Sci-fi Manga Roundup, pt. 1

This list is not, by any stretch, comprehensive: it encompasses only the works I would deem essential to salvage in case my house burned down, or something of the sort. Anyways, I’ll start off with a whole article dedicated to Katsuhiro Otomo, the man who, in my humble opinion, is the undisputed king of sci-fi manga. And even outside science-fiction, the number of mangakas who can stand shoulder to shoulder with him is almost nil.

His first work to gain prominence was Domu, subtitled A Child’s Dream. The plot concerns a housing complex in Tokyo, where a bizarre string of suicides has taken place in the last three years. The suicides, however, were not voluntary: they were manipulated by the evil will of a resident, who possesses psychic abilities. Things start to change when a young girl, called Etsuko, moves into the complex with her family. Etsuko also possesses extraordinary abilities, and displays a maturity well beyond her age. She makes a mission out of stopping the murderer, and what ensues is a bloody and explosive affair, indeed. Because, when we’re talking about psychic abilities in Otomo’s works, they usually involve very aggressive telekinesis, the likes of which I’ve never seen elsewhere. The telekinesis we see on TV shows and movies nowadays are so tame compared to this it makes me snore.

Otomo’s art here is impeccable, already fully matured, and very personal, unique. In fact, it’s very easy to spot if something has been drawn by him:. At the same time, his style is, you might say, universal, transcending the normal boundaries of manga stereotypes.

When it comes to the depiction of the housing complex, it almost seems to be a living and breathing character of its own. The level of detail on that building is insane! Having received formal architectural training really made a difference for Otomo. But even when it comes to depicting people and their mannerisms, Otomo also displays a strange mastery. This extends to narrative as well: the rhythm is well paced out, the dialogues are well written. The characters are human, convincing. Otomo already proves here that he is the “full package”.

Regarding Domu‘s origins, and despite what Otomo has officially stated, I have a cunning pet theory of my own… I think Otomo was greatly inspired (or at least impressed) by the Fury, a Brian De Palma film, made two years prior to Domu, and with which it shares many similar elements. I think it’s also worth mentioning Domu was awarded the Japan Science Fiction Grand Prix, which is mainly a literary contest, so for a manga to win it (it was the first) was something extraordinary!

I’ll cover the rest of Otomo’s graphic novels in the next article. Until then, and thanks for reading!

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