~written by Hideyuki Kikuchi
~illustrated by Jun Suemi
~translated by Eugene Woodbury
Yashakiden: The Demon Princess is a series of vampire novels written by Hideyuki Kikuchi and illustrated by Jun Suemi. The novels take place in Kikuchi's Demon City Shinjuku setting, of which I am particularly fond. The third volume of Digital Manga's English-language release of Yashakiden, translated by Eugene Woodbury, is actually an omnibus edition collecting the third and fourth volumes of the original Japanese series. The omnibus edition published in 2010 is based on the 2007 release of the novels (which may have also been an omnibus release, but I'm not certain.) However, the third and fourth novels in Yashakiden were originally written in 1989 and 1990 respectively. Digital Manga's omnibus also includes "A Vampire Tale Like No Other," an essay written by Yoshiharu Sasagawa about Demon City Shinjuku, Yashakiden, and Kikuchi's work in general.
Despite the best efforts of Aki Setsura and Doctor Mephisto, two of Shinjuku's most terrifying and capable residents, Princess and her entourage of Chinese vampires are slowly gaining control of Demon City. Setsura was severely injured and is still recovering, Mephisto continues to act strangely, and many of their allies have either been killed or taken hostage. To makes matters even worse, the vampires' influence continues to spread as more and more of Shinjuku's leadership fall victim to their fangs. The situation has gotten so bad that forces outside of Demon City Shinjuku are threatening and preparing to interfere. Setsura and Mephisto still present enough of a problem on their own for Princess and her plans that she has released Kazikli Bey, yet another powerful and deadly vampire, from his imprisonment. As the volatile situation in Shinjuku becomes more complicated, the city is drawn even closer to the brink of chaos and destruction.
Frankly, Yashakiden frustrates me. Although Kikuchi has a ton of great ideas, and I continue to love Demon City Shinjuku as a setting, he hasn't been able to pull everything together into a cohesive whole quite yet. I find that I often know what's going on without really understanding why. Some of the individual scenes and scenarios in Yashakiden are exciting and have great execution, particularly the action sequences, but I'm frequently at a loss as to how they are all connected to one another. Kikuchi's writing style in Yashakiden is very sparse with little extensive description. In fact, it is so direct and to the point that I often felt that I was missing out on crucial information. Occasionally, the narrative would seem to contradict itself which would leave me confused even after several re-readings. As unadorned as Kikuchi's writing in Yashakiden is, it can also be very unfocused.
Yashakiden was originally planned to be four volumes long. It quickly became clear to Kikuchi and his editors that four novels weren't going to be enough; he kept adding new characters and plot developments. I'm not sure how much of Yashakiden Kikuchi had planned out in advance. It frequently seems as though he's making things up as he goes. Ultimately, the series ended up being eight volumes long. With Yashakiden: The Demon Princess, Volume 3 the story has reached its midway point. Overall, the volume is better balanced than those preceding it. As Kikuchi states in the author's notes, the story is beginning to "gel." Yashakiden isn't as blatantly sexualized or grotesque as it once was. Although those elements still exist, they are better incorporated into the plot as a whole. As much as Yashakiden frustrates me, there is still enough in the series that intrigues me; I'll probably continue on with the series for at least a little while longer.