The Fall 2018 Manga Guide
Dead Mount Death Play
What's It About?In a final attempt to live out his dream of finally having peace and quiet, Corpse God activates a reincarnation spell as he is defeated by a brave cleric, Calamity Crusher. When he wakes up, he discovers he's in a new world he's never seen before!
Now posing a mysterious teenager Polka Shinoyama, Corpse God can continue to work towards his goal of living a quiet life, but first, he needs to make some money by working with an assassin group.
Dead Mount Death Play is published by Yen Press and is available through all major retailers both online and in person for $13.00 in paperback as well as $6.99 in digital format. Dead Mount Death Play is based on the light novel series written by legend Ryohgo Narita, creator of Baccano! and Durarara!!. The first volume is packed with 8 chapters and is 256 pages.
Is It Worth Reading?
From the man who brought you Baccano! and Durarara!! comes a title that lacks exclamation marks but still has a cast of way too many characters. It's also got Narita's signature blend of straight-out fantasy and magic realism, and in this case, that really works to create an interesting story. Dead Mount Death Play is equally about exploring the assumptions people make about others as it is an action adventure, and that's what really works in this first volume – Polka, or rather, the being known as the Corpse God who reincarnated as Polka when that boy was murdered for reasons unknown, was sold by his parents because of his ability to see the dead. This resulted in a terrible, lonely life, but because he became undead over the course of his usage by armies, all of his attempts at being happy were deemed “evil” and “corrupting.” Thus the bad guy turns out to be not so bad after all, and arguably the hero who took him out (or at least tried to) is much more of a villain than Polka ever was.
That's not to say that Polka is spotless, whether that's now or in his past life in an alternate fantasy world. (Does that make this a sort of reverse isekai story?) He certainly did kill or hurt a lot of adults, and now that he's in our world, he's carrying on – but it's all in the service of children. Even though he's more than an adult in terms of age, it's clear that Polka's still carrying around the hurt he suffered when his parents sold him into essential slavery, and Polka will use his powers to prevent tragedies befalling other children, or at least help their ghosts if he can't save them. That's a good motivation, and it helps to make his weird friendship with Misaki, the girl who was hired to assassinate the original Polka, make more sense, since her life was destroyed by someone murdering her parents. She may have gone in a different direction, but at the end of the day, both Polka and Misaki have the same basic motivations.
The story is adding characters at a fast pace, which could turn out to be an issue down the line. Between cops, killers, ghosts, and random lesbian sex scenes, there's a lot going on here, and while everyone is mostly distinct at this point, that risks changing if the story gets too crowded. There also really doesn't seem to be a point to the random lesbian sex – it just feels exploitative, because surely there was a better way to show that three of the characters are sleeping together. Other than that, the fanservice is fairly basic, and Shinta Fujimoto's art is good at blending the real world and fantasy-horror elements, as well as denoting action. If it doesn't overburden itself with characters, this could be a series to keep an eye on.
Dead Mount Death Play is a strange amalgamation of a fantasy RPG, a violent paranormal assassination gang story, and an antihero-versus-police procedural. Somehow, though, everything meshes together nicely without anything seeing too out of place by volume's end. It's jarring at first to go from one world to another, then to feel anything but annoyance at a maniacal murdering high school girl who seems as flat as a pancake when it comes to characterization. However, the Corpse God's methodical and unprejudiced method of dealing with those he encounters—as well as his awe-inspiring powers—wins those around him over. Somehow Misaki is made more tolerable after her Corpse God-bestowed invulnerability gives her nonchalant attitude toward death and danger a more quirky quality. The Corpse God himself is amusing with his fish-out-of-water moments and his youthful appearance at odds with his all-knowing persona. The story is full of other characters who manage to convey the barebones of their personalities—with room to grow in future installments—including several oddball personalities among the police unit devoted to inexplicable cases.
Fujimoto gives the characters fairly unique designs, though there isn't a woman on the page who isn't voluptuous to a ridiculous degree. His real strength is in drawing the horror elements of the story, such as the Corpse God's form in the other world and the creepy skeletons that communicate with him in the real world. Backgrounds are noticeably limited more often than not, though the heavy reliance on dark screentones does help to set the scary mood.
Dead Mount Death Play manages to make use of its higher page count to establish an intriguing plot filled with what initially seem to be disparate elements. While there's violence and a number of fanservice moments, it doesn't overdo either to the point of frequent gratuitousness. In a reversal of sorts of the isekai “a real-world person reborn in the fantasy world” trope, Dead Mount Death Play volume 1 is an impressive launch to a new series.
In the heat of an epic battle, Corpse God, an all-powerful necromancer, seals his fate by activating a reincarnation spell. After being defeated by a powerful knight known as Calamity Crusher. Meanwhile, in the future and in a different dimension, teenager Polka Shinoyama has a hit on his name. Through circumstances unknown, after Polka's throat is slashed, Corpse God wakes up in Polka's body. Now trying to live out his goal as somebody who lives in peace and quiet, Corpse God is working his way through his job as an assassin to reach his dreams.
The legendary Ryohgo Narita, novelist responsible for Durarara!! and Baccano! is responsible for Dead Mount Death Play. I'm a big fan of Baccano!, so to read DMDP I was quite excited, however, the story isn't for me. Yes, I love urban fantasy and supernatural mystery, but at the end of the day, the story of an overpowered seemingly helpless high schooler can be done so many times. Narita may have fallen flat for the writing, but I think praise should be given to artist Shinta Fujimoto. Though the panty shots were a little unnecessary, the small details in the individual summoned spirits and the summoning circles were wonderful! As great as Fujimoto can draw some great black magic, his abilities do lack, however, in drawing tasteful lesbian porn. Yes, there's' a scene halfway through the volume where two women are having sex for no reason besides fan service.
Despite having an all-star team working on it, Dead Mount Death Play feels like a dime a dozen manga that comes out at least five times a year. Maybe the complete light novel series holds up better?
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