Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends the first volume of ‘Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction’ from Viz Media.
By Arpad Okay. If a book has characters that feel legit, that tell true tales, that swear and smile and beguile like real people do, it doesn’t have to do much else for me to get on board. The schoolgirls at the heart of Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction go there, and then some. Friends, applying for college, not trying too hard to get jobs, aiming for the top of the leaderboard on their online FPS obsession. Maybe some are trying to kiss boys. Maybe some are bent on conspiracy theories. Normal stuff.
What isn’t normal is Tokyo itself. Before high school, there was an alien invasion, deaths, casualties, panic, and the world never was the same. Thing is that the invasion wasn’t that successful. It was barely an invasion at all; years have passed and the mothership is still parked in the sky, the city in its shadow. The end of the world never came (for most), and life has begrudgingly gone on. Every day or two a little flying saucer floats down to the surface and crashes into something, or someone, but the other shoe has yet to drop.
There’s a sizeable gap between the intricate ennui of an upside-down city blocking out the sun and the geeky, goofy, cartoonish lives of Kadode, Ontan, and their classmates, friends, teachers, and family. It’s a chasm everyone teeters on the brink of, a sedentary maw that threatens to swallow anyone who allows themselves to succumb to its vertigo. Kadode’s mom has lost it, a screaming, depressed mess in surgical mask and safety goggles, not sick, just tired. Kadode’s dad went to work on the day of the invasion and never came home. Kadode’s tween crush pop idol died that day, too.
Kadode is the quiet center of the book. She’s not bad at school, but she doesn’t do well when it counts, because who cares. Look around and the days are numbered. The world loves to destroy the unknown far too much for war not to break out between the city Kadode lives in and the one above her head. Kadode can’t be bothered to apply herself towards her future, and who can blame her? She’s more into manga, video games, crushes without substance, romanticizing the great before, and Ontan.
Ontan is the loud, weird overcompensator. The perfect foil to be best friends with a semi-driven introvert like Kadode. Ontan marches to her own drum, loves to shout, drools, has the best eyebrows in the book. Her brother is perhaps Dededede’s most satisfying surprise. She follows the news, she has an opinion on your secret yaoi fixation, she’s going to be the power that rises from society’s ashes. She is the Hopey to Kadode’s Magpie, kind of, and if you enjoy the everyday antics of the locas from Hoppers, this, too, is a book for you.
If the girls are broad (yet accurate) portraits, the world they occupy is the work of an architect’s intricate obsession. The city they ride bikes through is thick with detail, as real as their personalities. The spaceship above is like another urban sprawl, a mirror above of unknown landscape, mecha-texture. The bedrooms and apartments of Tokyo are tiny and just as dense as the rooftop views, crowded with books, electronics, clothes, possessions, tactile comfort in piles to counter the emotional maze the world outside represents. There’s a lot of time put into rendering this metropolis of dread and its problematic space boyfriend. Being there makes Kadode sad, but she isn’t going anywhere. These streets, realer than anyone who walks them, are home.
Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction is two distinct layers of surreal. The first is the flop of an alien invasion. Day and night, a city in the sky hovers above, a threat, a missed connection — who knows, but there, foreboding. The second level of the inconceivable slash mundane is that once you run out of your apocalypse toilet paper supply, you’ve got to go to the market to get more. At any moment, you could die. You don’t. This is wartime for every civilian, it never goes away, but it can still sneak up on you. That’s life as well as aliens.
Viz Signature/Viz Media/$14.99
Written by Inio Asano.
Translation by John Werry.
Art by Inio Asano.
Background assistants Satsuki Sato, Ran Atsumori, and Buuko.
Lettering by Annaliese Christman.