The first in a four-volume series by the creator of Vampire Hunter D, Yashakiden: The Demon Princess (Digital Manga Press) is an agreeably lurid yarn set in Demon City Shinjuku, an earthquake-ravaged burg where reality is mutable and monstrous types roam the streets with impunity. It is, author Hideyuki Kikuchi explains, “a city where life was lived and death dealt without regret,” where the landscape can shift without warning (the walls of a department store “mutating into the shape of a female human pudendum,” for instance) and vampires inhabit their own housing project in a shaky truce with their human neighbors.
Into this unsettling setting, a quartet of sadistic Chinese vampires sails to take control of the city. A series of vamp attacks ensues — both bloody and sexually explicit — led by a preternaturally beautiful demon princess. Countering this unholy quartet are two womanishly handsome leads: private investigator Setsura Aki, who possesses the ability to channel his chi as “devil wire” capable of severing anything it contacts (think we’re gonna get at least one detached limb in this volume?), plus Dr. Mephisto, the city’s “demon physician,” who utilizes both magical and medical knowledge to heal his patients. Our dashing duo spends most of the first book catching up to the bloodsuckers, who pick off sundry victims for our entertainment.
Author Kikuchi, who displays a Stan Lee-like flare for self-promotion (calling this series “the masterpiece of all vampire works I have ever created”), tackles his bloody tale with a ten-in-one talker’s enthusiasm. If at times Eugene Woodbury’s translation comes across a bit clunky (“He has roused in me a most terrible enemy”), well, that only contributes to the series’ overall pulpish feel. Added to DMP’s paperback package: a series of moody-looking black and white illos by Jun Sue Mi, which gives us more than one nekkid shot of the depraved Demon Princess. Looking at these striking images, I can see Yashakiden morphing into as enjoyable a manga adaptation as Saiko Takaki’s version of Vampire Hunter D.
“Masterpiece” or not.