book review: dai dark vol. 1

Dai Dark, Vol. 1 (Dai Dark, #1)Dai Dark, Vol. 1 by Q. Hayashida
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

getting around to all my manga reviews and thinking i'm gonna have to come up with a house-rule for on-going series like this—i will only review the first and last of the series so that i don't go crazy trying to keep up with each volume in a series that might head into the 20's or 30's of volumes. while i certainly could have something to say after each volume, in the case of something like dai dark it'd just amount to, "Hayashida's done it again! Geez Oh Man!" every time.

[bill nye the science guy voice] dai dark rules. came into this hot on the heels of a 2nd or 3rd dorohedoro read, palms sweaty about hayashida being able to bottling lightning a second time, and all my fears were filleted and de-boned, not unlike anyone who comes across the motley crew of this series. my skeleton emerged, triumphant, from the viscous hold of my drippy flesh and viscera, hollering "DUDE!!" upon finishing this first volume, and has done pretty nearly the same thing upon every subsequent release (this being written shortly after the debut of the 5th volume on american shores).

where dorohedoro made its home in the paradox of hyperviolence, self-discovery, and the importance of found-family, dai dark leans hard into the absurdity of gag comics and videogame logic, with a sumptuous cauldron of gore ladled over every square inch of its greebled universe. it blows my gourd back to the farm to know that this is being published in shonen weekly, a japanese comic magazine for young boys (which has been home to comics like dragon ball, yu yu hakusho, my hero academia, to name a few and give you some context for how wild it is that this is here), given the lengths hayashida goes to demonstrate that There Is Stuff Inside Our Bodies—And It's Not Just Blood!

there's a small part of me that is realizing that dai dark might be the best thing that hayashida has made, as it has perhaps the most excellent balance of gore-to-gag—it's even punchier than dorohedoro, but doesn't lose itself along the way. its conceit is ridiculous (the main character's skeleton can bestow any wish upon those who obtains them), its characters pay little to no attention to the stakes at play (part of their crew is the all-powerful god of death, immortal ("as far as we know!"), and ambivalent towards the outcome of their struggles so long as they get to eat the chicken-drumstick-souls of the people who die along the way), and the cast doesn't give much stock to the world's lore (instead of labeling every planet and object with some garbled name you'll never read again, the author/translator has opted to refer to planets as "some friggin' planet"—also demonstrating the nuance and humor of the excellent english localization).

so how does it hold any water?

i believe it boils down to hayashida's love for gag-manga (i don't think it's reductive to compare it to the "funny papers"). she isn't concerned with an epic narrative this time around—even dorohedoro starts with a plot point that will catapult the cast into its bizarre adventure: trying to find our why the main character has a lizard head. rather, she wants to play around with one concept and see how many ridiculous things can happen as a result of it. when you look at the plot structure, it's fairly boilerplate and seems... maybe boring?

broad scope story: kid and sidekick are on the run from ne'er-do-wells. kid has some ability he doesn't understand. after a time, a big bad space organization wants to kill him and collect his bones for more bad stuff. he decides to get to the bottom of it and find out why they're after him.

what actually happens: sanko pulls the bones out of some pirates like a ziploc bag and uses their bones as money to level up his gear and buy a sentient dog-skeleton-robot-ship that has a buttplug.

i could keep gushing, but i worry i'd just be keeping you from reading what has the potential to be hayashida's greatest work yet. check it out!

my star system:
1 star - this book must be forgotten by god and man
2 star - i was not wild about this book
3 star - other people will enjoy this more than i, but i see the appeal/enjoyed it/probably had some fun
4 star - i love this book and wholeheartedly recommend it
5 star - i am an absolute freak and this book was written specifically for me, your mileage may vary

(this is an experimental export of my goodreads reviews to my blog... we'll see how this goes.)