DORAEMON and Domu manga

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            Dômu, “Child’s Dream” • Katsuhiro Otomo • Dark Horse (1995–1996) • Futabasha (Manga Action Deluxe, 1980–1983) • 1 volume • Seinen, Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror • Unrated/16+ (graphic violence)

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            Police investigate a run-down apartment complex haunted by strange deaths, unaware of the true shadow over the building: a senile old man with psychic powers, who toys with the fragile minds and bodies of his neighbors. Then a little girl with even stronger psychic abilities moves into the complex, challenging the old man in an unseen war that escalates into massive destruction. Domu reads like a dry run for the even more apocalyptic psychic battles of Akira, but the early parts of the story, before it turns into an action comic, have a gloomy feeling of urban nightmare. The two main characters—the girl and the man—are both inarticulate, making for a cold story, whose human characters are mere dominos waiting to be toppled. Otomo’s art is beautifully detailed and fine-lined; his characters are realistic, and the omnipresent apartment complex is imbued with mundane hostility.



            Doraemon  • Fujiko Fujio • Shogakukan English Comics (2002–2005) • Shogakukan (various magazines, 1970–1996) • 10 volumes, suspended (45+ volumes in Japan) • Comedy • All Ages (extremely mild violence, occasional toilet humor)

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            This classic children’s sci-fi gag manga occupies the same position in Japan as the most revered comic strips in America; almost forty years after its creation, the franchise is still going strong, with new animation, toys, and pop culture appearances. The premise is simple: Nobita, a lazy boy who’s good at neither school nor sports, is visited by Doraemon, an earless cat-robot sent from the future to keep him from becoming a screwup. In every 8-page episode, Doraemon, like a genie, produces some marvelous future device (such as a propeller beanie) intended to make Nobita’s life easier, but which always produces unexpected results, usually as a result of Nobita’s misuse. (Although Doraemon, too, occasionally messes up.) The result is the silliest topsy-turvy situations, made all the funnier by the old-fashioned, simple artwork; Doraemon’s blankly happy grin and occasional deadpan comments add to the surrounding elementary-school mischief. The series has never been officially released in America, but ten volumes were translated in a bilingual edition.