A twisted old man, gifted with extrasensory powers, silently holds sway over an entire block of apartments. The occupants are puppets for him to control. Life is his to give...and to take. But suddenly there is a new voice in his head, and before he knows it, a young girl with her own battery of psychic abilities has arrived to challenge him! Soon, the sprawling complex becomes a battleground between two minds possessing incredible, unimaginable power.
Doumu won the 4th Japan Science Fiction Grand Prix award, the first graphic novel ever to be awarded such an honor, and was granted an excellence award at the 1981 Japan Cartoonists Association Award.
The series was published in English as Domu: A Child's Dream by Dark Horse in individual volumes in 1995 and was compiled together in February 13, 1996 (re-issued in 2001) which was one of Dark Horse's top sellers for that year.
A dreary apartment complex somewhere in Japan has been suffering all manner of weird inexplicable deaths for a few years by the time this story opens with the police investigation of yet another suicide.
We follow the chief investigator as he goes through the procedural motions of trying to find out what’s going on, and then by the end of the first chapter we meet our antagonist, hovering above the ground slightly, dressed in the spoils of his demented war against random working class people trying to get through their days in peace.
The malevolence displayed by this elderly man really is despicable not only because of
his actions but because of his age which you automatically associate with helplessness, and his attitude to destroying lives. It’s the kind of evil you see in children, which is the lovely irony of the whole story.
Katsuhiro Otomo's Domu continues his fascination with abnormal powers in the hands of unstable characters that wreck havoc all around them. The apartment block serves as an interesting backdrop to the mental and psychological battles waged between the crotchety antagonist and his youthful nemesis. These cat and mouse conflicts are heightened by the fact that the population of the apartment complex are threatened as collateral damage, which makes for great edge-of-your-seat reading.
The setting of Domu provides many windows into the lives of characters inhabiting the apartment complex. This cast that populates Domu gives the story a humanising aspect rather than have it remain an isolated series of incidents involving a good guy, bad guy and things blowing up. The potential of telekinetic and mind control powers gone awry affects many people, their families and friends. Suspense is not suspense unless the stakes are high.
The scene composition and pacing in this manga is as if Alfred Hitchcock possessed Otomo, with wide angled shots of running characters shadowed by tall buildings around them, close-ups of sweating people, dead people appearing to freak out their still-mourning friends and disappearing again, the suspense is ratcheted all the way with skill in a way Otomo excels at best. The empty corridors of an apartment complex provide many eerie scenes to revel in for fans of potboiling-crime/horror thrillers.
The suspense ultimately gives way to a type of destruction that Otomo is famed for, concrete foundations are ripped, towers are toppled and glass is shattered into a million pieces in an action-packed climax that is full of masterful staging, pace, set pieces and panels of brilliant art. There is barely any dialogue for the last half of the manga, which some might deem a flaw but I deem a refreshing change from long monologues or speeches in the middle of action scenes that rip me out of the story.
Domu keeps me captivated from the first page to the last ultimately leaving me as breathless as everyone else in the end when the dust has settled.
This manga was nothing short of revolutionary. I can only imagine Katsuhiro Otomo had a vision, and suddenly knew what future manga should look like. The character designs were out of this world, and immediately copied by his contemporaries (most notably Naoki Urasawa, or even in shoujo (Banana Fish)). Every detail in his artwork was breathtaking and a giant leap forward for the medium in general.
The pace picks up a few notches compared to any other manga of the time. And the psychological mindfuckery may seem normal to anime-lovers, but it wasn't ever done this effectively, until Otomo came along and added the intensity that
was needed in existing manga about ESPers.
It was Akira that made Otomo so influential, but Doumu was first, and I'd even call it a more satisfying read. While Akira was lengthy and could be blamed for having one or two chase-sequences too many, Doumu is a short and powerful smack in the hypothalamus. It deserved all the credit and awards it got.
Akira will be remembered, but for me, Doumu gets the extra points for being Otomo's first longer work, introducing his suspenseful, intense and at times gory style, which fan boys appreciate so much in all their current favourite anime.
Also features: beautiful drawings of exploding buildings