Thursday, 16 April 2009

Katsuhiro Otomo's Domu : A Child's Dream.

Domu : A Child's Dream (童夢,Dōmu) is first serialised in Japan from 1980 to 1982. Translated into English by Studio Proteus and published by Dark Horse Comics back in 1995, it comes in three 80 pages issue format in black & white and later collected into a single volume tradepaper back format. Domu is a semi horror story which took place in an apartment complex. The place reminds me of the thousands of flats/apartments complex found in this country like Penang's Rifle Range or even now demolished Pekeliling Flats in KL for instance. I have had an opportunity to stay for a short period at Uncle Peng's then apartment in Penang when I first graduated back in late 90s. Density is high, noisy and everywhere you turn are walls and corridors. It somehow gives off the feeling of being like a bird in a cage.
The story is about a string of mysterious suicides which occurred at the Tsutsumi Housing Complex. What baffles the investigators are that these suicides occur at an extremely adnormal rate (thirty two cases within three years) and there are no known motives nor logical explainations behind these. It turns out that an elderly residence by the name of Chojiro Uchida is responsible behind all these apparent suicides. Old Man Cho, as he is also known as in the story, posseses powerful psychokinesis power, which he uses to horrific effect on his victims. He suffers from an advance stage of senility. Having abandon by his daughter and her family one fine day many years ago (which I speculated as maybe they saw what he can do or they could see him as a burden and no longer wants to take care of him), he now spend his time on his own and "identify" potential victim via his/her objects in possesion which might fancy him, be it a ring or even trivial ones like a pen cap. He has a mind of an immature child now and like a spoilt child, he would take whatever he wants by causing the victims to kill themselves by jumping off the building. His murderous spree is disrupted one day with the arrival of Etsuko, a young girl with immensely powerful psychokinesis ability of her own. She immediately stops Cho from throwing a baby from the balcony. Angered by Etsuko for interrupting him "playing", Cho then plotted a series of revenge against Etsuko, partly to "punish" her and partly to get her attention, just like a child throwing tantrum. Thus began a battle between them which causes numerous horrific deaths and eventual destruction of an entire block of the housing complex. It is interesting to note that Etsuko, throughout majority of the story, has more sense of responsibility although she is just a kid, whilst Cho is behaving like a irresponsible brat. In fact, to Cho, all the destruction and murders are just part of "playing" and perhaps even to make up for the lost of affections and loneliness. At one point, Etsuko gave in to her tantrum after failing to stop Cho from turning on the housing complex gas mains, simply lash out at everything and everyone, including one unfortunate fireman who is blown into half. She is pacified only when she saw her mother and immediately ran out to her.
Maybe Otomo is trying to convey through this story about responsibility and neglect. From a parent, a kid and even society as a whole. Adults who acted irresponsibly by abandoning their elders, not spending time with their kids and so forth. It maybe also about power in the hands of those who does not know how to use it responsibly, which will only invite destruction and death.
In terms of illustration, Otomo's work, of which he would explore to even greater heights in Akira, contain top notch technical details, and a cinematic sense of composition, and with background in architecture, he illustrated the buildings to great effect to convey the feeling of eerieness throughout the story. He also manage to flesh out enough characterisation, although it is only three issue long.

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