From the creator of Goodnight Punpun and solanin. comes a new slice-of-life tale, following at couple of young people wandering through their lives. However, there’s a twist with an imminent threat of doom looming over them. Is Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction Vol. 1 good?
Kadode Koyama is an average girl approaching the end of her high school career, not sure what to do with her life and just kind of drifting through it without much purpose. Oran Nakagawa is her best friend and a very odd duck, both with rambling about taking over humanity and her in-your-face attitude. The two are inseparable and love each other’s company. Meanwhile, a gigantic mothership has silently loomed over their home for the past three years, threatening to destroy them all in the blink of the eye. However, that’s just life and it’s not going to get in their way.
The latest series from Inio Asano is one that’s both within his usual ballpark of stories and themes, but also just outside of it too, allowing for something that feels a bit different and fresh as well. Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction is a slice-of-life tale about two girls living their lives and trying to figure out what they want to do. With Kadode, it is about figuring out where she wants to go and if it is really worth it given her situation at home and what’s going on in the world. For Oran, or Ontan as Kadode calls her, it’s just seemingly living her life day-to-day in her own way, supporting her best friend through thick-and-thin. It’s the type of realistic human story that is usually in Asano’s wheelhouse and that he does well at. The other half of the story is what makes it really stand out amongst the crowd.
Three years ago, a gigantic alien spacecraft appeared in the sky and parked itself over Tokyo. Tens of thousands of people were killed and many others disappeared, including Kadode’s dad. Ever since then, the constant threat of annihilation lingered overhead as the governments of the world tried to figure out what to do while people became paranoid of nuclear radiation and danger. This addition to the series is what makes an already good book even better. The backdrop of this alien threat is wonderfully included and it’s great to see how Asano depicts the mundane danger that looms over everyone, including our characters. We constantly get updates and amusing satire bits from the government’s handling of the threat, like an eco-friendly laser cannon, to regular citizens nonchalantly chatting with others on the phone as a scout ship hovers a few feet away. The main characters, especially Ontan, are obsessed with the aliens and are constantly thinking about whether there will be a future or not. The added alien threat layer, along with how things still remain down-to-earth in their depiction of real life worries, gives this manga such a memorable, refreshing feel to it that it’s easily become of my favorite new series debuts this year.
Of course, combining an alien sci-fi element with the mundanity and indecisive feelings of day-to-day life is just one thing. This type of story would be nothing without strong, memorable characters backing it up and like many of Asano’s series, we get that. Kadode is a very likeable, realistic character that’s great to read about. She’s quiet and sad, dealing with her overly paranoid mother and not being sure where to go in life, especially since she doesn’t know if it’ll end soon or if things will just never change. You get the feeling she’s depressed, but throughout the book, from opening up to the teacher she has a crush on to finally telling her mother what she feels, she does seem to be getting better. She’s also very dependent on Ontan for comfort and support, who is more than willing to help her out.
Speaking of which, Ontan is almost like an even kookier version of Pinkie Pie, though with less toony physics and more interest in taking over humanity or seeing its destruction. She’s very energetic and hyper, always doing odd things (like messing with her bike handles) or rambling/commenting on something in a strange way (like a friend’s views on romance). She’s obsessed with aliens and videogames, never really showing much interest in where life will take her. Despite her oddities, she’s very protective of Kadode and is always looking out for her, such as when she supports the unrealistic crush Kadode has or when she helps Kadode out when her home life becomes too difficult. The two leads feel so fleshed out and have such a great friendship and rapport that I would easily read the series even if there were no alien threat.
The supporting cast members, on the flipside, are sadly not as developed as our leads. They’re there to serve the main characters and their arcs more than anything, but they are all pretty distinct and memorable. There’s the three friends Kadode and Ontan hang out with–Kiho, Ai, and Rin–who ground the two and show how the duo interact with others. Ontan and Kiho’s friendship is especially fun with how Ontan’s constantly ragging on Kiho’s loves and trendy lifestyle. There’s Kadode’s overly paranoid mom who is pretty suffocating and controlling. You get why she is that way and it’s hard not to understand her position, but you also can’t help but feel for Kadode and how much she has to put up with. The mom is barely in the book but there’s so much that can be read into about their relationship.
There’s the homeroom teacher, Naoki, who while having a lazy, relaxed attitude about himself is very caring for his students, and despite the looming threat, still hopes they try their best and think about their futures. We also have Hiroshi Nakagawa, Ontan’s older brother who is an Internet troll and rarely gets out of the house. He’s probably the least pleasant of the cast, especially if you’re not a fan of trolls, though he still displays positive traits and is rather reflective about the world and everyone growing up. There are still more characters on top of these ones, and while they’re nowhere near as developed, they are all pretty distinct in their personalities and designs.
The writing on the book is really good as well. One point in particular I want to mention is the tone. The previous series that Asano wrote, and the one that Viz just finished publishing, Goodnight Punpun, was incredibly bleak and depressing. It went so far that when he started writing this manga he specifically went out of his way to make it lighter and more upbeat. That certainly shows. Despite the dark threat of imminent destruction, this series is much more happy and hopeful in its own, weird way. The creator does a terrific job balancing both the dark and light sides of the story, making sure things stay serious, but never so much so that this volume feels hard and uncomfortable to get through like other series of his. This ultimately makes Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction a much easier manga to recommend and get invested in.
As for the rest of the writing, it’s pretty good overall. The pacing is quick and swift at times with little to no dialogue in panels, allowing the visuals to convey everything you need to know about what is happening. The opening chapter is especially good at this from the scene on the rooftop of the school to Kadode coming home from classes. The dialogue is pretty engaging and quirky at times, really helping you get pulled into what people are saying while also distinguishing the cast members from each other. Ontan has some of the best lines, like in the bonus chapter where she goes off about supporting Rin’s interest in guy-on-guy action. The humor is alright, though it never really made me laugh or chuckle. The human moments and interactions are very touching and sweet, like Ontan confronting Kadode after she left her teacher’s apartment. This is a thoroughly well-written manga from beginning to end.
Inio Asano’s artwork is just as good as the writing. Its style is very similar to that of Goodnight Punpun, leaning more towards the quirkiness of the beginning chapters while also depicting the serious, rather detailed side from its later chapters. Not one single character looks the same as another in any way; the artwork uses a mixture of realistic and cartoony elements to bring everyone to life. Kadode is probably the most realistic-looking, but then you have people like Takabatake with his curly eyebrows and bright eyes as well as a news reporter whose face looks like Happy’s from Fairy Tail. The layouts are very well put together and easy to follow along with, on occasion using decompression and full-page spreads to really capture a specific feeling or tone. The level of detail is astounding at times from the mothership to the city everyone resides in, helping to make the world feel more real and alive. This is a beautiful series and a great showing of how wonderfully Asano’s art has evolved since he began.
Is It Good?
Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction Vol. 1 is by far one of the best manga I’ve read in a while, and it’s also easily one of Asano’s strongest series debuts. The combination of slice-of-life and sci-fi, as well as how it’s presented, is truly amazing, making a manga that is just so engaging to read. The lead characters are wonderfully realized and the supporting cast that boosts them up only strengthens that. With terrific writing and gorgeous visuals, this is a series that’s worth checking out and diving into whether you’re a fan of the genre or not.