Amano: The Collected Art of Vampire Hunter D Vol. #01 -

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  • Art Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: C-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Dark Horse
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Pages: 392
  • ISBN: 978-1-59582-110-2
  • Size: 8.8x5.9 x1.4 i
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Amano: The Collected Art of Vampire Hunter D

Amano: The Collected Art of Vampire Hunter D Vol. #01

By John Zakrzewski     May 08, 2008
Release Date: December 31, 2007

Amano: The Collected Art of Vampire Hunter D Vol.#01
© Dark Horse

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Yoshitaka Amano / Hideyuki Kikuchi
Translated by:N/A
Adapted by:N/A

What They Say
Following on the heels of the retrospective Coffin comes this new collection of paintings, line-art illustrations, and photography by Vampire Hunter D character designer Yoshitaka Amano. This collection also includes a short story, "A Village in Fog" by Vampire Hunter D creator Hideyuki Kikuchi, unavailable elsewhere.

The Review
I first watched Vampire Hunter Dthe 1985 animated workunder the cover of deep night. Lights off, tucked into bed with three pillows propped behind my back, a fleeting sensation of giddiness tingled down my spine as I pressed power on the VCR's remote control and heard the bulky black machine whirl to electronic life. While this wasn't my maiden brush with Japanese animation, it would be the most significant.

Like many children of the 1980s, I grew up happily oblivious to the nationalistic origins of the cartoons filling my weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings. I just knew I really liked Voltron, and man, how cool it would be to fly a veritech fighter like Rick Hunter. Why Vampire Hunter D holds such singular importance is because it's the bedrock upon which my fandom was built: a bootleg copy of the 1985 movie was the first show I watched keenly aware of its Japanese heritage, and Streamline's eventual VHS release would become the fist official anime tape I'd ever purchase.

But unlike other anime and manga properties that flourished throughout the 1990s and helped fuel my growing obsession, Vampire Hunter D remained obstinately insular, even largely shunning the information explosion set off by the nascent Internet. Vague utterances concerning novels and some meager tidbits about the movie's production could be unearthed with the right amount of determination, although most available knowledge pertained solely to "that guy who drew Final Fantasy," Yoshitaka Amano.

It can be difficult for American anime fans to discuss D without mentioning Amano. In what until recently had been the absence of Hideyuki Kikuchi's original novels, this artist's iconic imagery came to epitomize the series; and as time wore on, his conceptualizations of Kikuchi's words could be said to have overshadowed the animation that introduced many to D's unsettling world and its queer genre amalgamations.

Yet, while products graced by Amano's distinctive style were at least periodically released here in the States, collections of his works were left wholly the domain of expensive, hard to obtain imports. Which is partially why the year 2000 found me so very excited: a new, highly anticipated Vampire Hunter D movie was beginning to make rounds of various films festivals (with tentative plans for an American theatrical tour the following year), and I was anxiously awaiting a certain package to wind its way into my local comic book shop.

Those who don't oft peruse a dedicated comic book store may not be particularly acquainted with PREVIEWS, the preeminent monthly catalog of forthcoming comics and related merchandise used for placing orders through the distribution monopoly that is Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. This massive paper tome primarily facilitates the stocking of store owners' shelves, but layman are also invited to partake of their geekish hoard and will occasionally uncover some decent deals on toys and the like stashed away in its nether regions. During one particular riffle through the magazine's thin, grainy pages, a tiny entry nestled in the corner of its "International" section advertised, Yoshitaka Amano Art Book Vampire Hunter Dthe lean description and miniscule picture offered little benefit, but the book's disturbingly low price and subject matter were ample impetus to see me filling out an order form and handing the store clerk a $10 down-payment.

I never would have thoughtsome seven years after the vampiric art book straggled its way across the Pacific and onto my bookshelfan American edition of this same material would be published...and by a comic book company, no less. Under the revised title, Yoshitaka Amano: The Collected Art of Vampire Hunter D, Dark Horse has done a solid job adapting the flawed Japanese original.

To be completely forthright, my mathematical aptitude is utterly abysmal, and when presented with dimensional information, the digits of an average paperback novel, for all I generally comprehend, might well represent the size of a whale shark. Now that's gross exaggeration, of course, but honestly my ability to fully visualize numerical data is foggy at best, owing to why back in 2000 my initial meeting with this Amano art book was accompanied by disappointment.

You see, for an art book it's not very tall, though it is substantialenvision, if you will, one of those slim Playstation 2 units or an average hardcover. Based on price and the awful solicitation photo, entertaining delusions of an offering equal in stature to Masamune Shirow's sizable Intron Depot art anthologies was absolute folly, but come on, the book had its own cardboard sleeve, if that doesn't say lavish and classy than what does?

Well, Yoshitaka Amano Art Book Vampire Hunter D (I'm talking about the Japanese version here) certainly does have an elegant presentation: a close-up sketch of D's sharp visage peers outward from the hardy cardboard sleeve, whose cherry red sides and back contrast beautifully with the housed book's shock yellow dust jack; another image of the titular protagonist, this time a featureless black silhouette, flows across the boldly colored jacket, which itself wraps around a dark blue cover serving as the inky backdrop for a women and her dog out for a moonlit stroll. Inside, the pages are thick and glossy, perfect mediums for displaying the vibrant, and sometimes even metallic, inks used throughout the various pieces.

If only the book could open flat.

Ill complimenting these rich aesthetics are the small stature and unreasonable binding that sadly hobble this otherwise lovely collection. Art books exist to be seen, to have their contents studied and scrutinizedtheir physical attributes should ideally be conducive to such ease of handling. So when a hand-heavy, average-sized brick opens like a paperback novelsans a willingness to gain an unhindered look at the artwork by way of destroying the object's spineit's impossible not to question production decisions that significantly sour the overall viewing experience.

However, this lackluster physical design may well be a function of the concept. While paintings, cover pieces, and merchandise images can all be found within the book's tactilely pleasing pages, also prominently featured are Amano's monochrome illustrations created as inserts for Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D novels.

There is an unmistakable sense this compilation has been specifically filtered through the original medium that brought us the alluring vampire hunter, producing a companion meant to cohabitate on bookshelves immediately next to volumes of Kikuchi's horror opus, instead of an independent entity splayed out across coffee tables. Further credence to this notion can be found in the Kikuchi penned Vampire Hunter D short story, D-A Village in Fog, which opens the book, acting almost as a preface for Amano's artwork.

Even lacking a strict sequential progression, the strong pull of chronological movement is evident, guiding us through each individual D story, until we disembark in the year 2000 with Amano living-it-up in New York City. What further distinguishes the publication from standard art books is how many of the pieces are shown in an altered state, at times reminiscent of pop art: splashes of pigment have been added, pictures are cropped to create interesting page layouts, and illustrations come with new color schemes. Rather than art presented for art's sake, there's a conscious attempt to fuse these individual prints together into something more cohesive and unique. Because of this, what's been created is akin to an intensive visual retrospective of Amano's work on the series; in lieu of choice-picked pieces bound together purely for their appearance, Yoshitaka Amano Art Book Vampire Hunter D tries to retell the story of D through only the imagery.

The effort stands as an interesting experiment, but its attempt to straddle the divide between originality and true art book ultimately falls short. Appealing as the concept is, the executionwith its wrist numbing weight, unyielding spine, and hard to view pagesmakes for a discouraging undertaking that'd likely spend more time looking pretty on a shelf than getting worn in one's hands.

With this in mind, Dark Horse's edition is something of a skewed mirror imageeverything's recognizable, but just a bit off.

Immediately noticeable about Yoshitaka Amano: The Collected Art of Vampire Hunter D (now we're talking about the US release) are minor size discrepancies: it's smaller and fatter. Though slightly thicker, the book actually carries a mostly identical height, but the new cardboard sleeve fits more snuggly, falsely shrinking the package when placed next to the Japanese edition. The cardboard is also flimsier, which due to the tighter proportions makes careless tears a more likely happenstance.

Once liberated from those close confines, we find a standard softcover replicating the yellow Japanese dust jacket; the inner blue cover is an unfortunate but largely innocuous omission. Pages are still of the highest quality, smooth and supple to the touch, they follow their progenitor's layout without deviation. Examining the print, the US edition seems to have a higher level of contrastpieces may appear brighter and easier to see, although they lose finer details and smooth away grittiness originally found in some of the art. This is not to say the book has been poorly reproduced or that illustrations are no longer attractive; the American version simply looks different in certain respects and, baring the ability to choose between both versions, is not a nuance that should dissuade anyone from the US release.

As previously mentioned, the book opens with a brief story by series creator Hideyuki Kikuchi. This piece, along with all other text, has of course been translated. Kikuchi's yarn is a quaint treat, relating an episode of D getting trapped inside a dream-like village (a story very reminiscent of the fifth novel, The Stuff of Dreams); of greater benefit is the translation of the book's index, cataloging the source of each individual illustration. One area where the American volume undoubtedly stands above its Japanese counterpart is in its surprising ability to open a touch wider. Don't get the wrong idea, the book is still supported by a copious slab of glue and paper, but there is a smidgen more flexibility in the spine, allowing for a better overall view of the artwork.

Yoshitaka Amano: The Collected Art of Vampire Hunter D offers an interesting, though physically awkward, visual journey through series and its various works. For the price, D fans will find the book an amiable addition to their library of novels, anime, and other media; those desirous of a Yoshitaka Amano art book covering a similar theme would do better to seek out the more appropriately designed, Coffin: The Art of Vampire Hunter D, also released domestically by Dark Horse.


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jnager 3/13/2012 8:20:31 PM

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