Dragon Head 10

Speaking of last volumes, I totally forgot about the last volume of Dragon Head somehow. It was buried at the bottom of my pile, and while I was tossing aside Pastel and Boys Be and volumes of Bastard I didn’t want to read, I saw that one and remembered.

My roommate disagrees with my conclusion, but I still think my prediction as to the disaster from the beginning of the series was correct. I don’t think I included this in old posts, which is just as well, because I’m not going to spoil it now. But I found it to be interesting, it’s not something that people explore in stories very often, and it can be interesting if done right.

More than what happens, what things come down to is the nature of fear and how it drives people. At the end of the world, the biggest thing that humans fight is their own fear, which is a basic instinct that gets summoned when things go bad, basically. The bald guy from last volume goes on for a bit with the rescue squad who may or may not need rescuing themselves. I was a little confused as to how he and the fearless people fit in, other than he may have been either prepared or may have been behind what happened, at least partially, and his reaction was just something that happens at the end of the world, I suppose. You’ll have that.

The name of the series is explained as the last order of business. It was interesting.

There are about three pages of solid text, like a novel except with larger print. I’ve never seen this technique used in a manga before, but it fit quite nicely, since it was used for the radio broadcast that sort of cut in during a few tense scenes going on in different places.

The last image was particularly good. After everyone speaks of the end of the world, it’s kind of a reminder that… maybe “the world” is a relative term, maybe? Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. I don’t normally, but I really liked this series.

A few things are left up in the air, and the ending was a little anticlimactic (while everything is mostly explained, there is surprisingly little action), I still liked the ending a lot. The series was great all the way through, but probably best right in the beginning. Nothing ever quite compared to Teru’s fear of Nobu, and the claustrophobic subway setting was where the series shined best and the fear point was driven home best. Lots of other messed up things happened after that, but nothing that terrified me more than that.

Thank you, Dragon Head, for providing two years of solid entertainment. I’m glad it finished right before the Tokyopop business took place, I would have been devastated if we missed the ending.

Dragon Head 9

Just when you think things can’t possibly get any more disturbing in this series, they do.  I still say that some of the underground bits at the beginning of the series will never be topped, but the trip into the volcano was also pretty intense.  This volume, Teru runs across a colony of drug-addled people looking for the “ultimate fear” who maim and disfigure themselves.  They’re not even that crazy.  They’re drug-addled because that’s how the food is they have to eat.  They don’t talk to or interact with Teru.  They could care less if he’s there.  There’s some Dragon Heads wandering around, but they don’t really do anything.  Everything is just presented totally objectively, and you can take it or leave it.

That’s right, you can take or leave a gigantic, subterranean warehouse full of indifferent people who sever their own limbs to feel fear.  What the hell.

It’s still not entirely clear what’s going on in Tokyo.  There are rescue workers, but have they evacuated everyone but the crazies?  Are they still looking for survivors?  Have the crazies kept them from rescuing anyone?  For some reason, the fear seekers don’t like the rescue workers.

It seems my guess may have been mostly right as far as what the disaster was, but there may also be a slightly different spin on it than what I thought.   I suppose we’ll find out next volume.  Hopefully Ako is okay.

Dragon Head 8

There is just nothing quite like Dragon Head.  The thing that gets me about it time and time again is that it tells its story almost entirely through images.  There is no explanation given for what’s going on to the characters, so the reader only knows what the characters see of a situation, and the characters have no explanation for pillars of fire jetting up into the air.  The art is quite good, as it would have to be, and the atmosphere’s incredible.  You can feel the rotten mud as the characters wade through the mess in this volume.

Here, a storm kicks up that starts with an earthquake, continues with the pillar of fire I mentioned, and goes on with rain, mudslides, and a tornado.  Teru gets separated from the group, so a large part of the volume is spent in near-silence as Teru simply survives for page after page.  It’s pretty incredible.

I don’t really want to say much more about it since it would kind of spoil things (not that much happens), but yes, it’s still great.

Dragon Head 7

Now, this is the Dragon I prefer (context: I just reviewed a volume of Dragon Ball Z)!  I really, really, really, really like this series.  It seems to move at a snail’s pace, but it’s just so incredibly cool, and it succeeds as one of the finest horror manga I’ve ever read for being absolutely terrifying.

They clear the town finally, but not before the black cloud creeps up again.  The story actually advances quite a bit after stalling the past few volumes, but now Ako is haunted by Dragon Head the same way Teru is haunted by Nobu.  We also… FINALLY figure out what happened.  I didn’t think that would ever happen, or if it did, it would be in the last volume.  I had it pegged pretty accurately, down to the location, but there’s a chance what it appears to be isn’t the whole story either, so we’ll find out if it goes anywhere else.

Currently the gang is headed to Tokyo, and I think they’ll probably get there next volume unless there’s another layover.

There’s a double-page spread of only black pages used in this chapter.  My roommate and I had a deep and thoroughly geeky discussion about when this is awesome and appropriate and when it is lazy.  We both agreed it was very appropriate in Dragon Head.  I also said it was appropriate at the end of Death Note, while he maintained that no Shounen Jump manga could ever do that and not be lazy.  If anyone can do it, I think it’s Takeshi Obata, but he does have a point.

Dragon Head 6

Wait, wait, did I read this volume and then forget about it?  How can that be?  This is one of the best series I’m reading right now.

I got two copies, one which was for my roommate.  He read it as soon as we got it, and when I asked him if they explained Dragon Head, he just said, “I don’t know.  He’s clearly been lobotomized.”

They actually do explain it somewhat, but not really.  This explanation comes at the very end of the volume, but before that, we get chases through the woods, through a town where everyone’s gone batshit crazy, and then said villagers continue the chase through an abandoned hospital.  A nice touch is that the villiager’s faces are never seen.  Their crimes come from herding everyone who was scared in the town into an auditorium, locking the doors from the outside, then setting the place on fire.  They plan on blowing up the village from the hospital, but they have to kill the outsiders first.

We also get to see several people get blown up with a bazooka as well as barrels of gasoline.  Hooray for Dragon Head and lobotomies!

Dragon Head 5

I didn’t want to burn myself out on too much W Juliet, so I decided to read something that was the polar opposite to break up the monotony.  You see, it doesn’t get much different than W Juliet and Dragon Head.

Dragon Head continues to be pretty amazing.  In this volume, the quest is for gas for the helicopter and finding some medical help for Teru, who is in bad shape.  After a mishap, they wind up on the Izu peninsula and find that few places were untouched.  A woman helps them out and fills them in on her side of the story, and we learn a bit more about what may have caused the disaster (my bet is still on a bomb of some sort).  Ako and the crazy DF guy go out to a nearby town to try and get some medicine for Teru.

On the way, they meet the DRAGON HEAD.

I didn’t like this volume quite as much as others because there was a lot less action, but to be able to still wow me with a volume of dialogue mostly discussing the nature of fear is awesome.  Plus, at the end there is another massive battle that warms up and makes a bit of a cliffhanger.  I think the thing that makes this series fantastic is the unknown.  This makes the fear discussion here quite appropriate, most series don’t get you to understand the character’s fear as much as this one does.  See, we don’t know what caused the world to end.  We often don’t know what the characters are up against.  We don’t know what that cloud of ash is, we don’t know if that old lady has something up her sleeve, and we don’t know who this group of crazies is that’s attacking Ako.  We also still don’t know what the Dragon Head is capable of, either.


Dragon Head 4

So Nobu loses it a little bit here as he and Ako use up two more of their lives.  They find another abandoned town and a few more strange environmental anomalies as firespouts engulf the city and black rain falls.

There are a few more people who stop in, and at this point I’m living for these awkward encounters.  Most of these guys are decidely evil, and there’s quite a bit of hunting through the abandoned city that goes on from both their end and Nobu and Ako’s end.  Nobu loses himself a bit, though sadly we don’t get to see the body paint again.

Teru does reappear (sort of) as a kind of God of Death, and I’m glad to see it, because he’s a really fucking scary character.  Seeing him dance around out of place is really unsettling.  I’m also kind of glad to see both characters displaying the will to live, and I’m glad it took four volumes to come up, because I’d hate for it to be a refrain on every other page like it would be for any other series.

So now I’m caught up on this series, it’s become one of my favorites, and I’m dying for the next volume… one more month!

Dragon Head 3

So yes, this volume blew my mind.  I don’t know what I was expecting would happen when everyone got out of the tunnel.  An explanation, and perhaps some sort of dystopian direction for the series with a focus on a new culture.

The genius of this series is that nothing is explained.  You never get an explanation for absolutely anything that goes on.  You have to take everything at face value, just like the characters, and as a result, there’s kind of an extra level of immersion for the series.  Once out of the tunnel, there are no people, no supplies, and Nobu and Ako are almost worse off.  There are a small group of people, and they help some, but not much, and not before they do some truly disturbing things.   They, along with a brief television broadcast, suggest that society is finished and it’s every man for himself.  They offer an explanation that whatever happened to Japan may have something to do with the devil.  Nobu sees things.   Both Nobu and Ako hallucinate and have bad dreams, and this volume honestly scared me so bad I didn’t sleep last night.

I’m into horror manga, but the gory, over-the-top kind.  Psychological horror tends to turn me off because I can’t quite get into it to the level that you need to enjoy it.  This one is the first and only exception so far, and is the first manga that has ever truly scared me.

No explanations, no apologies, and no hope.  Visions of the dead coming back to life, and somehow Teru has come to represent death in his painted glory.  It’s deranged, and I love it.

Dragon Head 2

I wasn’t quite convinced this series was as good as every manly man out there claims it to be.  I did like it, and I certainly marked it above average after reading the first volume, but obviously it didn’t tickle my fancy enough to read the other two volumes I bought along with it.  After volume 4 came and my roommate shamed me into admitting how much of my manga I hadn’t actually read yet, I decided to appease him by reading my backlog with this series.

I read all three of the following volumes together.  This one did raise my opinion of the series, but it was three that really blew my mind, which I’ll get to later.

It’s hard to get this series going at first, I think, because it has a lot to do with a sort of long-term terror that comes around to stay.  As this volume drags on and the three kids are still trapped down in the dark tunnel with dwindling sources of light, food, and water, a ton of dead bodies, a rising temperature, and no way out, I began to get a better idea of just how terrifying that situation really is.  Living in Chicago, one of my worst fears is that I’ll have to evacuate an El underground and have to walk through the tunnel… this thought alone turns my stomach because I can’t even imagine the degree of garbage, filth and rats down there, and these three are trapped in such a tunnel for who knows how long.  That’s when everything in the series began to click.

The kid going out of his head is a nice touch, too.  One of the other things I like about this series is that there isn’t just one thing going on at once, there’s always at least two.  While the girl is dealing with the nutty kid, Nobu is trapped in an air duct that collapsed on him.  Both situations are equally bad, but as the tunnel begins to fall in on itself and everything kind of comes together, it all gets very surreal… and yet, everything is still firmly rooted in reality.

Dragon Head 1

My roommate has been telling me about this series for MONTHS. He bought it as soon as it came out because it had a terrible name with an awesome plot. I’ve scanned it before and liked it, but I rushed out and bought the first three volumes from the same comic store that had “Rica ‘tte Kanji” when I heard that it was going online-only.

I’m glad I committed to this one, because there is something truly frightening about it. It’s a psychological thriller more than it is horror, I think, but it’s still very good. Not much dialogue, which is consistent with two complete strangers trapped in an underground tunnel with a bunch of dead bodies. It’s quite realistic, and I love the art. The character design is rough, which fits really well, and the way the panels are laid out does a lot for the progression of time, which may have been a total of 4 days in this volume, but you felt every moment of it the same way the characters do.

I liked that one of them is a bit off, too. That should pan out nicely, and I’m literally dying to see where this goes. Finished it earlier today, and I’m probably gonna fly through volume 2 tonight.


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