Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Domu: A Child's Dream by Katsuhiro Otomo

 Unfortunately funds don't currently stretch to being able to afford the complete omnibus of all three parts of Domu - A Child's Dream, (translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith), so for the time being I'm having to make do with the first instalment, it's a slight temple scratcher as to why this isn't more readily available, being from the creator of Akira, you'd assume that it would be available in multiple formats 24 7, but there we go. It's been a long while since I've watched Akira and I'd have to confess that I've not reached a reading of the volumes as of yet either, although reading a little about Domu online there appears to be a slight crossover between the works, whether this becomes more apparent in volumes Two and Three I can't yet say. Much of the idea for Domu apparently came from Otomo's own experiences after first moving to Tokyo where he lived in an apartment block with a large number of cases of suicide, the setting of Domu is in a danchi, the Tsutsumi Public housing complex, that has seen 25 deaths in 3 years, the story opens with Mr Ueno jumping from the roof, which thereafter leads to the case being investigated by Inspector Yamagawa. These scenes alternate a little between seeing the police ruminate on the case and going over the past history of the mysterious deaths, with that of being introduced to some of the notable characters of the block, who'll feature again as the story begins to unfold, Mrs Tezuka, who suffered a miscarriage late in her pregnancy term, Yoshio Fujiyama, a man who lives with his mother, Fujiyama is suspected of being a child molester, who despite his age has the mental age of a 5 year old, he's given the nickname of Little Yo, Yoshikawa an alcoholic who at some point in his past was involved in a truck accident, his son, Hiroshi begins to feature more prominently when a new family moves in and he plays with the daughter, Etsuko, Otomo contrasts the pair juxtaposing their return from play to their respective apartments, Etsuko chatting away describing, rather worryingly, that they've been playing with Little Yo, with that of Hiroshi returning to the apartment with his father sprawled out amongst bottles asking for him to bring him more beer. Another character who at first is described only as being Sasaki's son, (Tsutomu), seems to keep himself to himself, there is also old man Cho, who sits out on the bench all day so obvious he evades attention. 

The police locate a witness who saw Mr Ueno on the night of his suicide who remembers vividly his strange baseball cap which had been attached with a pair of angel wings, things get stranger when a police officer on patrol goes wandering and is also found to have jumped from the roof, and further still when Inspector Yamagawa pursues a voice mocking him for an episode in his past is lead to the roof, and sees the illuminated image of a spectral old man Cho hovering towards him, he suffers the same fate of those he has been investigating. In a way the first volume of Domu is a book of two halves, in the second, much of the action is seen through Etsuko's eyes, she spies old man Cho's levitation tricks, and the attention shifts to him as being the malevolent force that is behind all of the strange deaths, his head appears to rise up out of the table in Yoshikawa's flat as if it were poking up out of water. Needless to say the artwork in Domu is breath taking, Otomo's drawing is awe inspiring to study, and despite the impression of the vastness of the danchi, there remains a certain claustrophobic element in his depiction of it, looking at his buildings it's understandable that he is a source of inspiration for subsequent generations of artists, in particular one maybe being Hisaharu Motoda whose book Neo Ruins is still one that remains prominent on the wants list.

Another Inspector arrives to take up the case who also begins to hear voices prompting him to leave the complex, but whose voice is it?, old man Cho's?, Yamagawa's?, no doubt all will be explained in the subsequent volumes. The end of volume one culminates with Sasaki's son who we see studying hard in his room, then being distracted by his hobby of making model aeroplanes, as we watch him old man Cho's spectral presence is seen hovering outside of his window and then entering the room. Otomo plays these culminating scenes off of one another to maximum affect, with the scene of old man Cho appearing in Yoshikawa's flat left unresolved, but Etsuko bumps into Tsutomu Sasaki on an errand ending the first volume on a rather gory note. In Domu Otomo explores a dark psychology, which points to the conundrum of who is actually being used by who, no doubt nothing is to be taken at face value, although I'm not sure as to how it's plot will resolve itself I'm glad to have become acquainted with it's first instalment.                            

Domu: A Child's Dream at Dark Horse

further synopsis at Wikipedia     

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