Dragon Head Vol. #02 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 232
  • ISBN: 1-59532-915-3
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Dragon Head Vol. #02

By Jarred Pine     April 30, 2006
Release Date: April 11, 2006

Dragon Head Vol.#02

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Minetaro Mochizuki
Translated by:Alexis Kirsch
Adapted by:

What They Say
Driven by the idea of eventual rescue, Teru, Ako, and Nobuo move outside of the train and gather enough supplies for their immediate survival. But tempers flare and tension rises as Nobou and Teru begin to fight. With nothing to lose and a bleak outlook on life, Nobou begins to lose touch with reality. Will dark and desparate times come between friendship and the will to live?

The Review
With this second installment, it is now clear to me that Mochizuki's slow-burning psychological horror is arguably one of the better horror titles available in English today. Just kick back and let his boiling phobia stew bring out your every fear.

TOKYOPOP's custom cover definitely captures the attention of those who are looking for this type of manga, using a colored pieced of artwork from inside the book that is Nobuo in all his painted glory. The print reproduction is on par with other TOKYOPOP releases, with some pages looking sharp and others a little rough. Being a horror title with a dimly lit setting, TOKYOPOP kept the printing very clean without letting the tones get too muddy. There are no chapter inserts, as they just flow into each other with title markers. There is a 2 page preview for the next volume, but no other extras are in the book.

An interesting item to note is the new "HORROR" label on the back cover, a small red cylinder with a skull in the middle. Is this a possible branding initiative or a mere tribute to The Misfits?

Mochizuki uses a lot of close-quarters panel compositions that highlights the phobias that he is cramming into this story: dimly lit surroundings, cramped train cars, crumbling walls, debris from the wreckage scattered everywhere, the spotlight of the flashlight allowing limited vision. Mochizuki wants you to feel the fear, and his artwork helps with understanding what his characters are going through. The variety of facial expressions also help get across that feeling of hopelessness, or in Nobuo's case insanity.

SFX are hardly translated at all, which is a big mistake with this type of psychological horror title. When the panel is almost completely dark and there is a sound, I want to know what that sound is. I want to feel as if I am in the shoes of the characters.

The translation reads pretty smoothly. There is a decent amount of foul language here that feels quite appropriate. The dialog also does a good job with fitting with the characters' personalities. I did notice that there is mix up with the spelling on Nobuo, appearing a couple times as "Nobu".

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain

I think everyone has at least one big fear in their life, outside of the almost universal fear of death. For some, this fear can turn pathological, becoming a phobia that is a great hindrance on one's life. What I've come to notice in this second installment of Dragon Head is that Mochizuki has compiled a list of at least a dozen serious phobias, mixed them all up in his pot, and turned the heat on boil.

Are you afraid of being trapped? Claustrophobic? Don't like spending much time in the dark? If so, then there is plenty to give you the shivers here. Trapped inside of a train tunnel, Ako, Teru, and Nobuo continue to do their best to survive long enough for a rescue team, which at this point is looking like an outside chance. According to Teru's estimates, they've been down there a week, and have even drawn a faux window on the concrete wall to try and maintain their sanity and hope. Teru continues to fight off his fear by trying to find a way out after spotting an air duct. Now, crawling through a duct inside of a tunnel that is on the verge of collapsing may not be the soundest idea, but given the circumstances Teru has no choice. He is fighting his fear.

On the other hand, Nobuo has let the fear completely consume him. He has lost his mind, covering himself with makeup like some sort of spotted animal, and now runs around in solitude with a spear for a weapon. He's even begun sacrificing the bodies of the dead to some unknown entity in the darkness that he believes is living in the tunnel. Nobuo is one who has lost to the fear, and in return has lost contact with reality.

And then there's Ako, the lone female survivor surrounded by two boys fighting each other with murderous intent, with one of them close to being homicidal. To me, Ako is the embodiment of a woman living in fear: the fear of being attacked, fear of men, or the fear of being violated or raped, just to name a few. I think for most women reading this, the thought of being trapped in a tight space with two male strangers, who are at each other's throats, is right up at the top of the "Things to Avoid" list. Ako is so wrought with fear that she has not been able to sleep one wink. She becomes so exhausted that she eventually falls asleep uncontrollably at probably the worst possible moment.

The book appropriately ends on a great cliffhanger where the situation has quite literally come to a full boil. All the phobias that Mochizuki has added to his psychological stew have begun to cook, with the question becoming whether or not the tunnel will be able to hold together. And even if our group survives and reaches the outside, we still have no idea about what has happened in the world outside. That whole layered aspect of the story is absolutely perfect.

If you have a phobia or two, chances are that Mochizuki's psychological horror manga is going to make read with a towel in hand to wipe off the beads of sweat on your forehead. If your fears are pathological, then you might want to put on your medic alert bracelet just in case. Mochizuki takes an array of phobias and mixes them all up in his pot, which in this volume has now start to boil.

If I had to pick on something with this title, it would be that the lack of character backgrounds at this point makes it hard to understand why they act the way they do. Nobuo's insanity is too easily explained by being picked on by bullies. It also becomes hard to connect with the characters on a personal level, but I still want to see them survive as I can completely connect with some of the fears they have to fight against. At this point though, it's best to just let yourself become consumed by the boiling pot of fears and put yourself in their shoes. It's not that hard to understand why some would snap under these kinds of conditions.

Mochizuki is executing this story quite nicely at this point. Out of all the titles under TOKYOPOP's horror label, this one easily stands out above the rest. This is definitely a title to look out for. Dragon Head is an easy recommendation for those looking for a fresh and terrifying manga.


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