Two Girls and a Spaceship-- a review of Dead Dead Demon’s DeDeDeDe Destruction Volume 1 by Inio Asano

It’s almost funny how insignificant huge, Earth-changing events change our everyday lives. Somehow, the human race is either so resilient to outside influence that almost nothing can knock us off of our path or else we’re so resistant to change that we prefer to just act like nothing happened. So it’s a strength or a fear that keeps us from allowing our societies to be shaped by events and influences that should be greater than even the sum of our experiences. This inability to be altered is at the center of Inio Asano’s latest book Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction Volume 1, a story about two school-age girls who are discovering themselves. There’s already enough uncertainty in their lives that world events have no real bearing on. They live in the city, go to school, have to deal with their parents and families. It’s the manga version of a John Hughes movie but with a twist; this world has been invaded by something from outer space that hangs over Tokyo but really doesn’t do all that much. It’s the first contact over the skies of one of the world’s megacities but that’s not nearly as important as a school girl’s crush one on one of her teachers.

Kadode and Otan are just two of the many children who have grown up in the three-year-old shadow of 8/31, the date when the alien ship first appeared. Everything changed that day and really nothing changed. Kadode’s father is one of the many who disappeared on that day; after the spaceships first appeared, he went out to check in at work and he never came back. Since then, she’s had to deal with a conspiracy-theory loving best friend Otan, a mother who has only become more and more paranoid since those events, and the question of what she’s going to do after school, college or work? In the three years since, the mysterious ships in the sky have become an oddity and a nuisance. The world’s governments still prepare for some kind of war with these visitors but their impact on these kids’ everyday lives isn’t nearly as domineering as their own teenage dreams and desires.

This first volume establishes Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction as some kind of science fiction story. It’s got all of the markings of an alien-invasion story without really any of the sci-fi cliches or trappings. Asano uses these elements to add details to Kadode and Otan’s lives while showing everyone just how unaffected everyone is about these events. Of course, it’s not like he’s telling a story about an invasion or destruction. Asano’s aliens are relatively inactive and ineffective. They are just enough of a presence that you can’t help but notice them but they can disappear for large chunks of time while everyone’s lives march on. This is science fiction that largely eschews the sci-fi elements to tell its story.

What the science fiction elements accomplish is adding an element to the story that threatens to separate Kadode and Otan. From the beginning of the book, when it looks like Kadode will need to skip college to take care of her mother, Asano throws all of these obstacles up in the way of their friendship; a needy mother, a crush on a school teacher, and even Otan’s older brother who kinda/sorta flirts with Kadode in a friendly way that’s easier to read a deeper desire into. But the girls’ friendship, the heart of this volume, proves to be stronger than these forces. Whether it’s helping the other out with homework or an understandable fascination with the detritus of the alien ship, the girls stick together through thick and thin, even if they occasionally need to be reminded of their true and heartfelt feelings for one another.

Asano originally began this series in 2014, following up the challenging A Girl on the Shore (reviewed hereand Goodnight Punpun (reviewed here.) Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction continues his exploration of what it is to be a young adult in today’s world but this first volume doesn’t have any of the moral darkness or grayness of those earlier works. Particularly Goodnight Punpun was a tough book because the main character wasn’t the most well-adjusted boy in Japan. Kadode and Otan are really different characters than the sullen and neglected teens of Asano’s other work. There is a lightness to this book where we get to see two characters who have true affection for each other, something that’s been hard to find in a lot of Asano’s post-Solanin work.

Looking back, 2014 now feels like so long ago. There was an optimism back then that was probably false and unearned but it was there. 2018 feels like a different world. But that must have been what it was like for these girls looking back on life before the giant spaceship appeared in the sky above them. On 8/31, the world changed but three years later in the present of this book, the lives of Kadode and Otan are completely recognizable. For better or for worse, the world changed but their lives look to be on the same tracks that they were before the spaceship showed up. There’s the obvious connection to 9/11, another event that living during it felt like the world was going to be forever changed but as we look at the world of 2018, there’s a sense of Asano commenting on our ability to absorb these kinds of drastic events, take the time to process them and then to incorporate them into our lives rather than letting them define our lives.

Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction Volume 1
Written and Drawn by Inio Asano
Published by Viz