Vampire Hunter D has primarily been introduced to Western audiences thanks to the two anime films, Vampire Hunter D and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. These films are based on a widely popular franchise of Japanese novels by the same name. The series of books are set in the year 12 090 AD and follow the exploits of D, a dhampir (half-human half-vampire), who hunts the Nobility (vampires) across the Frontier in a post-apocalyptic world.
Tale of the Dead Town has out titular character helping the brash John M. Brassalli Pluto VIII as they rescue a young girl from a caravan under attack. Afterwards, they’re taken onboard a floating town. The mayor has sent for D to eradicate the vampire who has bitten his daughter. D discovers she’s yet to be turned, which means there’s still time to save her. From there D and Pluto VIII have a few run-ins with the local law, another city, and, of course, vampires. The ending accumulates to show how things aren’t always as they appear to be, the world isn’t perfect and neither are people.
The book is both well-written and easy to follow. A particular note of praise must go to the way all of the characters are portrayed. Hideyuki Kikuchi has done a stellar job of giving each character their own personality. Some of these people you’ll realise aren’t on D’s side, with others being able to hide their motives until the story calls for it.
While Kikuchi gives description the floating town as a backdrop, a lot of it is left to the imagination. For the longest time, I thought of it as more of a quaint hamlet. I was later shown a drawing within the book (illustrated by Final Fantasy artist Yoshitaka Amano), which portrayed the town as a more gothic / Victorian set of structures.
My only gripe with the novel is the action. Not all of the scenes are easy to follow and some details you may only realise a few paragraphs later. It’s a small complaint, but one that does impact on a book containing a lot of fights.
A nice addition to the series is a postscript from the author, detailing how, as a child, he first got into horror and science fiction. It’s a treat to say the least.
I highly recommend Vampire Hunter D: Tale of the Dead Town to any fan of science fiction and horror.