As a manga fan interested in human drama-driven sci-fi stories, few series have interested me as much recently as Inio Asano’s Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction. Its contrasting of political and military developments with the daily lives of young women has been compelling, as has its unique aesthetic. Does the latest installment, Vol. 6, meet the same high bar as its predecessors?
So what’s it about?
According to the official synopsis from Viz Media:
The collaboration between S.E.S. and the Self-Defense Forces is going beautifully. Fujin Type 9s patrol the streets of Tokyo, and the slaughter of the Invaders is at an all-time high. It’s almost enough to distract the populace from the ominous smoke coming from the mother ship!
Meanwhile, Kadode is getting used to having an Invader living in her apartment. His delicious cooking almost makes up for the stress of dealing with the constant threat of vigilante exterminators taking him down right in front of her eyes!
One of this volume’s main strengths is its handling of political sentiment and the ways it’s grounded in everyday life and human malice. Take for instance an important meeting where the prime minister of Japan discusses international pressures with his advisors. The scene ends not with a pivotal policy decision or any sort of dramatic revelation, but with the prime minister lamenting how the mascots in some government-issued propoganda aren’t busty and sexy enough. It’s revolting, but also a great reflection of how powerful figures aren’t inherently exemplary ones.
Also well-written are scenes discussing changes in public sentiment, particularly with regards to aliens’ rights. For all their talk of idealism and morals, many characters find themselves wavering and abandoning past causes. Asano does a great job capturing what these sorts of conversations look like, and his depictions of humanity are unflinching both for better and for worse. We see how quickly intimacy can shift into contempt, and how quietly apathy can replace outrage.
Artistically, Asano continues to impress on the same fronts as in past installments. All the alien technology, from the mothership to other vessels, is adorned with an abundance of lines. Asano’s work here is staggering both due to its sheer amount of detail and the clean, polished execution. The alien invaders also continue to be a joy to look at; their designs are brilliant. The combination of upright forms with helmet-like heads, devoid of any discernible facial features, is at once recognizably human and inhuman while also being just plain charming and cute. Between the intimidating weapons tech and the softer character designs, Asano delivers both unsettling violence and relatable everyday shenanigans.
Unfortunately, said everyday aspects of the human characters’ lives aren’t as plentiful or interesting as in past volumes. There are a handful of great moments for sure, but the book’s start is rather slow and a lot of it feels like setup without much payoff. This isn’t inherently bad of course, but some of the setup just isn’t that entertaining. Add in some strange pacing choices and the manga just doesn’t manage to be as captivating as it usually is.
Thankfully, there are some unexpected touches and creative choices that help make up for the volume’s more disappointing elements. Take, for instance, the cartoony dog who shows up on occasion and seems almost like a mascot for the series despite never being in more than a few panels at a time. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so I’ll just say he makes his cutest appearance to date. Also notable is a chapter that alternates between standard panels and passages of text describing military and political developments. This technique effectively shows just how ugly the realities behind newsprint and the like can be.
So, how is it?
All in all, Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction Vol. 6 is a well-written and artistically impressive book. The series’s social commentary continues to be well-done, and the aliens are awesome. With that said, the human drama and pacing issues are a bit disappointing. Nonetheless, this is still one of the best sci-fi series out there right now.