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We had an incredible exclusive sit-down with two of the most revered names in Japanese pop culture.  Hideyuki Kikuchi is the creator of the seminal (anti-) hero Vampire Hunter D, one of the best-known manga and anime characters ever seen on US shores.  Yoshitaka Amano is responsible for the look of D, as well as artwork and designs for the video games series Final Fantasy, Neil Gaimanís Sandman: The Dream Hunters, and the character designs for one of LMDís favourite anime ever, Gatchaman

Dig in as we talk to the hand.

 

Yoshitaka Amano and Hideyuki Kikuchi

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Kikuchi-san, youíve mentioned before that you are a big movie fan.   I wondered if Vampire Hunter D was inspired by any particular film or movie character?

Hideyuki Kikuchi:  He was based on Christopher Leeís interpretation of Count Dracula, so his unearthly beauty was intended to land the female fans and it worked {Laughs}

 

LMD:  So my question would be when you first saw Amano-sanís depiction of D, was it satisfactory?

HK:  {Laughs} Itís not a matter of being satisfied or not, but being surprised.  It was definitely a great illustration, but somewhat different from the image I had inside myself of D as being a somewhat rougher character.

 

LMD:  Did you find that after you had seen Amano-sanís work, that you changed the character a little bit to suit the type of character he had drawn?

HK:  No, not really. From the very start, Iíve had a very firm idea of D and his character, so I havenít had to change him at all.

 

LMD:  Getting back to movie influences, you have also mentioned that your novel Demon City Shinjuku was inspired by Escape From New York, I wondered what other films have influenced your work? 

HK:  Tons of movies have influenced me in addition to the ones that I mentioned, of course D being heavily influenced by Shane.  But in another one of the stories, part of it was based on the battle scenes from Lord of the Rings.  Iím influenced by all kinds of films, love stories, gangster movies, war movies and westerns.  Some of the funnier things that are said and done in the dialog have been influenced by the kind of dialog you find in Hollywood movies.

 

LMD:  Does Vampire Hunter D have an end?  Could you finish it tomorrow if you wanted to?

HK:  Yes, Iíve already decided what the end is.  So, whatís in the middle I havenít decided yet, {but} I know what the end is.

 

LMD:  Youíve written over 300 stories and novels.  Do you never get writerís block?

HK:  Itís not a case that I donít have writerís block.  I do have problems coming up with ideas, but I often use the same idea in different situations in different books with different twists.

 

LMD:  I wondered if Kikuchi-san and Amano-san have ever collaborated on the artistic details of the beautiful illustrations Amano-san provides for the Vampire Hunter D novels?

HK:  We donít have any collaboration on that aspect.  Itís the editor that decides what they want illustrated.

 

LMD:  Amano-san, what is it like to take someoneís literary work and interpret it visually?  Do you ever worry about what the author will think?

Yoshitaka Amano:  Well, heís sitting right next to me at the moment {Both laugh}, so Iím kind of scared.  Iíll read Kikuchi-sanís book before I do the illustration, so itís not coming out of me.  So whether it comes looking good or not, it did come from his world.

 

LMD:  Youíve also worked with other authors like Neil Gaiman on a book in his Sandman series, is it always that case that you never work with them on what you will draw?

YA:  Really, I donít have that sort of contact with the writers, at all.  We might get together socially, but we never discuss that aspect of it.

 

LMD:  It seems to be very successful.

YA:  The real test of whether it succeeds or not is whether the books sell.  Thatís what Kikuchi-san says! {Laughs}

{Kikuchi laughs and shakes his head in denial}

 

LMD:  Now hearing about how the editor has power over what is seen in a novel, what it is like for each of you to have your work, which you are so creatively invested in, handled by a third party?

HK:  Of course, when Iím writing my books, there are scenes where I think I would really like to have Amano-san do a picture for this, but I really donít have a choice but to let the editor decide that.

YA:  Iím not all that satisfied with it.  Often, it purely comes down to the pacing of the book.  Itís purely on page count, not on ĎThis would be a great scene,í but ĎWeíre X number of pages into the book and we need one here.í  So there are times when I would like to push it backward or forward a little bit to find a better scene.  Itís easy enough to draw them, but there are some pictures that just plain donít get finished.

 

LMD:  Is time also a factor in the choices of illustrations?

YA:  Itís not so much a matter of that as the timing within the book.  There are some things that I would like to draw, but where the illustration is going to fall in the book you canít show it yet, because it hasnít happened yet and it would be giving away the story.  So, there are just too many scenes in each book that would make a good picture that itís a problem for it.

 

LMD:  Kikuchi-san, have you been surprised at the reaction American fans have had for your creation?

HK:  Iím very surprised.  To be honest, I didnít think weíd see the kinds of numbers, the kinds of sales that we have seen.  It was always my dream to release a book in English and now that dream has come true.

 

LMD:  How do you feel about the two Vampire Hunter D anime films the two that have been released.

HK:  I should make Amano-san answer first, so he canít use his ďme, too,Ē response! {Both laugh} The first one, I wasnít completely satisfied with the way it came out, but as soon as it hit the theatres, sales of D went through the roof, so I found it very effective.  As for the second one, Bloodlust, I consider it to be among the top class of animation in Japan.

 

LMD:  May I ask Amano-san for something other than a ďme, tooĒ?

YA:  Me, too!  Actually, I know the head of the company that made the first animation from my time at Tatsunoko.  In general, when I look at animation, I can pretty much tell from the look of it who worked on it and looking at Kawajiri-sanís work {Yoshiaka Kawajiri, director of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust} you can tell that heís perfect for this.

 

LMD:  Amano-san Iíd like to ask about your time in the Tatsunoko Productions animation company.  What did working there as long as you did as a young man starting out teach you about commercial art?  Making something palatable for a wide audience?

YA:  When I was designing characters for TV animation, I quickly learned that the important thing was getting the viewership.  Getting the viewership numbers, that was the most important thing.  When I was working at Tatsunoko, I wasnít necessarily the only young guy.  There were a lot of young guys, a lot of young people working there and at Tatsunoko, unlike some of the other studios; everything was an original production, an original idea that theyíd come up with.  So, the people who were working on this were putting their own interests and their own influences into the work, not just me, but the other artists and the writers, so I was putting my love of American comics into the series other people were putting the things they loved into the series, too.

 

LMD:  I have to ask about Gatchaman, which was one of the first anime that got me and many others into anime.  What went into the creation of some of those characters?  In particular, Iím curious about the character of Berg Katse, who was the first hermaphrodite many American children ever saw.

YA:  At the time, even more than now, there was a huge influence from America, American art American rock, the psychedelic movement, and so that had a large influence on it.

 

LMD:  Berg Katse is definitely psychedelic.

YA: Yes, he is.

 

LMD:  Currently there is a major movie project in the works for Gatchaman by ImagiAnimation Studios.  Are you surprised at the interest that show still generates?

YA:  Yes, I was surprised.  When we were doing it at the time, we had no idea it was even going to be shown overseas.  We were just really focused, just desperate to get this weekís episode out, next weekís episode.  We were taking it week by week.  But the people who saw it back in the day, or were influenced by it, now so many years have passed and now theyíre all in positions of power.  Theyíre on the production end, now, and theyíre doing the things that they loved doing the things that they were influenced by.

 

LMD:  What do you think Dís enduring appeal is? What do you think that rings with people about them?

HK:  With D, everything went exactly as I planned where I made this character the kind of man that there is nowhere on earth, heís cold and beautiful and strong on top of that.

 

LMD:  Amano-san, Iíd like to ask you about your artwork and gallery shows. Kikuchi-san has told us some of his cinematic influences as a writer, what are some of yours as an artist?

YA:  Andy Warhol.  I love Andy Warhol.  These days, thereís no one because Iím so busy doing my own stuff. {Laughs}

 

LMD: And also about your art, Murakami is talked about in an almost cynical sense by art critics because of his exploitation of anime culture.  Are you at all worried about comparisons to his work since anime is such a huge part of your gallery shows?

YA:  Yes, itís exactly what you said!  Iím drawing them because theyíre part of my history.  Theyíre my memories of, if not my youth, then my younger days; so Iím drawing them for myself.  But because of my present situation, Iím able to exhibit them in galleries, but they are personal for me and theyíre part of my life experience.

 

LMD:  Will we ever have another gallery show in New York?

YA:  {Laugh} Yes, yes, please!

{Both laugh}

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Sept 27th, 2008

 

 

Special Blessings to the wonderful Kevin Leahy, translator of all the English-language versions of the Vampire Hunter D novels for his invaluable help and kindness. Most special thanks, hugs, praise and chocolate kisses to the ever-luvviní Peter Tatara, who Iím sure hides his wings under his natty suits.

 

 

 

 

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