The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction
What's It About?Three years ago on August 31st, a huge alien spaceship appeared in the sky over Tokyo. In the ensuing days, smaller saucers were released, thousands of people went missing, and others were killed, sending the world into a state of shock.
With the help of the US, Japan was able to sort of neutralize the mothership, although it remained firmly parked above Tokyo, and now, three years later, the younger generation has just pretty much accepted the state of the city. While older folks panic and wear face masks, planning to leave for the uncontaminated countryside, kids still go to school, play video games, and obsess about their crushes. Kadoda's dad went missing on 8/31 and her mom never really recovered, but she's still doing her best, studying for her college entrance exams and trying to convince her zany friend Ontan to go with her.
Since the world didn't end, isn't it best to just keeping putting one foot in front of the other? Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction is written and illustrated by Inio Asano. It was published by Viz in April and sells for $14.99.
Is It Worth Reading?
Unwieldly title aside, Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction is classic Inio Asano: ordinary people living outwardly ordinary lives with a variety of things bubbling just beneath the surface. The twist this time is the alien invasion that happened three years prior to the start of the story, but I still would hesitate to call this actual science fiction. It's more like post-alien life, if that makes sense; a world where the aliens invaded, but you've still got to worry about getting your homework done on time. A friend of mine described it as “very Millennial,” and I think that's about right – the world may have turned on it's head, but hey, gotta pay those bills anyway.
As with most Asano titles, the details are well worth paying attention to. The most obvious reason for this has its payoff in the very last panel of the main story, something that was, if not hinted at, at least kept simmering in the background of most of the volume. But almost every piece of text and background detail serves to give us more information not just about the characters and plot, but about the state of the world post-invasion. Internet searches are a mix of the same gossipy garbage we see now with the odd addition of something about aliens or weapons. Signs listing the numbers of the dead and missing, updated daily, are casually juxtaposed with apartment listings. More people than you might expect are walking around with face masks on, but until you really pay attention to protagonist Kadode's mom, it doesn't really mean anything…and then suddenly you realize that virtually every person in a mask is parent-age or older and that they're all fearful of “A-ray” contamination, something that it seems none of the younger set is remotely afraid of.
It seems very possible that Asano is working with a war metaphor in the story, largely because “A-ray” is a pretty loaded name, particularly when you use it in sentences with “Japan,” “America,” and “bomb.” That may be why the older generations are so much more afraid of this supposedly harmless-to-humans invention: they have memories of WWII or perhaps Vietnam and know that nothing thrown at an enemy is ever as safe as governments claim. That makes the kids' lackadaisical response to the fact that a giant alien spaceship is blocking the sun over Tokyo and routinely sending out little flying saucers troubling, because if people begin to forget the horrors of the past, what's to prevent them from happening again?
Whether or not that's the direction Asano is taking this in, this is still an interesting volume in its own right. The high level of detail can be overwhelming at times, which can distract us from the equally important question of what we aren't seeing, specifically the aliens themselves. The final panel does make it clear that that's been on purpose, and it feels as if this series may get a little bit more sinister going forward. But then again, maybe it'll remain as is: a story about how no matter what happens, people can accept it as normal and just move on. Those essays aren't going to write themselves, are they?
Manga author Inio Asano has a resume full of stark, moody works honing in on teen life's aimless angst and desperation. Asano's stories can be nihilistic at times, or as in the case of this book, strangely accurate with how humanity becomes accustomed to an impossibly awful reality. The story stars two teen girls. One is Kadode, who has an overt crush on one of her teachers and loves the manga character Isobeyan, a sort of mushroom guy loosely based on Doraemon. Her best friend is the over-the-top Ouran who loudly boasts about taking over the world and other silly plots.
The two go about their daily lives per usual and Asano captures the sort of characteristic silliness and drama that accompanies teenage interactions. Both girls clash with a boastful classmate, play video games, and hang out while completely powerless to the machinizations going on around them. Japan has exited its role as a pacifist nation to engage with the giant flying saucer looming over Tokyo. The spaceship killed thousands three years ago and the weapons Japan deployed against it at the behest of America also created a new kind of nuclear fall-out. Weapon manufacturing is up, political in-fighting is inevitable, and Asano does due diligence to make sure readers never actually see what the invaders look like.
Dead Dead Demon's first volume begs for a second or even third read as Asano seems intent on giving readers just a glimpse of the story's cards. Kadode and Ouran may be just making the most of the world's inevitable ending but the story feels like it wants to say something about who started the fire in the first place. The girls listless days arguing about video games against the backdrop of worldwide crisis and their disaffected attitude seems like a very specific mood. Anyone who has consumed too much breaking news and felt utterly helpless to stop a tide destruction by “the adults” will find that exact emotion permeating throughout the volume. Everyone seems to being their best to ignore the obvious awfulness floating in sky in front of their faces, instead distracting themselves with routine.
Dead Dead Demon Dededede Destruction's is something to be taken in doses. Its realism and brooding is too thick to consume at any quicker a pace. The expert way it commits to its point of view is rare and I remain intrigued to see what else Asano has to say.
The first volume of Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction is a purposefully unpleasant examination of the repellant sides of humanity. The alien invasion that dominates the proceedings, ever-present in the background, isn't even the focal point—the jaded high school girls' lives are. The series offers an interesting question about how long a society can function in “high alert mode.” If aliens wiped out tens of thousands of people and attacked on a regular basis but still left humanity alone most of the time for years, what else could the average citizen do other than go about their business and hope for the best? In the case of Kadode and Oran, these cynical teens actually claim to continue to hope for the worst, for death and destruction to be their key to exiting the daily grind of school and pointless planning for a future that may or may not come to pass. These girls aren't common manga tropes by any means. Pessimistic and honest about their darker desires—sleeping with a teacher or ruling over humankind, for example—they manage to have fun the best they can. They even have moments of adorableness in their own way, but average waifu material, they aren't.
The seemingly aimless meandering of one chapter to the next can make the overall picture difficult to decipher, though there are always the alien ships hanging in the background and hints of bizarre unexplained mysteries that the series will eventually hopefully answer. This is a world where children may not fully comprehend the consequences of death and disappearance, even when personally affected by it, making them the perfect characters to follow when it comes to crafting a manga that's more about oddity than sci-fi tropes and alien invasion.
Asao's art is suitable for the story—bordering on realism, not trying to make anything pretty, and full of overwhelming details that bombard the reader at every turn. It might be too cluttered at times, but that still suits this dark and moody world.
Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction volume 1 is somehow intense in its blasé attitude toward humankind and the end of the world. It's jarring and discomfiting to read, but by volume's end, you'll wish you had more. Dead Dead is a manga that's difficult to describe, a series that needs to be experienced for someone to fully understand the way it comes together to project a mood.
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