~written by Hideyuki Kikuchi
~illustrated by Jun Suemi
~translated by Eugene Woodbury
Demon City Shinjuku: The Complete Edition collects two of Hideyuki Kikuchi's early novels: his debut, Demon City Shinjuku, written in 1982, and its sequel written six years later in 1988, Demon Palace Babylon. Digital Manga's English translation by Eugene Woodbury published in 2011 is based on the 2007 Japanese omnibus release of the novels. Although there aren't very many of them considering the length of Demon City Shinjuku: The Complete Edition, the illustrations by Jun Suemi are also included in Digital Manga's release. Up until now, the only novels that I had read by Kikuchi are from his series Yashakiden: The Demon Princess. So far my favorite part of that series has been its setting, Demon City Shinjuku, which is why I was particularly pleased to have received a review copy of Demon City Shinjuku: The Complete Edition from Digital Manga. I was interested in learning more about Demon City Shinjuku's origins.
The World Federation's president is on the verge of death, thanks to the efforts of the sorcerer Reba Ra. Ra's thirst for power has led him to attempt to create a new demon realm out of the world by using the president's life as a catalyst. The only man that could have stopped the sorcerer is dead, but Ra didn't realize that the man had had a son. At fifteen years old, Kyoya Izayoi is an unlikely hero, but has undergone intense training in the martial and spiritual art of nenpo. Naturally talented and under his father's tutelage, he has become an extremely skilled practicioner. The responsibility of saving the world has now fallen to him. To find Ra, he must enter the remains of Shinjuku. Devastated by a bizarre, massive earthquake, it is now known as Demon City Shinjuku and is home to both dangerous criminal elements the paranormal. Even if Kyoya can deal with the immediate crisis, Demon City has the tendency to attract trouble.
To be perfectly honest, Demon City Shinjuku doesn't have much of a plot. Demon Palace Babylon starts with a bit more, but falls apart at the end. Instead, the setups seem to be more of an excuse for Kikuchi to have Kyoya run around and explore Demon City, encountering and dealing with various supernatural elements along the way. As I have already admitted, I happen to like Demon City Shinjuku, so the lack of plot didn't bother me too much. Demon City Shinjuku allows Kikuchi to throw whatever he wants into a story. Advanced technology works alongside magic and mysticism. For every zombie, demon, or monster there is a cyborg, psychic, or mutant. Kikuchi draws from established legends and history and joins them with his own creations. But once again, I find that I am more enamored with the setting of Demon City Shinjuku than I am with the story being told.
Demon City Shinjuku: The Complete Edition reads quickly but a reader should be careful not to rush through. Kikuchi's style is very informal and sparse; important details may only be mentioned once in passing, making them easy to miss. Demon City Shinjuku: The Complete Edition will probably appeal most to established fans of Kikuchi or the Demon City setting. As some of Kikuchi's earliest published work, both Demon City Shinjuku and Demon Palace Babylon serve as a sort of precursor or prototype for his later novels and characters. While Kyoya only appears in these two works (which I'm fine with since he's a bit of an arrogant jerk and I didn't like him much) other characters that are introduced do return. Perhaps most important is Doctor Mephisto, who plays a major role in Yashakiden as well as in many of Kikuchi's other novels. And then of course there is Demon City Shinjuku itself, which Kikuchi returns to repeatedly in his works. I was happy for the opportunity to learn more about Kikuchi's and the city's beginnings.