I really like Q Hayashida. Admittedly I’ve only really seen/read two of her works but I clicked with both of them. I guess this is sort of a spoiler about what my first impression of Dai Dark was. I’m sorry, I’m probably going to make a whole bunch of comparisons to Dorohedoro. I can’t help it. If you have read or watched it on Netflix, this post may get a bit confusing. I’m still going to try to make it at least a little informative.
Also, Dai Dark is a perfect Halloween read. At least, I thik it is!
Why I Picked up Dai Dark
Funnily enough, I didn’t even know who the author was when I put it on my to-read list. I saw the genres “Horror” and “Comedy” together (one of my favourite combos) and read the word “spaceship” in the synopsis and I was like, oh yeah, sign me up.
I had no clue what was waiting for me!
Zaha Sanko’s body has great and terrible powers–they say that possessing his bones will grant you any wish, even the desire to become ruler of the universe. But Sanko is still a teenage dude with his own life, and he isn’t about to let every monstrous lowlife in the galaxy rip him limb from limb. He and his skeletal buddy Avakian will use their dark powers to fend off any murder attempts while they search space for whomever put this curse on Sanko’s bones…because killing them might end the madness. (And then Sanko can celebrate with his favorite spaghetti.)
Don’t miss this hilariously twisted and gruesome new series from the unique mind of Q Hayashida, creator of the manga and Netflix anime Dorohedoro!
My First Impression
This is heavy! Like literally. I have the physical version and this manga is noticeably heavier than other books I have of the same size. I guess they used denser paper or something. It’s impressive.
This really is a high-quality physical product. The paper is thick and very bright. Every chapter has a few colouring pages. The cover is good cardboard with a glossy character on a matt background. It’s just a really good product.
What I liked
Aside from the manga itself, I actually did like the story. Hayashida has a very distinct voice and t happens to be one that I enjoy. Just like Dorohedoro, Dai Dark is kind of grimy. Everything looks a little dirty. The story is filled with violence and gore, possibly even more so than Dorohedoro. In the first volume, I don’t think a chapter went by without at least a few people getting their skeleton ripped out of them or having their flesh melt off. There’s even an instance of 200 grade school children getting eaten. And it’s also, for lack of a better word, kind of cute.
Dai Dark is first and foremost a buddy road trip story. Sanko is still young and innocent in many ways. He’s a happy-go-lucky optimist just trying to have a good time. And Akavian usually plays the role of his guardian. The two get along very well and seeing them interact is just sort of sweet.
I mentioned spaceships and I guess Dai Dark could be considered science fiction. In the same way, Dorohedro could be considered fantasy. There’s very little “science” to speak of but the story does take place in space. Sci-Fi Horror is a genre on its own and this is the very first time I see a Sci-Fi Horror Comedy. I like it.
Finally, Dai Dark is weird. Like weirder than Dorohedoro. If you like weird, this will work for you.
Dai Dark is weird. I like weird weird and I liked it in the first volume, but it’s so weird it’s difficult to see where it’s going and it runs the risk of giving readers the impression it’s not going anywhere at all. That’s it’s weirder for weird’s sake rather than in a calculated way. This can still be done right but it can also make a story lose its way. In any case, it’s likely to alienate some readers.
Both the art style a Hayashida’s narrative preferences are probably going to be hit or miss. I love both. But there’s no denying that Dai Dark is a very specific sort of manga and one that some readers will probably not have come across. It’s dark and when it comes down to it the subject matter can be considered kind of depressing but it’s told in a goofy comedy way. The narrative structure almost resembles slice of life with little barely related adventures that change from one chapter to the next but small details and characters come back so if you don’t pay attention you’ll miss part of what’s happening.
Personally, I find all of this to be a plus. However, I also find it difficult to blindly recommend the work because of how unique the blend is. The best I can say is, try it and see if you like it.
If you enjoyed Dorohedoro, Dai Dark is a fairly safe bet. It’s not the same by any means and so far I would say the characterization is a bit weaker, but the tone and tropes are similar. And it’s a great read for Halloween. It’s more overtly horror than most manga I have read and also more fun.