Large mysterious alien ships have been looming above Japanese towns for three years, filling the sky. Everything changed three years ago. And yet, nothing has changed.
No weapon used against the invaders' ships had any success, beyond destroying part of japan and leaving its economy in shambles. JSDF is fighting a guerrilla battle against the aliens all over Japan. America is joining the "war" effort with more aggressive tactics, dividing Japan over the pacifist principle laid out in Art9. of their constitution.
But this may just be the mundane story of young middle schoolers.
"No matter what happens, I won't back down. At least not until this world filled with lies and deceit crumbles away. (...) The real threat to humankind is not invaders, but me."
WHY DEAD DEAD DEMON HAS ALL THE SIGNS OF BEING BETTER THAN OYASUMI PUNPUN
Everyone who generally reads Asano knows what Asano does best.
The early Asano was mainly short stories about the urban alienate in Japan, with an abundance of self-laceratingly aware or angst filled monologues, and also a tinge of magical realism at parts. Nijigahira Holograph was all of that while pushing the themes into the realm of high allegory. Solanin was the feel good indie comic hit. Oyasumi Punpun was his breakdown testing of a completely new methodology, with vast experimentation over all 147 chapters, plenty of sharp humor and purposeful parodical artifice, and a stretch of characterization beyond just the 'merely pathetic'. It was in there that Asano learned full control of his atmosphere, and stacked less on his woefully poetic monologic style, and placed more faith in his images. Umibe no Onnanoko was the extension of that, tightly written and tightly made, preferring elliptical atmospheric bubbles coagulating together rather than being merely a straightforward narrative about desperate love and lust (or rather it somehow does both equally well, and finds the median to communicate exactly what it needs in every instance).
In one chapter of DeDeDe, a journalist meets up with a public relations officer to interview her about a technological company's development of a new particle beam laser, used to destroy the space aliens that are currently invading Tokyo. The brief conversation they have goes through the whole history of that company, about how they shifted from making robotic/virtual pets, to riding on the agricultural boom by making farming robots, to eventually developing military weapons. In the meantime the conversation also reveals that both the journalist and the PR officer are old classmates and that she's having a bit of trouble with her current boyfriend. The conversation takes about 13 pages, the next 5 or so pages manages to stack even more characterization, a marginally startling narrative reveal, and a joke.
It's great to see a complete flourishing of an artist's style across multiple works, and you can tell he's far from done. Asano just has too much to say, and now he's finally getting away from his standard fare of topics, despite still having the same 'outcast focused' bent, he can finally reach everywhere he wants to reach at once. He's also firmly in his age. DeDeDe is his most contemporaneous work so far, and it seems to be evolving exactly with the times (pretty much the only equivalent out there is probably I Am A Hero). His characters are all the more distinct, coming in all shapes and forms and ideologies, with their own specific viewpoint on the world as they are situated in, and its how these viewpoints satellite off each other that the whole of the manga forms.
I mean its just so many things at once, simultaneously a social/political work, a surreal outre comedy work, character study, sociological study, a heartwarming tale of friendship, a sci-fi work... ornate with as much thick Asano detail as can be possibly mustered. And he pretty much proves the case, that never has there been a more exciting moment in human history, than being able to take current stock of our contemporary times.read more
Read it. It is something you should read, probably now or at least soon. And I say this as a person who always hisses with frustration, when she reads Asano, and is ready to disagree with him in this work too. But DeDeDe is currently so relevant, that it’d be stupid not to explore the living nerve. The collision of life and fiction is like nothing else around, so I’ll keep telling you and others to read it.
DeDeDe is about the anxiety that people of today feel or at least sense brewing, especially the young ones, those with the big unknown ahead and the world crumbling all around. DeDeDe is about the eternal question of “How can I have fun with friends, when there is war, and suffering, and death, including the death of my close ones and me, but then what is left to me, if I do not, also what the stupid and weak me can do anyway for this turbulent and complicated reality?”. It contains alienation and aliens, war approaching and love passing, growing up and dying off, faithful friendship and fleeting ideologies, hopes for future and plans for resignation, also a giant-ass flying saucer above Tokyo – the “mothership”, that drops aliens, blocks the sun and embodies this creeping unease.
It’s not easy to sum DeDeDe up. Nor should I attempt to. Asano is at his biggest and most literary here, reminding me of Tolstoy stronger than ever. DeDeDe is a “high” literature novel in scope, sprawling and dialectical, one that clearly aims to reflect the modern life in Japan in its various forms, cataloguing types and summing up experiences. The writing is wonderful, the narrative is complex – the author weaves many stories at once and makes use of the interesting technique of a story into a story (there’s a fictional comic that many characters read and almost every character knows). And the art is superb. Asano has accumulated enough experience and assistants to blend in detailed backgrounds (clearly based on photos), character designs and fictional elements seamlessly, creating shots, that are nothing if not breathtaking. Though it’s useful to remember that fictional world is like that – a focused reflection, not a straight carbon copy.
Too bad Asano is too honest and personal (by the way, that is what I hate Tolstoy for), it’s all him in his work, wherever you look or whoever follow. He eats away his characters mercilessly, and the schoolgirl protagonists (one self-insert for the reader, the other insane) feel like part mouthpieces, part anchors with rare moments of true life of their own. The characters, who are closer to Asano in age and sex, come out considerably more lively. Yeah, schoolgirls, probably, are the logical main characters in an attempt to summarize Japan, and an author does always mold his characters as he wishes, but still it’s not good enough for a big realist novel, which this manga aims to be the closest manga analog to. And Asano heavily discriminates his side characters (even bypassers), making some characters look cartoonish and ugly, giving them some oversimplified caricature features or, specifically, robbing them of “manga eyes”.
For all the deep, torturous topics Asano touches upon in Demon Destruction, for all the tension created, I am sure his answer will be small and personal, one not really solving shit (seen it in his Bakemono Recchan, that was when I found the key to my frustration with his works). This approach is honest, but it’s not enough for a work on ideology, though it happens pretty often even with classics. Also the answer given will be flawed as a result of the situation, of the fantastic analogy, that Asano has personally crafted. Why are aliens like this and not like that? What are they metaphor for? Punpun was easier, growing up and having depression are two things many can empathize with without further questions.
Yet for the potential failure on the ideology front, the personal parts strike close to home. It’s a lot to say this for me, wasn’t easy but I have come around. How could I not, if I also try to have fun with friends, even though I breath the heavy air of today’s world, half already in hell, half going there? And procrastinating death is what all of us do, everyday and no exception. Maybe the personal aspect will betray me as well, the answer of DeDeDe may still turn out to be either too edgy, or too hipster, or too Japanese for my liking, but mostly likely it will be too Asano. But there’s a lot to like and to think about during the ambitious and suspenseful ride. I know I am curious about the answer too, so I am looking forward to it, while I bask in the great atmosphere of DeDeDe, all concentrated Japan, all tension and then also some philosophy and a pinch of good social critique on top.
DeDeDe is the sort of thing you will shove into your professor, who condemns your for reading manga, the sort of thing you go to to repent for all the harem you have read. It is a beautiful and substantial work by a great author, made about things many people, and there’s a good chance you too, are living and pondering right now. Not reading it robs you of an experience, so, come on – read it, better now or at least soon.read more