In the year 2000, the incredibly talented animation team Production I.G released a 48-minute film that rocked the socks off everyone from James Cameron on down: Blood: The Last Vampire. The story was simple enough: Saya, a vampire hunter who only looks like a teenage girl, goes undercover at an air force base in Japan to destroy demons lurking there and finds a great deal more than she bargained for. It looks and sounds terrific, has become a perennial best seller on home video, and a live-action version directed by Hong Kong veteran Ronny Yu is imminent.
And now we have a novel — Blood: The Last Vampire: Night of the Beasts, a sequel of sorts to the events in the film, as penned by none other than Mamoru Oshii. He is the man who directed the original movie iteration of Ghost in the Shell (and its sometimes difficult-to-follow sequel, Innocence), the dazzling Avalon, the mournful Angel’s Egg, and a number of striking live-action movies as well. His film credits are beyond reproach, and I admire his work even when some feel it borders on tedium — but I sincerely hope this book was ghostwritten, because it does more than border on tedium. It’s tedium incarnate.Read more
There are months that go by when I don't read a single novel or work of fiction in any form, if only because I find my attention captured by a nonfiction book that makes all the fiction I could have picked up during that time look like ... well, fiction. That was the case back in April of 2005, when I spent most of the month reading and re-reading Richard Rhodes's Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist. This was, and is, one of those rare books that provides you with a perspective-shattering point of view on a previously well-worn subject: Why are some people violent and remorseless monsters and not others?
Rhodes approaches his subject by examining the life and work of Lonnie Athens, a criminologist / sociologist who managed to survive an unbelievably violent childhood and adolescence that should have left him dead five times over. Out of that experience he was compelled to ask hard, direct questions about why people did violence to one another. What was the real reason? Not the theory, but the practice — because if there was anything wrong with the sociological or psychological theories about the motives for violence, it was simply that they didn't explain anything. They were post facto explanations that revolved around existing formulas, and they seemed to have little or no predictive value.Read more
Whenever I review anything that has a legacy behind it, I try to put the legacy aside and look at the thing in itself. It’s only fair, after all — there are many people reading this who have never heard of Vampire Hunter D, who know nothing of the massive fanbase it has on all sides of the Pacific, and wouldn’t know Yoshitaka Amano or Hideyuki Kikuchi from anyone they’d brushed shoulders with on the subway. For their sake, and for my own, I approached D as a friendly stranger, someone unfamiliar with the territory but curious enough to learn it. I hope I don’t sound ungrateful when I say the first of Kikuchi’s D books left me wondering, to a degree, what all the screaming has been about.
D’s escapades have filled over a dozen full-length novels, with more on the way, and have been adapted into two feature-length animated movies. The books themselves have only now begun to be published in English, as part of the growing interest in Japanese cultural products in general in this country: first live-action films, then anime, then manga, and now finally popular fiction. Kōji Suzuki’s bestselling Ring[u] novels were among the first in that category, and now the D books are following suit. That’s, in a way, what makes the books culturally important: the fact that they’re being published here ought to kick open the doors for better things in the future.Read more