Diamond Previews has an interview with Vampire Hunter D creator Hideyuki Kikuchi! Since it was only printed in the Previews catalog-we have the entire interview for you here! With questions asked by Diamond Previews Staff! Read on!
1) You’ve been hailed as a powerful force in horror fiction writing within your native Japan, on par with Stephen King here in North America. Your stories are seeing wider translation than ever before and the list of your successful series is staggering: Vampire Hunter D, Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku, Wind Called Amnesia, Treasure Hunter, Taimashin, Yashakiden—and many of these have 10 or more books! At what point in your life did you start writing stories, and when did you think to yourself, “This is it. I am a professional writer”–how did you know you’d made it?
I first began writing stories and novels around the time I was 10 years old. The title of my oldest “novel” was “The Colt Pistol of Good and Evil” – yes, it was a western! After that, I tried writing a number of short novels, but I never thought that I would become a novelist. I wanted to be a manga artist more than a novelist. It was to the point that the local stationery store was telling customers, “We don’t have any drawing paper because the Kikuchi’s boy bought all the manga supplies.” That’s how badly I wanted to draw manga! However, I was simply following the lead of established creators, couldn’t think of stories, and had no originality in my work, so in the end that didn’t work out. My drawings weren’t all that good either. As one famous manga artist put it, “[You must draw so that] even if you can’t see the back of a character, you can glean what’s going on there by looking at them from the front.” I couldn’t do that, so there was no way I could be a pro.
I think I became a “professional” writer when my first work “Demon City Shinjuku” went on sale. Ususally, writers [in Japan] get to write longer pieces after they push out short stories or magazine pieces, but I was able to make my debut with a long novel (which was more than 400 pages and had an even longer unedited version)! Not to mention that after that, I got to do 10 more books that were just as long. This meant that people were taking an interest in my work, which was a huge help with my personal finances!
2) The one title everybody knows: Vampire Hunter D. You’ve written over 20 novels with the famous half-vampire, half-human vampire slayer released in Japan, with over 10 volumes translated into English and growing. You’ve spent your career with this character! Have you enjoyed having D as your coworker these past two decades? There’s no denying that you know him best, so for readers who may not have met him yet, who would you say D is at his core that makes him your dhampir? What about him surprised you as you got to know him over the years?
“D” has come to be a sort of “model character” in my work. Because of that, he’s quite different from how I see myself, which means that I tend to “forget” his character when I’m not focused on writing him into a story. As for what I’ve enjoyed about the D character… well, because of D, I’ve earned an audience all over the world! (laughs) Oh, and thanks to him, I’ve been able to earn a larger audience of female fans. (laugh)
3) D makes such an exciting ‘lone wolf’ character, and he lives in a very unusual world—an extremely unusual world for a vampire-story. I would love to hear how you arrived at your mix of genres. What inspired you to mix the Old West with Science Fiction, Magic, and Vampires?
The world D inhabits is the byproduct of movies, I think. I like a mix of western movies, horror movies, and science fiction movies. I am a visual thinker, so when I penned the first Vampire Hunter D book, I found myself bringing imagery that was influenced by those films into the story.
4) The first Vampire Hunter D movie came out 1985 and was one of the first Japanese animated films to see release outside of Japan and include an English soundtrack. It was the introduction for many English-speaking fans (myself included) to an entirely new concept: intelligent and thrilling feature-length cartoons not intended for children. But that was hardly the only time we’ve seen your vampire hunter! What other mediums have you written for and how different is it to write for film or manga than it is for a novel?
My work has been adapted for the manga format many times. I think the big difference between manga and novels lies in their perceptions of reality. In manga, you have dynamic art to help the story along, which means that you don’t need to explain the environment or situation around the characters as much – unlike novels, where you can’t show the reader those things visually. If you have a human character that can breathe fire, how you expose that ability to the reader differs if you have to write it out, and if you can’t do that, moving the story along becomes difficult. Where the logic behind such a development comes in should mesh well with the larger storyline. At any rate, if the original author has experience working with manga, that always helps. You aren’t guaranteed to be a big hit if you’re an author that has their work adapted into a manga.
5) Please tell me about this newest incarnation of Vampire Hunter D, the manga adaptation from Digital Manga Publishing. How did you find your artist, Takaki-san, and how closely were you involved with the adaptation?
About 5 times a year, I hold a talk show in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Takaaki-san was a regular there, and one time she gave me her business card. I noticed that she produced a variety of very different D illustrations, and her use of blues in her work appealed to me instantly.
When talk began of turning “D” into a manga, I wanted to get a fresh perspective on D’s character rather than bring in an established “pro” type – and that’s why I picked Takaaki-san. She had never worked on a manga before. The bottom line is that manga is drawn as the manga artist envisions it – whether you create a work for the purpose of adaptation or not, that doesn’t change.
6) When is the next volume scheduled to come out and how many should we look for from Digital Manga Publishing?
Double check with Digital Manga. (laughs)
7) You love your vampires—there’s no mistaking that—but you love a gritty cityscapes too. You now have at least two series set in ‘Demon City Shinjuku,’ a district of Tokyo which has been wrecked by supernatural disasters. In your most recent novel set there, you’ve managed to combine exotic vampires and your famous haunted urban sprawl. Would you please tell us about your new vampires and what Shinjuku is like to bring them crawling in?
The “Shinjuku” in my work is a unique place – it’s based on the actual Shinjuku, and it’s where demons and people with superpowers dwell and never have to worry about being forced out. The people that live there live in the shadow of these beings, but never band together to force them out. As a result, it’s a place where anything can live. Think of it as a utopia for the kind of story I’ve always wanted to write. You can find both old and “new model” vampires here, and as they battle amongst each other, everyday life continues for the other inhabitants of Shinjuku.
8) Vampires are currently very fashionable in the US, but you have more that just vampires in your gallery—I’m very excited about Taimashin the Rest Spider Exorcist. Your handsome spider shaman and his partner who uses candle magic are instantly intriguing. What mythologies did you draw on to define the mysticism in Taimashin?
Nothing in particular actually!
9) Your stories have been a major inspiration to many writers, artists and fans, but inspiration goes both ways. I’ve heard it said that you’re a major movie buff! What are your favorite films and which have most inspired your works?
“Forbidden Planet”（56）、”King Kong”（33）、”Curse of Frankenstein”（57）、”Dracula”（30）、”Frankenstein” (31)、”The Mummy” (60)、”Black Sunday”(59)、”My Darling Clementine” (46)、”Shane” (53)、etc ,etc……..My favorite film of all time would be “Horror Of Dracula” (58). I think it was because of this film that I became an author!
10) Do you have any books that you’re reading right now that you would recommend to an English-speaking audience? When you want to read horror, what do you pick up?
I don’t think there’s anything that I can recommend specifically. For horror, the works of Lovecraft or anthologies of foreign or Japanese authors are worth a look. Lately, I read “Carmilla” by Le Fanu, which I’m currently penning an adaptation of. I’m also working on an adaptation of Stoker’s “Dracula” for younger audiences.
11) In closing, is there anything in particular you would like to tell your audience across the Pacific? We’re hearing whispers of a new project in the works for your vampire hunter. Is there any truth to the rumors of a new anime series for D?
I would like to convey my appreciation to everyone who takes the time to read my work! As for the “D” anime, things are currently in the contract negotiation stage, but I think things will pick up soon. It looks like it will be a 2D* (*We think he means 3D here-translator) project, like the recently released Astroboy remake.
Hideyuki Kikuchi, 5/30/10
Click here to find a comic shop near you to get your copy of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D series: http://www.comicshoplocator.com/