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NYAF2008: Hideyuki Kikuchi and Yoshitaka Amano Talk "Vampire Hunter D"

(l to r) Hideyuki Kikuchi and Yoshitaka AmanoIn 1983, the first Vampire Hunter D novel debuted in Japan. Soon afterwards, it was adapted for anime, soon becoming one of the first exports to the United States. Its following has never abated, with new novels still coming out and the anime gaining new fans all the time. The 2008 New York Anime Festival hosted author Hideyuki Kikuchi and artist Yoshitaka Amano (at left and right in the photo to the right) in a rare joint appearance. They were joined at their panel by Kevin Leahy, their American translator who also served as a translator for the panel itself, and moderator Eddie Stemkowski, who pointed out that Kikuchi was spending his birthday at the Anime Festival.

Stemkowski’s first question was whether Kikuchi and Amano had any interesting experiences they could share over the 20 year history of the Vampire Hunter D series. Kikuchi said that they don’t meet all that often, so they haven’t had many strange experiences together. He did say that the pictures that Amano drew of D weren’t exactly what he had in mind, but his editor said that it was the kind of illustration that sold books. Amano added that he hated to contradict Kikuchi, but that he has always drawn D exactly as he should appear in the book, which drew a laugh from the audience.

Eddie Stemkowski and Kevin LeahyStemkowski asked Leahy (left to right in photo at left) what the main challenge was in translating Vampire Hunter D into English. Leahy said that while the post-apocalyptic setting meant he didn’t have to explain aspects of Japanese life to foreign audiences, he did still have to explain some social aspects. He noted that sometimes, a character’s name may appear only once, and will be referred to by their role for the rest of the novel (e.g., “the Doctor,” “the Sheriff,” or “the Sister”), and in those cases, he needed to balance out natural-sounding English with what was written in the Japanese text.

Kikuchi and Amano jokingly disagreed again when Stemkowski asked whether Amano had any say in the illustrations for Vampire Hunter D. Kikuchi said that Amano chooses which scenes he does illustrations of, but Amano claimed he doesn’t make the choices either. Instead, he said that Mr. Ishii, the Japanese editor, chooses what illustrations to do based on the pacing of the book so they’re spaced out evenly. He said that the editorial staff had their own ideas of what they wanted to see illustrated, and that this occasionally determines what he draws. He concluded by saying that there are usually too many scenes he’d like to do illustrations for, but there just isn’t enough room for all of them they’d like to do.

Just a funny picture of the twoWhen asked what it was like to illustrate D, Amano said that he doesn’t have much decided ahead of time other than that D will be wearing a hat, a long coat, and a sword on his back. When asked where the inspiration for the D character came from, Kikuchi said that the look and the clothing were inspired by Christopher Lee’s Dracula, and that the great looks were put in “for the ladies.” He also said that his taciturn nature was also intended to make him the kind of character that women would find attractive or interesting. Amano asked, “Does it not matter what men think?” to which Kikuchi replied “Yeah, basically.” He added that as long as we have Amano’s illustrations of D, the ladies should be happy, and that’s enough isn’t it?

Vampire Hunter D has had a lot of crossover success, moving into anime, video games, and manga. When asked how he felt about these other versions of D, Kikuchi said that the first anime wasn’t exactly what he imagined it would be, but he certainly couldn’t argue with how the sales took off. However, he said that the second was everything he ever could have wanted in an anime. Amano added, “Me too, desu.” According to Kikuchi, Madhouse is interested in doing another movie, but director Yoshiaki Kawajiri is too busy to do it now, so any new anime will be several years down the road. There is also talk of another video game, but due to a hitch with movie rights, that project is in limbo at the moment as well. On the other hand, manga adaptations are in progress, and Devil’s Due Publishing will be releasing a Vampire Hunter D comic book in 2009. Kikuchi said he is really looking forward tos eeing what other people do with the Vampire Hunter D character, and Amano added that it will be interesting to see what others will do with the depth of the D universe. One audience member asked whether the vagueness in the world of D was deliberate so they could focus on the action. This elicited a surprised response from Kikuchi, who said he was under the impression that he was putting a fair amount of detail in the world, but in response to the question, he’d pay more attention to that in the future.

Veronica Taylor and Tom Wayland; Veronica is the blondeSeveral audience members asked about the creators’ other works. Kikuchi said that there were no plans to translate his Demon City Shinjuku novel into English, and that a translation of Wicked City was supposed to come out in October, but has been delayed and will be released some time next year. Another audience member asked Amano about his work on the Final Fantasy video games, and what his relationship was like with artist Tatsuya Nomura, who provides most of the artwork for the game series now. Amano said that he is on friendly terms with Nomura, but that he was only hired to design characters and was not even an employee of the game company as Nomura is. There has been some collaboration between the two recently, but he is certainly spending less time on the Final Fantasy series now.

In response to another audience question, Kikuchi said that it was always in his blood to be interested in monsters and supernatural creatures. He said that he went to a place in India where you were supposed to see ghosts and spirits, but he didn’t see anything. Amano joked that there were, “all kinds of ghosts at this event.”

Mike Sinterniklaas and Rachel Lillis; Mike is the brunetteA young artist asked the creators whether they had any special rituals or practices they had when they created their work. Amano said he doens’t have any special ritual, but he tries not to have anything around that he would focus on to try and get as close to a blank slate as he can to create a picture that’s not influenced by anything else. Kikuchi said that he has video monitors all over his house, usually playing horror and science fiction movies constantly when he’s writing, but that he has to turn the sound down for all the monster noises while he’s working.

The panel closed with a reading of the short story “Vampire Hunter D: The Wanderer’s Ship,” by voice actors Veronica Taylor, Tom Wayland, Rachel Lillis, and Mike Sinterniklaas.

Return to Toon Zone News’ Coverage of the 2008 New York Anime Festival.

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