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Manga Review

DOMU: A CHILD'S DREAM

Seinen/Horror/Sci-fi
Winner of the prestigious “1983: Japan Science Fiction Grand Prix” award
Author & artist: Katsuhiro Otomo
6 chapters (1980)

If the author's name does not yet ring any bells, it'll probably do after just one word: Akira. Katsuhiro Otomo is 'the' talented mangaka (manga-artist) behind the much celebrated and epic 'Akira' fame. 'Domu' was an even earlier work of his, a classic that came out in 1980, ran for two years and then was republished as a graphic novel in 1983. It was an instant best seller, reaching over 500,000 copies in sales and remains in print to this day.

The story of the manga revolves around a mysterious housing complex where inexplicable deaths keep taking place. These deaths, more than thirty-two in three years, have the police deeply perplexed for a long time. They look like suicides but many little details and motives don't add up. Like how a man jumps off the rooftop at night and the next morning the door to the roof is found locked, as it always had been, the lock rusted and dusty as if nobody had touched it in ages. The police start to dig deeper into the case, but little do they know that there're much more sinister powers at work. All the deaths were actually murders, caused by the 'childish' whims of a senile old man with dangerous psychic powers. And things would've gone all well for this twisted man, if it wasn't for the newest inhabitant of the complex, a pesky little girl with powers rivaling his. Now the housing complex becomes a bloody battlefield of psychic power play, as the crazed 'selfish old brat' sets out on a murdering rampage and the little girl vows to stop him.

Otomo, as he said in interviews, found the plot-setting inspiration for this manga from similar incidents of serial suicides taking place in an actual housing complex near Tokyo. As one of the Japanese newspapers so aptly stated, “The weirdness that lurks in the seemingly peaceful living environment of a huge housing complex symbolises the precariousness hidden at the bottom of today's urban living conditions in Japan.” A mastermind of story-telling, Otomo took this concept and fused it finely with his 'children with psychic powers' theme, and produced another epic masterpiece.

As far as artwork is concerned, Otomo-san seems to have a knack for heavily detailed backgrounds and pencil-shaded characters. Especially 'Domu', owing to its story-setting, required repeated painstaking recreations of the architectural housing complex backdrop. And the prime magnet-feature of the manga is actually its depiction of action, which is usually very difficult in black and white 2D comics (think of the mess in 'Naruto'). In case of 'Domu', Otomo actually makes you feel it: buildings collapsing, glass shattering, gas-pipes exploding, blood spurting, psychic battles with detailed impact scenes - the manga is literally 'alive' with action and it makes a beholder thrilled to think the amount of effort the artist had to put in creating scenes like these. Granted, his characters are seldom pretty looking, somehow they feel more realistic than anything else. An avid observer in practical life and an adorer of 'scenes alive and sweltering with humanity', “Otomo's characteristic cynicism toward the gap that exists between his own 'realistic' observations and his 'conventional' art style is an important creative motif threaded throughout his work. In fact, Otomo isolates and displays for us an enormous variety of tragic and comic senses from that gap.”- is what the US publication issue of the manga had to say in his praise. It also said, “The excellent storytelling and exquisite artwork make this a must-have for manga fans as well as anyone who truly appreciates great comics.”

Well, that kind of sums it up in one single sentence. Readers are also recommended to check out other works by Otomo. Each of them has a different flavour of intriguing and engaging storyline and may prove to be a good read for many of you.

By Kokoro-chan


HoV's Interactive School Awards

FOLLOWING the Apple induced tradition of iBook, iPod, iPad and iRan (away from expensive products), House of Volunteers (HoV) initiated one of its very first endeavors in reducing the extent of our memorisation culture in Education by introducing animated PowerPoint slides of the SSC syllabus, calling it interactive School (or iSchool in short). While it's very difficult to cover all the subjects at one go, HoV's iSchool team initiated the process first focusing on Physics only. The process is very simple: make PowerPoint slides following logical reasoning of understanding of the official text book, add animation and narration (both Bengali and English), compile content to CDs and to the website (www.houseofvolunteers.org) and disseminate to the various computer schools, specifically in rural Bangladesh (which are gradually increasing in number).

On the 5th of September, awards were given to students of HoV-BRAC University, HoV-IBA and NSU who had participated in the program on behalf of HoV-MIT, where the volunteer group had first originated. A total of 51 volunteers were awarded which is quite a humongous number, although only about half of them were able to be present at the ceremony given Dhaka's fabulous traffic. The event took place at a bluely-lit room at BRAC University with hunka-junka-funky pictures showcasing the club's various inspiring activities. Prof. Golam Samdani Fakir, the Pro-VC of BRAC University was present as chief guest in the event and greatly praised the endeavor.

Imminent activities of the club include expanding the iSchool activity for the mainstream class 5 general science syllabus, a Book Drive which aims to set up a central library for private and public universities in Dhaka for which HoV-MIT has already shipped over 10,000 books and academic journals from USA; a beach cleanup activity, an awareness campaign for carbon reduction in lieu of that of the 350.org movement, and a second hand book swapping activity (before the semester begins) which is very common in the US. For more information please visit their website. These guys are quite the active ones.

If I am to critique iSchool a bit, such an endeavor certainly is very ambitious and utilising its full potential, especially at the dissemination stage will be very difficult, considering a proper platform of computer based learning is missing in Bangladesh. Regardless this is a superb first step and is one boat whose lever should not be left to move on its own accord. Keep up the awesome work!

By Dandelion Wine


Her Heels

She came out of the shower, ready for tonight. She slipped on that slinky dress and put on that perfect pout while scanning the closet. Which one, she thought? Her eyes passed over each of them in turn. From kitten heels to converses, she had it all. Every colour, every label, innumerable size sixes all neatly lined up.

She would step into a different one each day or maybe even each hour, depending on her mood, and be a different person each time. Tonight, she was cat woman, with her graceful moves and razor-sharp wit. She took out those stilettos from the back of the closet. Their beauty still awed her. Jet-black and shiny, she lovingly ran a finger down its heel. The straps hugged her close when she put them on. She was ready.

Or was she? A thought still bugged her, and she had hesitated before she had agreed to come to the party. Would he be there? Would she panic? Or would she finally be able to face up to her fears and say something to him? For the past five months, he had haunted her, turning up at places she would go. At the mall with friends, at the car park outside work, even at the supermarket. She had told no one, mostly because he hadn't seemed to be doing anything. No blank calls, no messages, not even a secret glance. But she still found his presence unnerving, and the way he seemed to show up everywhere she happened to go. Tonight was not the time to think about these things, she thought. It was party time. All the same, she did a quick scan of the parking lot before she pulled in. It was loud inside, and it got louder when she entered. From her newly-done highlights to her gorgeous dress, everything had to be individually admired. And of course, her stilettos her pride. After it had all died down, she decided to put them to good use.

The dance floor throbbed like an angry boil. It was here that people came to shake off the day before the next one crept up on them. She joined them, feeling good, anonymous, and safe. She moved with the crowd, merged with it, flowed with it, till you could no longer pick her out. She was in a bubble all her own, rising higher and higher.

Her bubble burst and she fell to the ground, literally. Her right heel had snapped. She left the dance floor and sat down. She sighed. Nothing lasts forever, she mused, especially happiness. And to put the icing on the cake, her Mystery Man had decided to make an appearance right then. She spotted him from across the room. He wasn't dancing, or even talking to anyone. He just stood there, people watching, as chilled out as the glass of cola in his hand. She felt something twist, as if someone was turning up a knob inside her to full heat. All these months she had said nothing. But to deny her this much, one night of fun with her friends... She marched up to him, clutching her still-intact left stiletto for support. He had a bemused look on his face. “How may I help the lady?” he asked in a polite tone. This was it. She snapped, just like her heel had done a minute ago. She drove the stiletto into his heart.

His glass shattered as it hit the floor. The music stopped. People stopped. They turned to stare, as he choked and bled, and finally collapsed. But she wouldn't stop even then. She stabbed him again and again; and again - just to make sure. She was hysterical with freedom at the end of it, when unknown hands restrained her and took her away.

In the stillness of the aftermath, she tried to stop her hands from shaking. They held on tightly to the shoe, now blood-soaked and ruined. But the heel remained spotlessly shiny, as if nothing had happened. As she finally let it go and carefully placed it on the floor, it glinted in the light of a perfect full moon.

By TheAlien4mEarth


 

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