~written by Hideyuki Kikuchi
~illustrated by Jun Suemi
~translated by Eugene Woodbury
Since beginning Yashakiden: The Demon Princess I have read a few of Hideyuki Kikuchi's manga collaborations, but Yashakiden remains the only prose work of his that I have read. I'll admit, I wasn't particularly impressed by the first volume in the series. Despite brief moments of brilliance, overall I found the novel to be pretty cringe-worthy. However, there as enough that intrigued me in the first volume of Yashakiden, particularly Demon City Shinjuku, the setting of the story, that I wanted to read at least the second volume as well. Digital Manga Publishing released the English translation by Eugene Woodbury in 2010 and was kind enough to send me a review copy. The edition, which includes illustrations by Jun Suemi, is based on the version of the novel that was published in Japan in 2007. Kikuchi completed the work in 1997.
The second volume of Yashakiden begins immediately where the first volume leaves the story off. Four ancient Chinese vampires have come to Demon City Shinjuku to make the city their own. Two of the city's most formidable residents, Aki Setsura and Doctor Mephisto, oppose them. They don't entirely trust each other, but the two men must work together, even forming an alliance with Demon City Shinjuku's local vampire population. It's not enough. Neither side of the conflict comes through unscathed from the ensuing struggle for control over Demon City Shinjuku: there have been numerous deaths, Setsura is in the hospital unconscious, Mephisto is acting strangely, and the vampires on both sides are all worse for wear. Still, the Chinese vampires' influence over the city continues to grow as they turn leaders of the government and the police force. To make matters even more complicated, most of those living in Demon City Shinjuku aren't even aware of the danger they are in.
I am very happy to be able to say that the writing style of the second volume of Yashakiden greatly improves upon that of the first. I do wish it was a little more descriptive, though. Quite frequently important details are introduced only when they are immediately needed. This can make things a bit confusing for the reader from time to time, such as during an action sequence in which a character suddenly makes use of a sword that he had apparently been carrying the whole time but that I couldn't remember ever having been mentioned. But overall, the writing is much better in the second volume. The tone and pacing of the story, which varied wildly in the first volume, is much more even, as well.
Yashakiden continues to intrigue me. In the second volume, Kikuchi has introduced some new plot elements in addition to developing those that have already been established. Mephisto, who has always come across as a little odd, has become a more interesting character now that his stoic facade is starting to crumble. As for Setsura, I am becoming more and more curious to learn about his "other" self of which Kikuchi has only allowed readers glimpses so far. I do enjoy the scenes in which the two men appear together; they know how to push each other's buttons and I find their mutual needling to be rather amusing. While Yashakiden isn't a series that I would rush out to recommend to just anyone, personally I plan to follow it a bit further. I'm hoping that each volume continues to improve and am honestly interested in seeing where Kikuchi takes things next.