Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Human society has this little kink to pick up people, put them on a pedestal and worship them as private gods. Business entrepreneurs wet themselves when they hear Donald Trump; young gadget pioneers kiss the picture of Bill Gates and so as you can see every social sphere has its own pantheon. I personally bow down in front several geniuses in literature as every writer in the making does. The Pantheon of Fantasy has names, which have built either the foundations or elevated the quality and reputation to a Nirvana for all readers, but there is one name, which can be spelled as magic. Neil Gaiman.

I know him to be a genius and yet I haven’t read anything, even though I posses some of his works. Now I spent the most enchanting afternoon in my life with his adapted four issue mini-series “The Sandman: The Dream Hunters”. So far I hadn’t had the chance to read anything from the Sandman world and I am not disappointed. An opinion is a subjective material and more often than not I have been disappointed from hefty praise. Neil Gaiman deserves his praise.

In the Dream Hunters we are introduced to an authentic Japanese tale with its shapeshifting animal spirits with mischievous behavior, but good hearts, the demons of the night, the countless gods and entities and a platonic love tragedy. Through manga, anime and even some prose experience I have a certain feel for all that is Japanese and I could have been fooled into believing that Gaiman is in fact native to the spirit of the land.

Originally an illustrated novella, “The Dream Hunters” tells about the love of a kitsune, a shapeshifting fox spirit, for a young monk at a small temple. When a powerful onmyoji, a Japanese mystic with diverse skills, seeks a way to chase away his own nameless fear and wishes to kill the monk in his dreams, the fox begs Morpheus for help and sacrifices her own life in order for the monk to live out of love. However the monk also shares secret devotion after seeing the fox in her human shape and dies so that she could live. Slain by anguish the kitsune seeks revenge and through trickery ruins the onmyoji and afterwards the reader is offered alternative endings to how the story can end. Will the monk and fox be together in the afterlife or not? It is up for the reader to decide.

I can definitely call this a comic book for intellectuals as it carries the distinct Japanese art of applying wisdom to any given situation with great quintessential thoughts that can be applied in our own daily life. Gaiman is a genius and P. Craig Russell adapted the novella in comic book format in quite the captivating way. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to ease a work from one medium into another and still make it work. Plus the art work is beyond words. I am not an expert in line work and color work, but from my point of view as a reader, who is on the receiving end I am with my jaw at my knees and loving it. I am probably repeating myself, but I can describe it as old style Japanese print art with its sense of tranquility.

If I have the opportunity, I will buy the novella and be swept away by the magic of it all. This is something not to be missed.


T.D. Newton said...

Yeah I picked this up and read it years ago. Not because of Gaiman, but because the artist is Yoshitaka Amano. I've been in love with his work since the mid 1990's when Squaresoft used it for the Final Fantasy 3 (SNES) manual, and of course he's done Vampire Hunter D work. The art in Sandman is the draw, and the book is worth a read for that alone.

daydream said...

I bet it had to be something to behold. So far I have had little contact with major names in art, since I find most my treasure on DA, but I saw the novella cover and can safely say you got a point. Plus Vampire Hunter D was spectacular.

T.D. Newton said...

Do a google search for Yoshitaka Amano - you won't be disappointed.

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