Now we’re getting somewhere. Tale of the Dead Town, fourth in the Vampire Hunter D novel series, is a big step up (and forward) from the going-through-the-motions of the previous book, Demon Deathchase. This time around, Kikuchi mixes things up in some new and enjoyable ways: he gives us a nifty new corner of D’s world to explore, he pairs him up with both rivals and potential allies who are also that much more interesting, and gets most everything else right. Kikuchi even gives us a glimpse of what makes D tick as a person, something we se so little of throughout the series that any bit of that we end up with is welcome.
Rather than set the action somewhere in the frontier that spans most of the ruined, danger-ridden world of the D novels, Dead Town takes us into the City — a floating arcology a couple of miles across, carrying a population that lives free of the fear that plagues most of the frontier settlements. D comes across this oddity while in the company of two other people: Lori, a young woman who has fallen victim to a case of radiation poisoning, and Lori’s erstwhile savior, a character with the most wonderfully outlandish name I’ve seen used with a straight face in fiction yet: “John M. Brasselli Pluto VII.”Read more
I can think of two things that most immediately piqued my interest in Japan: their movies and their popular fiction. My first “Akira” was Kurosawa, not the Akira of Neo-Tokyo, so when I finally did come to anime and manga — the most common forms of Japanese popular culture that non-Japanese encounter — I’d already had some education into what fascinated the Japanese natively. It’s been said many times before that most of their own popular culture wasn’t intended to be appreciated by any other audience, which makes it all the more surprising for them when it does happen.
And happen it has, in little ways as well as big. It’s not just the fact that anime is a big sell for TV networks now, but publishing companies like Vertical have brought popular authors like Kōji Suzuki (of Ring infamy) and Randy Taguchi into the English language with good results. But there still remain broad swathes of the Japanese popular-culture landscape largely unexplored by the non-Japanese. Among them are bestselling works derived from Japan’s own turbulent past, of which I can think of only one offhand that has achieved anything like commercial success here: Eiji Yoshikawa’s Musashi, a novelization (shilling for romanticizing) of the life of the legendary swordsman. Some are only known to culture buffs, like Futaro Yamada — the man essentially responsible for the modern-day ninja mythology as we know it — and some are only known to scholars, like Bakin Takizawa’s retellings of Chinese epics. Few, if any, are in English. Read more