Vampire Hunter D (novels) Vol. #06 - Pilgramage Of The Sacred And The Profane (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Translated by:Kevin Leahy
What They Say
Granny Viper is a "people finder," a searcher for lost souls along the roads of a forbidding wasteland. Her latest mission: the safe return of a young woman named Tae, kidnapped eight years ago by vampire Nobility and held in Castle Gradinia on the Frontier's far border.
But rescuing Tae is only half the battle - Viper knows she and the girl can't cross the formidable expanse to the town of Barnabas alone. After making the fatal mistake of hiring the mercenary Bullow Brothers to help her, Granny turns to the legendary Vampire Hunter D for salvation.
As they traverse the bleak desert between the Inner and Outer Frontier, the two women and D find themselves in a race for their lives. And they soon discover how cruel the desert is - and how very ruthless the Bullow Brothers are...
Features six illustrations by the renowned Yoshitaka Amano.
There’s often an almost innate compulsion when dealing with books to forcefully pry deeper into the material, digging for some element, some nuance, that transcends base pleasure and propels a work into that oft ill-defined category called art. What, then, can easily be overlooked in the pursuit of meaningful literary analysis is the basic question, “Was this story even entertaining?” In the face of one-hundred-sixty or so pages recounting the journey of an uncanny caravan of freaks and monsters trekking across a supernatural desert, I find it’s entirely necessary to reconcile the notion that sometimes the best mindset to take when dissecting a book is to ask merely if said text was enjoyable.
Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D series is perfectly personified in the one-dimensional characteristics of its brooding half-vampire hero, D; these are simple books, written largely for the titillation of adolescent boys, full of action, indomitable male characters, and beautiful, mostly submissive females—the temptation to criticize these stories for lacking more sophisticated themes would be courting futility, at best. Fundamentally, light fiction’s main objective is to captivate its targeted audience, so of paramount importance is whether Kikuchi’s sixth blood sucking adventure, Vampire Hunter D: Pilgrimage of the Sacred and the Profane, delivered the pertinent goods.
The previous D offering, The Stuff of Dreams, crammed a somewhat involved concept between the covers of a rather slim tome; attempts at narrative subterfuge—telling a tale wrapped in layers of shifting realities, with the hopes of keeping readers unsettled—produced a story muddled by the lack of space needed to explore its material, further marred by a rushed conclusion. In obvious contrast, Pilgrimage of the Sacred and the Profane is a straightforward work told primarily through the interaction between its featured characters. One can almost sense Kikuchi’s confidence with this back-to-basics approach as Pilgrimage on whole feels drastically more befitting of the series’ style and short format, which not surprisingly makes for a better overall piece.
Anyone who’s followed D’s exploits over the last five volumes should have little problem guessing how this book opens: somewhere in the interminable vastness of the frontier lies yet another funky pinprick of a town, populated by jittery rural folk and muscle-bound derelicts; D’s been contracted here for an inexplicably vague task: reach the nearby town of Barnabas (hello Dark Shadows!) by a certain date and receive some unspecified piece of desired information. This may be a horribly trite pretense for engaging your protagonist, but it effectively places D within the story’s periphery focus, where his muted presence generally works best.
The spotlight this time around is shared by four soon to be unlikely travel companions: Granny Viper, a wizened frontier occupant and “people finder,”—for a price, she’ll track down and return any lost soul—and her cargo, Tae, a beautiful young girl rescued from the bowels of the vampire ruled Castle Gardinia; with these women are the Billow Brothers, Clay and Bingo, ruthless mercenaries who Granny initially fails at hiring for protection on her tip back to Tae’s hometown. Coincidently, before her abduction and imprisonment, Tea was an inhabitant of Barnabas, where she now must return in short order or else be abandoned by her remaining family members who’ll soon leave the village for good. The only chance of completing the trip in time requires a dangerous sojourn through the uncharted expanse of a massive desert.
If this all sounds far too convenient, then the Billow Brothers’ sudden cryptic business with D certainly doesn’t help matters; thankfully, Pilgrimage swiftly puts its characters in place, lessening the impact of such seemingly overt contrivances. With their paths intersecting at the local tavern, the tenuous fellowship soon forms and sees all five characters chancing the perilous desert in hopes of reaching their outlying destination.
Interaction between the cast dominates Pilgrimage, and it’s hard to think of a more apropos setting than a desert’s airy solitude. Here, there’s ample space to fill with Clay Billow’s lecherous intentions and veiled threats against D, Granny’s musings on her past that colors her present profession as a “people finder,” and Tae’s horror filled time spent in the clutches of vampiric captors. There’s even some leftover room to introduce Lance, the scraggly survivor of a bandit raid now held prisoner by a hoard of undead sand mummies.
Lacking a truly formidable adversary—provided in the guise of a living desert—in no way detracts from the story; instead, such an innocuous villain acts as an ideal catalyst for spurring emotive action, allowing personalities and histories to outshine the series’ tendency of saturating pages in tedious fighting. More so than in the pervious installments, Kikuchi’s managed to draft together a set of legitimately interesting players, strong enough to forego utter reliance on D and his long sword. Granny Viper, Tae, and the Billows sport multifaceted personalities and enough uncovered background to keep them fresh throughout the book; and with such a brisk text, the sizable cast supplies sufficient material to play with, right up to the last page.
I’ve always been disappointed with the second Vampire Hunter D film, primarily criticizing it for being little more than a loosely connected set of action sequences—symptomatic of having too many characters off doing their own things. After finishing Pilgrimage, I couldn’t shake the notion it would have made significantly better source material for an animated adaptation: streamlined storytelling, centralized main characters, and an exotic landscape seem tailored for the big screen. Feeling almost like the written equivalent of an anime flick, with Vampire Hunter D: Pilgrimage of the Sacred and the Profane, Hideyuki Kikuchi deftly provides an alacritous jaunt through his post-apocalyptic Wild West, packed with just enough suspense and interesting characters to make the book worth wiling away a few hours.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
Orientation: Left to Right
Series: Vampire Hunter D (novels)