Dead End (aka: The End) Vol. #03 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, September 16, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Translated by:Christine Schilling
What They Say
Shirou saves the day! Or did his friends save him instead... Nana, a sweet girl, but not quite the ordinary, decides to join the crew. But her timing is horrible, for an army of zombies suddenly besets them! The Second Enemy has also emerged and Shirou must hurry to see the fifth contact before reconvening 'The Beginning Man.'
Continuing right along with Shirou’s cryptic and violent journey, as the deadline for finding the five acquaintances comes and the end of the world begins.
TOKYOPOP continues to use the original cover art from the Japanese tankubon. It’s a very nice matte cover that, while doesn’t feature my favorite piece of artwork, has bright colors and subtle graphical elements that make it appealing. The print reproduction is quite solid, no fading and only a little bit of roughness in areas with the gray background tones. There is a character profile page but no extras in this volume.
Manabe’s artwork continues to be quite fantastic. The thin, sketchy line work has a freshness to it, and with the great tone work to add great looking textures, the art wonderfully describes the characters and setting. The roughness fits the story mood quite well, painting a dark and moody picture. The artwork can also be quite violent and horrific at times, right on that line between realism and the surreal. Backgrounds are wonderfully detailed and used quite a bit, painting interesting perspectives. The panel work also at times can feel quite cinematic, especially during the action scenes when Shirou is leaping from building to building.
SFX are not translated and left as is in the panels. With such strong artwork, it would be hard to do a retouch, but most of the SFX in this volume were on top of white or other solid backgrounds, definitely a task that should have been doable. The dialogue translation reads quite clearly, with enough of an edge and roughness to it that is appropriate for the characters. There were a couple of lines that might have been a little too creative on the adaptation, but I have no way of knowing without checking with the original text. It’s not an issue and I actually found the lines to be quite humorous.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
The first two chapters of the book, entitled “Shirou” and “Shirou II”, kick things off with quite an action-packed bang followed by an interesting trip to some moment in the past, and then back to the present, mysteriously filling in some of the holes surrounding the backgrounds of the characters. It sets quite a tone of things to come, with more and more mysteries and questions to be answered. For those who have been enjoying the cryptic and evasive plotting by Manabe so far in previous volumes, this one takes the cake.
The books starts off right where the story ended last time, with Parrot and Chappa being manhandled by the homicidal monster Stitch Head, who gave me shivers once again as soon as I saw his gruesome bald head. Unable to make a dent in the monster, Chappa receives an unforeseen phone call from Mole Man, who already knows about their predicament from down in the sewers. He informs Chappa that it is only Shirou who is able to destroy Stitch Head, and he is beginning to awaken his true powers. Shirou arrives in true action hero form, slicing his way through the syringed zombies, and does away with Stitch Head in quite a brutal and visceral manner. Shirou has definitely awoken, but the limits or source of his powers is not known.
Making a jump back in the past, the second chapter takes place during some undisclosed time on a ship filled with soldiers that is out at the Izu-Ogasawara Deep off the coast of Japan. The soldiers in the boat are in fact Shirou, Chappa, Parrot, Mole Man, and other characters from the story. There are also characters that have their faces hidden from the reader, most likely characters that we have yet to meet on Shirou’s journey, including a ponytail-sporting woman we see from behind that is probably Nana, the fourth friend that we meet later in this book. They carry on with very cryptic and casual conversations about death and happiness, about being obsolete and outmatched, making plans for their escape. It feels as though these characters are being sent to their deaths unwillingly, but they seem to have come to terms with it and are approaching the situation quite calmly. The rest of the chapter returns to the present as Shiro and Co. recover from their war wounds against Stitch Head.
The majority of this volume follows the trio of acquaintances as they meet up with the Fourth Man, who is actually a tall schoolgirl named Nana. She is very sweet and treats everyone with open arms, even if they try and do her harm, as well stray cats, which currently flood her apartment. She also at times can scare her two friends, becoming quite intimidating and is obviously skilled with hand-to-hand combat. Like the other acquaintances, she feels lost and has no real memories of who she is or where she came from. Shirou tells her that it’s time to come with them, and she does so quite willingly (although they must give away the cats first!), as though they were already quite familiar with each other.
Three out of the five have been located, with Mr. Q currently MIA and one more still to be found, but it’s too late. Shirou gets a call from Mole Man who tells him that the time is up. Shirou angrily asks for another day, but it is out of the Mole Man’s hands. The enemy is on the move and the end of the world is upon them. The weirdness returns as all the cities’ inhabitants begin to turn and watch them, some attacking like zombies, while others drop head first out of buildings on the concrete at their feet. The crew immediately changes their attitudes and go into kill mode, knifing and shooting their way through countless bodies. Even Nana begins to find her powers as she slams her fist through the head of one of the unsuspecting zombies, in a move to protect her new found friends. If they want to survive, they’ll need to find the other acquaintance and rejoin with Mr. Q!
The story is quite schizophrenic as it jumps from surreal, horrific mayhem into a very peaceful, buddy story about a journey to find answers. Something that really stuck out to me, as the trio was following Nana, was how comfortable and familiar they acted towards each other. They get along like close friends, which they might have been given that flashback chapter with them on the boat. Are they friends? Or are they just acquaintances who share some common thread and are subconsciously drawn to each other? There’s also a strange little running bit about chewing their nails to the quick. It may be nothing, but it could also be part of their previous selves starting to awaken. Their previous job could have required short nails, or maybe it’s the subconscious nervousness coming to the surface as they feeling the impending doom coming to them. Or it could possibly be nothing, it’s open to interpretation. If you pay attention, and believe me, it took a couple reads to pick up on this stuff, there are a lot of little things like this that could or could not add in to this puzzle that continues on.
It took a couple reads for this volume to click, but once again Manabe has sucked me in with this surreal and cryptic tale about people trying to find their memories all while trying to avoid dying at the end of the world. You may feel lost or disoriented at times, but that is where I believe Manabe succeeds with this story. He places the reader right in the perspective of Shirou and the other mysterious acquaintances, making you feel the same lost feeling as the characters do. There is a bit more information regarding their pasts given to the reader to help with trying to understand the bigger picture, but it’s still kept very convoluted. The artwork is fantastic, really sucking me into this very rough setting.
It may not be for everyone, but Dead End so far is another great example of the creativity and originality found in seinen storytelling. I once again tip my stitched head to Tokyopop for putting this, as well as other seinen titles, out on the market. Highly recommended.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left