point of view with. Overall, this is definitely the most complex book so far, with the previous two being pretty similar, and does a LOT of world building for what life is like 10,000 years in the future.

Meierlink and the unnamed girl, Charlotte in the anime

Overall, this was a good book despite a few reservations I had. Had I not seen the film beforehand, I’m sure I would have liked it more, but there’s really no way to go back and change that fact. It’s different enough that a fan of one could experience the other without being completely bored, so that is good. All I now need to do is read the manga that was made from this book and play the PlayStation videogame, and I will have experienced all versions of this plot. If you like the Vampire Hunter D films, the books are definitely something to check out, and continue the story far more than most fans are aware. I’m excited to continue reading these and see where the story goes.

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