Dec 16, 2008
Doumu (Manga) add (All reviews)
Beatnik (All reviews)
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.