Vampire Hunter D: The Stuff of Dreams (1986) By: Hideyuki Kikuchi, Illustrations By: Yoshitaka Amano
D slumbers in a forest of the frontier, and the monsters can't even attack him while he sleeps. He is roused by a giant who fires some arrows at him. After being hit in the shoulder, D follows the giant to a mansion where a party is occurring. As he approaches, he sees no one. Upon entering, he discovers a seventeen year old girl dancing with an unseen man. After unsuccessfully inquiring abut the giant, D awakes as dawn breaks. He follows the route he took in his dream and comes upon the same mansion.
This tale features D trapped in a village by a slumbering woman. This sleeping beauty has been out for thirty years ever since an attack by a noble. The biggest problem with this tale is how little happens. D faces a clone of himself and defeats him with ease. The stakes are basically offered in one line with "you can die in a dream." The same line in every dream story ever. More villains stream out of the woodwork and D must fight the dream itself. This faulty premise is at the heart of everything in this novel and, unless you like dream stories, makes this one tough to like.
D really wants out of this story, and I don't blame him. He's called in by Sybille and immediately is disinterested and wants to leave. D is at his most callous in this story probably because he knows whats going on.
Nan is incredibly similar in attitude to Lina. Both are young, slightly-bratty girls who have a crush on him. The biggest difference is that Nan has even less character. She mostly just hangs around D and talks about how she dreamed about him or how she's jealous of Sybille (irony?). Thus, she serves almost no function in the story aside from the one that is obvious from her first appearance.
Ai-Ling is the wife of Kurtz who looks after a ranch on the edge of town. She knows her husband loves Sybille and is jealou beacuse of it. She exists mostly to further the possible autonomy of the residents.
Sybille Schmitz is the mysterious sleeping beauty of the village. She wants D to get rid of someone, but is unable to tell him who. This occurs at the very beginning of the story, and doesn't crop up again until the very end.
Sheriff Krutz is amiable to D at first, but slowly becomes more unhinged. The sheriff has the most development and is the most relatable of the new characters in this tale. He could have held the narrative together until the story betrays his character and the reader near the end.
The Bio Brothers aren't even mentioned until the last third of the book. They fight D a couple times, but don't provide anything new.
The Dream Assassin shows up, fires arrows, and leaves for most of the book. He's kind of like if Borgoff from Demon Deathchase could create reality bubbles to fight his foes in. It sounds cool, but this villain has no personality. I almost left him out of my write up like the meaningless nobility from Tale of the Dead town, but left him in for his powers.
Once again, the story is isolated to a peaceful village. Thus, this story offers little in embellishing D's world. The writing is still as clean as it gets, but it's hard to care about what's happening since the conclusion is so obvious.
In the End
It's in the title, and that's the biggest problem of this story. It ends like a campfire ghost story, but this is a narrative not a ghost story.
A mystery with little mystery. In the postscript, Kikuchi mentions that he wanted this novel to ruminate on what a noble dreams of. Hence the nobility and humans living together in peace, but the biggest problem is that he covered this in Raiser of Gales where a painting reveals hands rising from coffins toward the sun. It is a much more powerful passage though embedded in a flawed story. In this tale, the dream is used as an excuse for flat characters, overpowered villains, and lackluster setting. It is basically a stretched out short story. This one should definitely be skipped as basically nothing happens.
Next Time: Desert D!