2019’s Vampiric: Tales of Blood and Roses from Japan, edited by Heather Dubnick, is a translated anthology of Japanese vampire stories.
Introduction (Vampiric: Tales of Blood and Roses from Japan) • essay by Raechel Dumas
A short, dense essay on how Japan assimilated the Western concept of the vampire.
A Cultural Dynasty of Beautiful Vampires: Japan’s Acceptance, Modifications, and Adaptations of Vampires • essay by Masaya Shimokusu
A longer, more detailed essay on the same subject.
“Blue Lady” • short story • Inoue Masahiko (translated by Neil Webb)
An innovative entrepreneur hits on a brilliant way to combine serving alcohol with humanity’s desire to hurt other people.
“Kingdom” • short story • Asukabe Katsunori (translated by Laura Woolley Dominguez)
Curious when a student assigned an autobiographical piece turns in a work of atmospheric horror, a teacher makes the mistake of asking for an explanation.
“The Stone Castle” • short story • Kikuchi Hideyuki (trans, Jonathan Blunt)
A traveller arrives in a remote location in search of his lost father, only to discover a foreign conspiracy.
“The One-Legged Woman” • short story • Okamoto Kidō (translated by Neil Webb)
Misguided pity leads a couple to adopt a one-legged beggar girl. Horror follows.
“Vampire” • short story • Hikage Jōkichi (translated by Jo Ash)
Japan has been defeated and Japanese soldiers want only to return home. The soldiers at one former outpost of empire are understandably loath to heed a soldier from another unit (a deserter?) who arrives with wild tales of murder.
“The Crimson Cloak” • short story • Asamatsu Ken (translated by Aragorn Quinn)
The surviving travellers must learn the history of the monsters that are pursuing them if they hope to vanquish their foes.
“Vow” • short story • Sunaga Asahiko (translated by Irit Weinberg)
A former traveller has curious employment needs. We learn why.
“The Husk Heir” • short story • Kajio Shinji
Vampirism is bad; commercial shortsightedness makes it worse.
“A Piece of Butterfly’s Wing” • short story • Kamon Nanami (translated by Angus Turvill)
Sae is reunited with her long-lost sister Chizu. Chizu is strangely transformed.
“Unnatural” • short story • Okuda Tetsuya (translated by Hayley Scanlon)
A father tries to protect his ailing son from the hidden predator who is stealing the son’s life. Eventually it dawns on the father who the monster must be,
“Paradise Missing” • short story • Iino Fumihiko (translated by Lucy Galbrath)
What seems a simple death becomes notable when the victim’s husband vanishes. The case becomes even more bizarre after an autopsy is done.
“Dracula’s House” • short story • Fukuzawa Tetsuzō (translated by Irit Weinberg)
A summer friendship takes an ominous turn once it becomes clear what the boy’s new friend really wants from him.
“Birth of a Vampire” • short story • Konaka Chiaki (translated by Lauren Barrett)
A predatory photographer invites her latest conquest to her secluded studio. The potential victim is unsuspecting.
“Halvires” • short story • Mikawa Yū (translated by Jonathan Bunt)
A father’s weakness has terrible consequences for his children.
“Parasol” • short story • Inoue Masahiko (translated Yan Yujun)
A parasol blocks the sun. Lifesaving for some.
A point that came up a number of times in the commentaries: vampires in Japanese horror tend to be male. If this is so, I must have happened across a pretty misleading sample of vampire stories. But then … what of manga like Vampire Princess Miyu or anime like Blood: the Last Vampire?
If this anthology is a guide, horror writers in Japan have managed to resist the urge to transform vampires into sympathetic figures , tragic victims of fate who through no fault of their own are cursed with eternal youth, alluring beauty, and a unconventional dietary requirements. For the most part, the vampires in these stories are bloodsucking fiends; when sex is referenced, it’s predatory. Exceptions like the butterfly woman in “A Piece of Butterfly’s Wing” are rare and even then, her condition is one to be cured, not embraced.
The focus on vampires as monsters aside, this anthology serves as a diverse introduction to modern Japanese horror. If it happens that a particular author’s piece does not appeal, no worries: each story is short and to the point, and there are more than a dozen other stories to sample.
1: “The One-Legged Woman” is dismissive of charity and cool towards the unfortunate. It would be a fine pick for an anthology of Vampire Stories Ayn Rand Would Have Liked.