Dead End (aka: The End) Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN: 1-59532-161-6
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Dead End (aka: The End) Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     May 17, 2005
Release Date: March 08, 2005

Dead End (aka: The End) Vol.#01

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Shohei Manabe
Translated by:Christine Schilling
Adapted by:

What They Say
Shirou's ordinary life as a poor construction worker gets turned upside down when he comes across a naked girl, Lucy, who's fallen out of the sky! Her strange and unique personality entices him and he introduces her to his apartment buddies.

But after leaving for just a few minutes, he returns to the apartment to find Lucy gone, all his friends slaughtered and an ogre-like stranger standing amidst the carnage.

The big man suddenly pulls Shirou out of the apartment building just before it explodes! Shirou gets pushed down into the sewage system of the city and is saved by a mysterious man...

The Review
The cover features the same artwork as the Japanese release, an orange-colored Shirou looking a bit disheveled and beat up. The Japanese logo has been replaced with the English one across the middle of the cover. Chapter headers are present, which feature Shirou and sometimes Lucy sitting on a couch in a different position each time, and there is little sample of the next volume in the back of the book. The print job is superb, and done on high quality paper, which really makes all the tones pop and really does justice to Manabe’s dark scratchy line work.

Manabe’s artwork will immediately get compared to Taiyo Matsumoto. Exaggerated facial features and limbs give off a surreal feel, but yet they don’t lose their life-like appearances. The characters are very colorful, with a raw edginess, that feature a lot of punk-ish outfits, tattoos, yakuza, crooked teeth, scraggly hair, it’s all very appropriate for this story and setting.

The backgrounds are rich and nicely detailed. It features the same, scratchy line work but unlike the character designs, makes more use of tones, which allows the characters to stand out and creating a nice feeling of depth and perspective. The city setting looks really ugly and dingy, which is perfect for this type of story.

Overall, the artwork is a different style than most manga, but once I got used to it I found it really fit the mood and overall themes of the storyline. I actually really ended up enjoying it very much.

There are no traditional SFX at all in this volume. The SFX are done in text bubbles, which have all been translated as you would expect. The font of the text is really nice and easy to read. The dialogue can be pretty harsh at times, but being a seinen title set in a ugly word, the language does feel appropriate and isn’t overused. The translation flows really smoothly and is very character appropriate.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Originally titled The End, Shohei Manabe presents a story about a man rediscovering and reconnecting with his surroundings, in a fantastically strange manner that has had me completely engrossed for a few days now. I’ve read it a few times, trying to get a handle on all of its intricacies and disjointed storylines, and I’m enjoying it more and more each time I read it. Dead End is an introspective ride that can be a challenge to read, but it’s well worth the effort as it offers one of the more engaging and surreal experiences I’ve had with manga.

The first part of the story introduces us to Shirou and Lucy, presenting an oddball relationship story featuring flavorful characters amongst a dingy, grimy city background. Shirou feels like his life is in the dumps until one day a naked girl, Lucy, falls from the sky and lands at his feet in an alleyway. He takes her in, feeds her, and even buys her new clothes. After being together only two days, Shirou’s live now has new meaning and purpose, and he’s beginning to fall in love with Lucy. However, there is a strong sense of foreboding, and Shirou’s world is about to come crashing down on him.

After coming home one day, Shirou finds Lucy missing and his three friends murdered by a strange man who is telling him that he needs to run away. Shirou fights back with his knife, cutting the man’s arm off, but that still doesn’t stop the man from grabbing Shirou and jumping through the window and across the alleyway, over onto the rooftop of the next building. Shirou cuts off the other arm, but the strange man seems unaffected, and tries to hurry Shirou into the sewers as a strange explosion goes off, melting the skin off the strange man. While in the sewers, Shirou is completely wrapped in darkness and feels himself drowning. This is a sort of transcendental experience, and when he asks for help, another strange man pulls him out of the darkness and tells Shirou that they used to be friends and that he has lost some of his memory. After this rebirth scene, Shirou is told that there are 5 other friends like him, and in three days he needs to reunite them all, with the strange man helping with the locations of the other friends.

The two friends that Shirou meets in this volume are Chappa, now called Gips, and Parrot. Gips is an ex-gangster who double-crossed his former boss, and possible lover, and is now on the run from them. He has wrapped himself in bandages and wears a robe, but it’s pretty evident that this is just a disguise and there’s more to Gips than meets the eye. Parrot is a street fighter with a cold heart, a man who has been kicked to the curb by society and whose only friend is a parrot. In order to persuade Parrot to join the group, Shirou takes him on in a match. Shirou gets pummeled, but he never quits, which inspires Parrot and he joins up. My only complaint is that I thought these two introductions might have been a bit rushed. However, since this is a 4-volume story, that could be expected, but I also wonder with Manabe’s storytelling style if more will be flushed out later on.

All of this is told in a very disjointed, non-parallel style that bounces back and forth between each character’s past as well as other “current” storylines. It is a little off-putting at first, but after getting into the groove it really helps build the mystery and thriller aspect. A flashback may reveal something about the characters now, and another character’s background story might reveal something about a totally different character. It’s a sort of puzzle reminiscent of the Hollywood movie Memento, but with an added David Lynch-like quality that makes it a completely surreal and bizarre experience.

There is also a bit of symbolism and dialog surrounding the theme of senses, or lack thereof. Lucy talks a lot about how humankind can truly never understand everything in this world if they are always imprisoned by their own senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. Five senses and five friends that Shirou must find. Gips and Parrot seem to match up with the senses of sight and touch, Gips being more than meets the eye and Parrot being a street fighter who lost his ability to feel emotions. There is a lot of symbolism and commentary left open for interpretation, and is something that had me reading the book repeatedly to try and get a grasp on. In the end, it’s a fascinating, cerebral read that never gets caught up in itself or becomes condescending.

Dead End offers an experience that I rarely find in manga. It’s cerebral and introspective, but never condescending. It’s surreal and bizarre, but never really feels forced or confusing. It is a bit of a challenging read, but so far I have found it to be a rewarding experience that has engaged my thoughts for a few days now.

Manabe’s artwork may look ugly on the surface, but it really makes the characters appear life-like and fits this dingy, depressing city ghetto setting. The disjointed storytelling adds to the overall mystery and thriller aspect of the story, providing little clues to answers in both the “past” and the “present”. Manabe definitely has a commentary going here about mankind’s disconnectedness from the world around them, trapped by what we can only immediately understand from our five senses.

There are a lot more questions than answers in this first volume, but I’m dying to continue on with this surreal experience. This is going to only be a 4-volume release, which I think is good so far for this type of story, as it should keep its focus. The commitment level is low and the reward so far is very high. Highly recommended and a fantastic read.


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