Kodode is a more or less typical Tokyo schoolgirl, a bright, nerdy slacker trailing a little behind her classmates in maturity. She likes playing video games, fangirling over a Doraemon-like kiddie manga called Isobeyan, hanging out with her ponytailed, poker-faced best friend Ontan, and nurturing a crush on her homeroom teacher. As she goes about her daily life, enormous alien spaceships hover over Japan, periodically unleashing inexplicable and deadly attacks.
In this sly sci-fi parable by Inio Asano, acclaimed creator of Nijigahara Holograph, Goodnight Punpun, and A Girl on the Shore, the ongoing alien occupation is absorbed into society in amusingly and disturbingly plausible ways. New developments spread on social media and garner sarcastic emoji responses. Politicians on TV argue: what will this mean for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics? Citizens organize demonstrations, celebrities release memorial pop songs, but nothing has any real effect on the situation, which most people soon come to accept as the new normal. For Kodode and her friends, the invasion gets mixed up in their imaginations with their favorite anime and video games. Kadode’s mother starts to lose her grip on reality, developing hypochondria and talking about moving the family to a survivalist commune. But Kadode’s take on the situation is, “It’s sorta boring.” Another time, after humanity’s latest narrow victory against the alien menace, she sighs, “Yet another day of crappy peace.”
Asano is one of the most visually stunning current manga artists, combining intensely detailed realism with disarmingly human characters. The alien spaceships are as complex as Star Wars models, but the classrooms, back streets, and teenage bedrooms beneath their shadows are drawn with equal care. Kadode and Ontan wander through a world gone slightly askew, looking like they’d be just as wary and skeptical if the aliens weren’t watching them. The book even includes excerpts from the Isobeyan manga-within-a-manga, drawn in a dead-on pastiche of old children’s gag manga. The constant, incomprehensible threat hanging in the sky is an ideal metaphor for life in the 21st century. Or for growing up. A manga this smart and darkly funny can be about a lot of things. Recommended.
publisher: Viz Media
story and art: Inio Asana
This story appears in the June 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.