Manga / Domu

Domu: A Child's Dream is a 1980 manga written by Katsuhiro Otomo of AKIRA fame.

In late-'70s Japan, there have been a staggering 31 suicides by residents of the same apartament complex over the previous two-plus years. The tally is brought to 32 with the death of a supermarket manager. Once again, inspectors Yamagawa and Tamura have to investigate another frustrating case. Once Yamagawa also commits suicide, it's up to Tamura to solve exactly what is going on.

Meanwhile, little Etsuko moves into the apartment complex. Her own psychic powers match those of Old Cho, the man who is behind all of the deaths. The story continues with one final battle.

This story won the 1983 Japan Science Fiction Grand Prix after being re-released into graphic novel form. Supposedly, Guillermo del Toro has the rights to make a film adaptation, but interest in the project has not surfaced since the late 1990s.

Tropes related to the manga:

  • Berserker Tears: Cho's bullying and sadistic behavior during his fight with Etsuko eventually drives her to this — particularly since he kills or injures several innocent people on the way, people Etsuko cares about.
  • Children Are Innocent: Subverted to your own interpretation.
  • Chunky Updraft: Psychic power can apparently make pebbles, leaves, and sticks float off the ground while you're using it. This is, in fact, the first physical evidence of the final battle between Chojiro and Etsuko that Tamura can see, until a far-off window behind him shatters.
  • Collector of the Strange: Old Cho collects little trinkets as trophies from each person he kills.
  • Cultural Translation: One child sings the first Super Sentai theme song to himself. This is changed to "Go, go Power Rangers!". The manga was written in the late seventies but not translated until the nineties, so at least the reference had a reasonable equivalent.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Inspector Yamagawa appears to be a driving character at the start of the story. Old Cho makes him commit suicide less than halfway into the book.
  • The psychic menace terrorizing the apartment block turns out to be the mentally-deficient little old man.
  • Dumb Muscle: Little Jou is mentally retarded, but so strong that he can rip Sasaki in half in a rage.
  • Fainting Seer: Tamura brings a supposed psychic to the apartment complex in the hope that she can assist with the investigation. Upon sensing Cho's presence, she gets the soaking sweats, panics and refuses to go in.
  • Hair Decorations: Apparently even Otomo isn't immune to this trope. Etsuko holds her curly hair back with two little barrettes.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: One of the policemen who arrives at the scenes of the apparent "suicides" remarks that it's far gorier than it should be, and another mentions that he's never eating spaghetti again. We have to take their word for it. Completely averted with Tsutomu's suicide and the climactic battle between Old Cho and Etsuko.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Why the police force is so frustrated. They discover that the door to the roof hasn't been used in years and is rusted shut. How could the victims have reached the roof?
  • Meaningful Name: Old Cho's full first name is Chojiro — which is (kind of) a portmanteau of the name Jiro, and Chojin — the Japanese word for superhuman.
  • Nightmare Face: Old Cho's look of absolute terror upon realizing that Etsuko has come back for him. Otomo gives it a lovingly detailed two-page spread — just about the only one in the entire book — and the image was so instantly iconic that he worked it into one version of the cover illustration.
  • Otaku: Tsutomu has been trying to get into college but can't because he is too obsessed with making model planes.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: Etsuko for the last half of the manga.
  • Psychic Powers: Old Cho uses them to cause Psychic Assisted Suicides.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Old Cho.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The policemen see Old Cho's room filled so with little trinkets of the deceased you can hardly walk in it.
  • Serial Killer: Old Cho forces his neighbors to kill themselves and/or each other and collects an item in their possession as trophies.
  • Slashed Throat: Poor Tsutomu...
  • Stealth Prequel: May or may not be one to AKIRA.
  • Write What You Know: Apparently the apartment is based on a creepy one that Otomo once lived in.
    • The inspiration behind the book was actually a newspaper article Otomo read about a rash of mysterious deaths at another apartment complex. He decided to combine it with the one he lived in and based some of the cast on his neighbors.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The first detective realizes that the killer might be after a certain trinket that he brought... except Old Cho is actually after the detective's badge.

Alternative Title(s): Domu A Childs Dream