Few manga in recent memory have been as consistent as Inio Asano’s Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction. Out of the series’ first four installments, there was only one we scored lower than a 9/10. Asano’s take on everyday human life in the wake of alien invasion has impressed with its creativity, emotional poignancy, and extremely detailed line-work. Vol. 5 is out this week, and it follows Ontan and Kodode as they make advances in love and befriend an alien. There are also major developments with regards to the invaders and Japanese military attacks upon them. Are all these plot points juggled effectively? Does this volume live up to the high expectations set by its predecessors?
The character work here is fantastic. Asano continues to deliver strong dialogue that fleshes out characters’ personalities and conveys the sheer awkwardness of adolescence in a relatable manner. Plot-wise Ontan and Kodode are the driving figures here, and we get to see them develop as individuals as well as cope with the changing state of their friendship. There’s a sense that the characters have matured a bit, even if it’s been very gradual. The pacing in this volume is slow and steady, allowing readers to follow the protagonists through their everyday lives. Major plot developments and reveals about the military or invaders mostly happen peripherally to all this, if not in entirely separate scenes.
Good though the meat of the story is, it’s these political asides that are the most entertaining. A few more cryptic hints are given regarding how life on Earth might end, but more questions pop up to replace those that get answered. Without spoiling why, I’ll just say that the presence of aliens on Earth gets a lot more complicated. The government’s actions, meanwhile, are disturbing in a way that calls to mind unsavory aspects of real human society.
The most memorable scene in this volume is probably one in which a pop idol hosts an event revealing brand new military weaponry that she helped design by picking out cute patterns and colors. It’s a harrowing reminder of how violence and acts of war are usually marketed as good things to the general public. Capitalism and the never-ending quest for money (even in the face of imminent societal collapse) is also clearly on display as characters kiss in panels prominently featuring advertisements and business signs. No matter how serious or intimate the moment, the protagonists are always surrounded by the military industrial complex and other big businesses.
Art-wise, Asano and his background assistants Satsuki Sato, Ran Atsumori, and Buuko deliver strong work as always. The level of detail in most of the line-work is staggering, particularly where architecture and other background details are concerned. From wide-shots of cityscapes to the gigantic spaceship looming over Tokyo, there are imposing structures aplenty. The sheer intricacy present in these shots sells just how big and overwhelming the manga’s world is, making it readily apparent why the characters feel so small in the grand scheme of things. With that said there are also times when Asano uses a more cartoony style, usually to render humans or animals. These less detailed, more over-the-top caricatures are humorous and reflect the incredulity with which the characters view their surroundings.
Overall, Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction Vol. 5 is yet another stellar installment in the series. The intricately detailed artwork and vast cityscapes convey just how large and overwhelming the manga’s world is, and the character work throughout is strong. There are also some intriguing hints about what’s next to come. All in all, there’s very little to complain about here. One could argue that some of the romance feels a tad rushed and lacks build-up on the page, but this isn’t a huge concern. I’m more eager than ever to find out what happens next.