This October, I’ll be focusing on some horror and horror themed manga – either titles that are explicitly horror, or have horror elements. This week, I’m taking a look at a one-volume manga from Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira – and the work he created immediately before Akira – Domu: A Child’s Dream.

Title: Domu – A Child’s Dream.
Written & Illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo
Translated by Dana Lewis & Toren Smith
Published by Futabasha (Japan) & Dark Horse Comics (USA)
US Publication Date: 2001

Available from Amazon.com.

The Premise

The Tsutsumi Public Housing project is experiencing a string of mysterious deaths and suicides. The police, looking for a mundane killer, are stumped. However, the real cause is far more sinister and dangerous. An old man, Chojiro Uchido, with apparently the mind of a child, possesses dreadful supernatural abilities. However, a young girl named Etsuko, who is a new tenant (along with her family) has the power to stop him.

High Points

The police investigation of the deaths is very well done, and shows a side of police work that you don’t usually see in manga – the slow, deliberate, detail-oriented side of police investigations. It’s written very well, and kind of makes me wish that there were some police procedural manga out there (like Ed McBain’s work).

The psychic battles between Etsuko and Chojiro are also increasingly well done, with an incredible sense of detail and geography.

Low Points

Chojiro, near as I can tell, has no stated motivation. If you turn your head, squint, and read a bunch into it based on how much you know or think you know about modern Japanese society.

Near as I can tell, with an educated guess, Chojiro’s motivation is rage over how he’s been treated by those younger than him. He has been abandoned by his children and grandchildren, people who, in semi-traditional Japanese society, should be taking care of him – Japan, IIRC, isn’t as big on fileal piety as Confucian or semi-confucian societies like China, but some of that is still in Japan. Further, he also blames social changes in modern Japan, caused by the younger generation, for this. His own Senility has reached a point that leads him to feel, as a senior, that he is entitled to do whatever he wants, when he wants, whoever he wents, as he’s paid his dues, so society owes him.

Chojiro could even be considered as a metaphor for the treatment younger genrations have received at the hands of older generations in Japan. This theme of the disenfranchisement of Japan’s youth would be revisited by Otomo in Akira.

However, all of this is guesswork and inference based on wider aspects on Japanese culture, because in the work itself we get a sum total of two clues to his motivation.

Scores

Originality: I can say that I’ve never seen this concept done before. 6/6

Artwork: Otomo, like Miyazaki, is a master of his craft, and this work (like Akira) clearly shows that. 6/6

Story: The story of Domu is a little like an episode of Colombo. You already know who did the killings. You may even know how. What you don’t know is how he’ll be stopped. 6/6

Characterization: Aside from Chojiro, most of the characters from the manga are very well fleshed out, and feel like real people. 5/6.

Emotional Response: This book did an incredible job of getting me into the action and characters. 6/6

Flow: 6/6

Overall: This is not Otomo’s magnum opus – that would be Akira. However, this is up there. Indeed, this is the first manga to win the Japanese version of the Nebula award, which has to be worth something. 6/6.

In total, Domu: A Child’s Dream, gets 41/42.

October Horror Manga Reviews

October 1st – Domu: A Child’s Dream by Katsuhiro Otomo
October 8th – Berserk: Volume 2 by Kentaro Miura
October 15th – Berserk: Volume 3 by Kentaro Miura
October 22nd – Uzumaki: Volume 1 by Junji Ito
October 29th – Uzumaki: Volume 2 by Junji Ito
Halloween – Uzumaki: Volume 3 by Junji Ito