From that guy who created Akira comes… another forgettable supernatural manga

Best known for his work Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Domu: A Child’s Dream focuses on telepathy, telekinesis, and an otherworldly battle in your typical government apartment building.

Domu: A Child’s Dream
Katsuhiro Otomo
Series, 1983
Mystery; Detective; Supernatural; Horror
Read Online | Buy*

From that guy who created Akira comes… another forgettable supernatural manga

Best known for his work Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Domu: A Child’s Dream focuses on telepathy, telekinesis, and an otherworldly battle in your typical government apartment building. Sounds a little familiar? While internationally popular Akira focused on telekinetic warfare and modern Japan with a more society-focused scenario on a large scale, Domu is smaller, shorter, and far, far more personal. Unlike its’ sibling piece, now a cult classic, Domu looks – and feels – dated. This is one manga that hasn’t stood up to the tests of time.

Winner of Japan’s Science Fiction Grand Prix Award, Katsuhiro’s work boils down to two key themes; immaturity and power. Set in a government-owned, sprawling housing complex in Tokyo. The detail in the backgrounds is pretty amazing, if you pause to take a closer look. If, like me, you are too eager to jump into the story itself and see what horror are just waiting to unfold, you’ll miss this on your first (and second) pass.

Originally released as a one-shot in Japan in 1983, western audiences received a six part translation from Dark Horse in the early 90s. Domu kicks off with a police investigation into an apparent suicide. The Tsutsumi Public Housing Complex has seen over 25 deaths in less than three years, many under mysterious circumstances. When tennent Mr. Ueno falls from the 10th story to his death, we join the police as they attempt to unravel the mystery.

Set in the late 70s, the manga really seems to capture the era. Little details, like children being sent to the store to pick up cigarettes and beer, really give a feeling of a bygone era.

Resident and ld man, Chojiro Uchida, is thought to be a harmless, senile old man. We quickly discover, despite his missing marbles, he is far more than meets the eye. When police decide to consult a psychic to help solve the mysterious deaths, she refuses to even pass over the threshold of the complex.

The powers are too big for me to stay…you need to watch out for the children…or 20 more will die

Mysterious. Vague. Prophetic but by large useless predictions without any real suggestions to help? Sounds like your standard fictional psychic. It’s not until a new girl, Etsuko, arrives that the real story starts to kick off.

Domu likes to throw our expectations on their heads. We have an adult who acts like a ‘horrible little boy’, throwing temper tantrums, collecting trinkets, even pushing others around like a naughty child on the playground; while the actual children run errands, show stronger moral senses of right and wrong, and work to protect others. It also likes to throw a touch of painful realism in amongst the crazy psychic powers and over the top battles. We are faced with the uncomfortable reality of elderly abandonment, as one character’s family has left him behind rather than stay to look after him in his old age; as well as the high levels of pressure children feel, not only from their own expectations, but from those around them. The backlash when those expectations cannot be met, when combined with sheer power and inexperience, is startling.

In theory, it sounds like a good, short read. But…it’s a bit of a weird one. Despite its popularity (it sold over 500,000 copies in Japan alone during its initial serialised release), as well as its award-winning status (having won both the Japan Cartoonists Association Award for excellence, and the Nihon SF Taisho Award), it just…hasn’t aged well. It feels clunky. There isn’t a satisfying resolution, or any real resolution (in my opinion). Personally? I don’t like it. But I’m a bad example; I’m not a huge fan of Akira either, or sci-fi/supernatural, futuristic/modernistic manga. If you enjoy your manga without every action explained or resolved, this could be for you. Otherwise? It’s pretty forgettable.


*All six western-released volumes were not in print at the time this post went live. Second-hand copies can be expensive and hard to find. If you spot this message and the book has been re-printed, please leave a comment or drop me a message and I will change this. Thank you.seri
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