The Stuff of Dreams is yet another bit of the map in the atlas of the Vampire Hunter D universe, one where we see the first real test of the strength of D’s spirit instead of just his sword. The book gives us a new facet of the D mythology and explore it through a character we’ve come to know well — even if the sum total of D’s reactions to things is still stolid indifference. He’s more a mirror of his surroundings than an active hero, anyway, a catalyst for things to go wrong. He disturbs the equilibrium of evil more than he righteously seeks out the good. And while I’d rather see a character who’s more proactive than that, Hideyuki Kikuchi wraps enough goings-on around him to make him interesting by proxy. Read more
The most frustrating thing about The Legend of Kamui is how we know there is so much more, but you won’t find it here. Sanpei Shirato’s Kamui ran in Japan for dozens of volumes, but all we can see of it here in English is the first two volumes from its sequel series, as translated and presented by Viz, back when their manga business was entirely trade paperback volumes that cost $15 or more a pop. Now, like most everyone else in the industry, they have dropped back to grocery-sized paperback volumes that run about $8 each — a move I consider one of the key factors for the manga explosion in the United States, aside from a number of other clever marketing and promotional gimmicks. Kamui¸ however, has not been reissued, probably due to Viz no longer having a license on the title, and so these first two books are all we are likely to ever get. And as far as I know, no one has ever bothered to license the original, although if Dark Horse’s work with Path of the Assassin and Samurai Executioner and Lone Wolf and Cub are any hint, it might only be a matter of time.
It’s terribly frustrating, because what I’ve seen of Kamui both in and out of English has convinced me that it’s one of the finest manga of its kind — a ninja fantasy that draws its plot and themes from human behavior and need rather than politics or historical details. Shirato was responsible for a whole slew of historical samurai and ninja titles, but of them Kamui probably remains the most direct and compelling. It deals with a few single, strongly identifiable and empathic characters instead of a galaxy of interrelated power-strugglers, and its themes — the place of an individual in society, the justifications for having a society of any kind at all — are as universal as you’re likely to get. Read more