Thursday, November 20, 2003

Domu: A Child's Dream, by Katsuhiro Otomo

Otomo's works include the justly famous Akira comics (don't let Amazon tell you there are only four volumes: there are six) and movie, which despite their near-incomprehensibility (I've never figured out if this is a function of storytelling or translation) are mind-boggling in their scope, their fetishization of violence and destruction, and their stark beauty. Now go back and diagram that sentence. Kidding. The film was a seminal point in the history of anime, and the comics, now fully in print from Dark Horse, are a must-read.

Domu is not on the scale of Akira, but it touches on many of the same themes; psychic madmen, urban despair, and lots of violence. Someone is killing the inhabitants of a sprawling low-income apartment complex in a large Japanese city (I don't think it's ever specified). The police investigation yields little but the realization that this is something beyond the scope of law enforcement. But the murderer manages to make a powerful enemy who can fight back, and from there things proceed in Otomo's usual epic, building-toppling, people-surviving-terrible-wounds-despite-losing-enough-blood-to-fill-a-bathtub fashion. What's great about Otomo is his commitment to the weirdness he creates; there is no attempt to explain how people come by these abilities, only an exploration of their consequences, which translates into a microcosm of global human achievements of war and science. Domu doesn't have the hypnotic depth of Akira, but if you're familiar with the masterpiece and enjoyed it, this is worth a read as well. Winner of Japan's 1983 Science Fiction Grand Prix.


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