Vampire Hunter D (novels) Vol. #05 - The Stuff Of Dreams (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Translated by:Kevin Leahy
What They Say
In a world where even the smallest and most remote village is being terrorized by the monsters that stalk the night, there is a hamlet, prosperous and peaceful, where mortals and vampires have lived in harmony for years. It is there that seventeen-year-old Sheavil Schmidt has slept, neither waking nor aging, for thirty years since first receiving the vampire's immortal kiss. The mysterious Vampire Hunter D is lured to the tranquil oasis by recurrent dreams of the beautiful, undying girl bathed in an eerie blue light and dancing in a ghostly chateau.
Dreams can certainly make for tricky business: formed, yet limited, by the dreamer's own experiences, these malleable ethereal landscapes are as capable of revealing truths as they are of obscuring reality; liberated from the conscious mind, they're granted a near autonomous existence, intent on bending us to their mysterious will. In the hands of Hideyuki Kikuchi, dreams do indeed gain their own life, becoming powerful enough to even supplant the real world.
Kikuchi's fifth installment in his genre mixing series, "Vampire Hunter D: The Stuff of Dreams," sees the half-human half-vampire hunter, the steely and hauntingly beautiful D, suddenly lured to a serene frontier town after a brief but all-too-real dream encounter with a reticent young girl. Where most human settlements live in constant fear of the world's remaining vampires (known as the Nobility) and the genetically engineered monsters now populating the earth, this remote burg is suspiciously peaceful and prosperous for its diminutive size.
Upon arrival, D finds the citizenry fully expecting him, as they also dreamed of his recent nocturnal meeting; they summarily direct the laconic warrior to the local hospital where the likely source of this strange event rests: thirty years prior, Sybille Schmitz, a lovely village maiden, was attacked by one of the Nobility and left in a deathlike slumber, never ageing from that day forward. Once finding himself physically bound within the village, D's fate ultimately depends on uncovering the perpetually sleeping beauty's agenda; unfortunately, not all the town's inhabitants are happy about the hunter's presence in their bucolic community, and with Sybille's dream world growing increasingly unstable, his only option is to confront both the mounting opposition in the real world and the illusory threats residing within the girl's mind.
There came a point while reading when I seriously asked myself, If one dies inside a dream, that's within a dream, both of which were created by a third dream, do you still die in real life? Thankfully, I wasn't long tasked with such insidiously circular questioning as the ever resourceful, enigmatic D, imperiled by a slowly compressing room made of rose bushes, stabbed a tiny piece of cloth, fabric he minutes earlier obtained after a shadowy duel, which destroyed the deadly trap along with the dream that concocted it.
How the onyx clad hero knew such a useful trick is never divulged, exemplifying an annoyingly commonplace trend running throughout "The Stuff of Dreams," one that continually implores the audience to plainly accept D's aeons-long life and wealth of experiences trumps any need for explanations or a glimmer of insight into his impenetrable mind, D's sorrow, his joy, and his pain [belongs] to him alone. This has admittedly become the established norm for the character, D is cryptically steadfast, and only in the rarest of moments are hints of his inner self allowed to seep through to the pages of Kikuchi's text.
But due to his abstruse nature, "The Stuff of Dreams" suffers as a result by having D carry the bulk of this tale. Previous books flanked the vampire hunter with a cast that controlled the majority of the narrative space, allowing him to flit around the story's edges, adding the obligatory action sequences and swooping in, when needed, to project the plot forward. For reasons that eventually become clear, this installment does little to develop any of the secondary characters except when absolutely necessary; even the minor details we do learn are usually presented only through direct interactions with the titular hero. Adding Kikuchi's tangled usage of the dream motif to the mix leaves us with a story that at times is both confusing and dissatisfying, shifting realms and layered realities can become hard to follow when your protagonist subscribes to the theory that actions speak louder than words; at the same time, D has already been permanently installed at the top of this world's food chain, so rarely does the reader feel he's legitimate in danger.
What then gets tossed to the wayside, in favor of somewhat clunky action sequences and tireless descriptions of D's good looks and enticing demeanor, are the more interesting threads concerning an imaginary world that has in fact gained some semblance of self awareness. D, as the book points out on several occasions, is seen by many in this dream country to be the angel of death, an inevitable harbinger of doom that nevertheless cannot stymie human nature's constant struggle for a means of survival. This is all simmering in the backdrop, but Kikuchi's efforts to keep readers wavering on what is and isn't real restricts the book mostly to the closed conscious of its leading man, whose motivations go largely unexplained.
Of course, "The Stuff of Dreams" isn't a heavy text. It moves swiftly from one encounter to the next, never dwelling long on previous events, carrying readers to a resolution almost before they comprehend what actually happened over the course of the book. While this story might stand as the weakest thus far, it's still very much inline with what the author has been doing with the "Vampire Hunter D" series and should be entertaining enough for the established fans; though much like waking from a dream, once the last page is finished, most will soon forget all that happened and just go about their lives.
Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Vampire Hunter D (novels)