Author: booksyo

BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE BY ALAN MOORE

I have spent my life feeling sane. The sanest, the most rational, the most logical. It was you, I thought with absolute conviction. All of you. You are mad, not me. I was convinced. I laughed at the opinion of others; I scoffed at the judgement of my peers and associates. I denied you; you, who thought me peculiar, eccentric, and unnerving. Until recently, that is. Until I met someone who agrees with me, who believes in my sanity. I met her and suddenly, almost instantly, I lost my nerve. I no longer believe in myself, because of her. I no longer trust myself, because of her. How can I, how can someone like me, be entrusted with something so precious? I’ll hurt her, I’ll break her, I’ll ruin her, precisely because of her faith in me, in my soundness of mind and character. I cannot be trusted….because I’m not sane. I see it now, what you see and have always seen. I’m crazy; and a beautiful vase is not safe on a rickety table.

“When you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there’s always madness. Madness is the emergency exit.”

It is perhaps this uncertainty, this feeling of vulnerability, that has brought me back here. I am, it strikes me now, using this as a kind of preserver, a log large enough to hold onto and be kept afloat. By ‘this’ I mean, of course, writing; and reading. The Killing Joke. It took me little over an hour, but it soothed me; it soothes me still. It is not her, it is not us, at least. I have no responsibilities here. I had been given the impression, from the bits and pieces that I had read about it beforehand, that the focus of the story is the relationship between The Joker and Batman, specifically how alike they are, how they are essentially the same. But that isn’t the case. Batman is largely absent, both literally – in that he has little page-time – and in terms of his personality. He is almost a blackhole of a character. A nothing. The one insight we are given into who he is as a man is when he states that he doesn’t want to kill The Joker, that he is afraid that he will kill him or be killed by him. Ultimately, I got the feeling that Moore just wasn’t particularly interested in him, and so neither is the reader.

batman-the-killing-joke-cropped

The same cannot be said of The Joker. Moore puts a lot into him. On one level, he is an epic cunt. Just the sort of cunt a reader, or this reader, wants in a bad guy. At one point, for example, he shoots a young woman, paralysing her. No word, no warning. She opens the door and he grins at her and fires. He then strips her and takes photographs. Moore wasn’t messing. The Joker’s not messing. He is undoubtedly a horrible cunt. Yet, Moore also gives us his backstory, where it is explained who he was and how he became what he is. The Joker was a bad comedian, a failing man and husband. His jokes are terrible. I wondered initially if The Joker’s puns were meant to be funny, but Moore’s exposition convinced me that they are deliberately not funny. The man behind the face paint. He isn’t the joker, he is a joke. He’s a bungling burglar too. He agrees to commit a crime in order to give his woman and child a better life. He fails at that also. A loser. The Loser. 

It’s clear that Moore wants us to understand The Joker, to empathise with him. He demystifies him, humanises him. It could have backfired. The Joker isn’t all bad, in the way that a supervillain, in my limited understanding of the superhero genre, is meant to be. He isn’t something other, he is simply a man. An average man, a hurting man, a failure, like most of us, who goes mad through misfortune and bad choices. It’s not Batman who we are meant to see in him, but ourselves. Indeed, one of the themes of the story is that he could be you, in the right – or wrong – circumstances. This is what The Joker aims to prove in kidnapping and torturing Commissioner Gordan. A good man, a normal man, a sane man, will go crazy, will break, if you subject him to certain, appalling situations. It’s inevitable, natural, comforting even.   

16983029._SX540_.jpg

As with everything I have read by Alan Moore, there is a satisfying depth to his ideas in The Killing Joke. Intelligence; no easy answers or conclusions. The Joker is discomforting, not because I saw myself in him, as some may do, but because he is acting out of pain. He is capable of anything, because this awful anything, this madness, distracts him from the pain. It is also worth mentioning that he is drawn beautifully. He is odd looking, without being monstrous or camp. Moreover, some of the other illustrations are impressively creepy, resembling an Aphex Twin video you may once have seen on MTV at midnight. In any case, my favourite part of the story is at the end, and features neither The Joker, nor Batman, nor any kind of traditional comic book hero or villain. A man speaks. Facing forward. Talking to you, it seems. He wants to do something bad. Kidnap a child, perhaps. A little girl. He wants to kidnap her and make her ordeal as terrible as possible. He would rape her, no doubt. The man has a woman and a child of his own. He is not bad, he states, he simply wants to try it, to compare it to goodness. It is this man, without green hair, without face paint, without a bat suit, who is the most familiar to us, and the most frightening.

Advertisements

.

the future terrifies me/I often wonder howmuch longer I must endure myself/I havechewed on this, steadily, without pause, and now my jaw is tired/cecilytoldme that her ex-partner tried to sell her for a line of cocaine/I’ve been sifting through ashes/I terrifymyself/I care but I show it in the wrong way/I’m awful, cecily, but I would pay any price/Ifonly I could endure happily, and not in this passive aggressive manner/I’m going grey/already I am going grey/I gaze into the mirror and the white hair gestures to me offensively/I’ve been sifting through ashes for too long/and all I have done is make my hands dirty/there was a story recently in the news of a girl who jumped off the balcony in a coffee shop/the call of the void/I don’t know if she died/but it’s not important/I endure nevertheless/she had asked for five pounds from her father, for a mocha, which had surprised him, because of the calories/kelly has a scar on her back/she won’t talk about it/she’ll letyoufuck her from behind onlyif you don’t ask about the scar/kellyis not for sale/although I would pay any price, for her and for the girl in the coffee shop/for cecily too of course/the coffee shop girl had anorexia/has it, maybe, I don’t know/the call of the word/I did not set out to write like this, but I am not capable of more/I don’t feel capable of this either/the void calls me/the french call it l’appel du vide/I often think about having the phrase tattooed on my neck/the more I covermyself in tattoos, the more my options diminish/it is only recently that I have realised that this is deliberate/I am sabotaging myself/I am painting myself into a corner/in Berlin I met erin/blonde, beautiful and broken jawed/at the end ofthe night wewalked out of the cocktailbar without paying for our drinks/my hands have turned grey/I’m frightened of spiders but I can no longer kill them/when I was younger I convinced myself that the way to deal with my fear was to hate, not to love/but now I can’t bear the brown smear, the twitching leg stuck to the wall/we went back to her place/she told me that this had been her plan from the beginning/if you weren’t awful, she said/I once wrote book reviews/butnow I sit in my room, cat-eyeing the dark corners of my life/letitia took an overdose/when she woke up in the hospital she begged her mother to let her die/the darkness swells and spreads/I’ve tried to read/watching her feet falling through the glass/erin was happy that she could give head again/when I was a child my hair was white/my father collapsed with kidney failure/he was in a coma for weeks/my mother called me when she found him covered in shit/she wanted me to come over and help clean him up/she was too embarrassed to have the ambulance people in the house while there was shit everywhere/she would rather, it seemed, my father have died/sometimes, when I close my eyes, I see kelly’s arched back/the twitching leg, the shit-covered sheets/my brother wrote the word fuck in dust on the coffee table/what I feel is terrifying/in Harajuku I collapsed/and ever since I have experienced a falling sensation in my head/falling, feet first, through the glass/I tell, and re-tell, these stories, because it’s the only way I can make my experience seem real/repeating these stories until they are tight and entertaining and believable/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been sifting through ashes for too long/and all I have done is make my hands dirty

 

 

I have been sifting through ashes for too long/and all I have done is make my hands dirty

THE CAGE BY MARTIN VAUGHN-JAMES

…I had arrived in what looked like an evacuated city…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 12.00.42.jpg

…an abandoned housing block; a burnt out car…

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 11.30.40.png

…she was blonde, beautiful and broken jawed…we fucked badly, or I did, too drunk and too spaced and too sadsacked…she demanded that I spit in her mouth and there was nowhere to escape to…she told me that she had once lived in an area where nondescript businesses were open 23 hours a day, as though one hour only was set aside, for the owners and workers, only one hour for themselves, to rest…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 10.33.15.jpg

…the cage is unfinished and already decayed…it stands as before…before, what…an event never for an instant anticipated…before the catastrophe, if you can call it that…the cage is significant only because it remains…it is whole, in a landscape of chaos and destruction…a cube…unfinished and already decayed, but not destroyed…its construction abruptly and inexplicably arrested…it remains…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 12.00.15.jpg

…I did not hear “help me”…their names sounded like an order and a surprised reaction…

58740072_1010524309147195_6811453613286621184_o.jpg

…everything is vague…by some event, inexplicably arrested…noises described in detail but not truly accounted for or explained…which may or may not be of some significance…symbols and signs that may or may not be significant…an empty analogy…the cage…

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 11.44.32.jpg

…and inside…a human head…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 11.12.48.jpg

…a labyrinth of distorted signs, which may or may not be signs…builders overtaken in their endeavour by some event…once populated, builders…some order or arrangement is in evidence, although order and arrangement is impossible…everything is chaos, and to live is to futilely attempt to impose order and meaning upon it…an intricate system…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 11.13.29.jpg

…I had arrived in what looked like an evacuated city…but it’s all me, in tidal motions…the something I needed was…new death…hallucinating rats…

depositphotos_126663256-stock-photo-young-poor-ttenage-girl-sitting (2).jpg

…hints at the sinister…broken nails and bloody rags…the suggestion that there is a design, a purpose, an intent…the chaos, the destruction…the air splinters…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 11.59.27.jpg

…stealing the beginnings of pornographic videos…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 11.59.48.jpg

…eye sores…I pulled out my hair and gave myself bruises…the now obliterated whole…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 12.33.31.png

…I spat in her mouth in a burnt out car…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 12.45.00.png

…fragment…looking for answers in rubble and dejecta…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 11.11.35.jpg

…the cage stands as before…signifying nothing…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 12.51.25.jpg

…unfinished and already decayed…

JESUS’ SON BY DENIS JOHNSON

The longer you live the more you seem surrounded by people who are in the process of losing themselves. That’s what I’ve noticed. When I was a kid things were scary; and everything connected to that fear seemed permanent. From my late teens onwards my life moved into different territory, one that resembled a graveyard but which was actually a kind of halfway house. Everyone drifting, moving out of your reach, like you’re a cat trying to catch a light-spot on a wall that shifts each time you pounce. People like Tom, who we tried to help, but only ever in small scale ways that involved taking him for a drink, hoping he’d see in that gesture some kind of empathy, or assurance, because we were more afraid of facing his problems than he was. And then one day he was gone. He was no longer losing, he’d lost.

We still had J, and he was an alcoholic, although no one ever acknowledged that. Alcoholics are a riot, much more fun that drug addicts. J had plenty of cash, and was always treating us at the best bars, buying cigars and brandy. I remember him once coming up to me at the end of the night and hugging me aggressively and saying take me home and fuck me! No one has ever seen a man run so fast; I could have broken records. Not in this lifetime, J. And then there was the time he fell asleep in the backseat of a car and the driver didn’t realise he was there and took him halfway to Milton Keynes. We didn’t know the guy; the driver, I mean. J had broken into the car, somehow, in search of a bed. That was brilliant. Or so we thought. Or didn’t think. Just enjoyed it. It’s easy to reminisce about those times, because the pleasant or funny incidents push back the horrible stuff lurking at the periphery of each memory.

“Sometimes what I wouldn’t give to have us sitting in a bar again at 9:00 a.m. telling lies to one another, far from God.”

Jesus’ Son is referred to as a short story collection, but is more a series of connected episodes featuring a lot of the same people and places. The narrator, nicknamed Fuckhead [I hate that, by the way], is the one constant, and each episode is like a little adventure, something [something usually unpleasant] that he had been involved in or witnessed. The first story, which involves a guy catching a ride with a family, was one of my favourites. The car crashes and Fuckhead [I still can’t write that name out without cringing] ends up walking the road with a baby in his arms. There was something weirdly beautiful about it, something like what Ballard nailed in the best parts of Crash, which is to say those parts that don’t involve mucus. The structure is idiosyncratic – the timeline confused, the narration jumpy – so that one isn’t sure how much of what is being relayed to you is real. A kind of gritty surrealism. I thought that worked amazingly well; and Johnson’s writing is just great, full of heart and eye-catching imagery. I was pretty much convinced that I’d unearthed a masterpiece at this stage.

Screen Shot 2019-04-19 at 09.51.41.jpg

But then I ran head-first into the second story, Two Men, and that is, to be frank, a fucking mess. In it a guy [we assume Fuckhead again] is at a party or gig or something and he has a gun, and he kisses and touches up this girl who has a boyfriend. Then he leaves and gets into his car with a couple of friends, and there’s this other guy in the backseat who he doesn’t know. This guy is a mute or pretending to be one; they drive him around a bit, to different houses, and the narrator sounds off about the boyfriend of the girl he was kissing and how he’s expecting some retribution. They somehow manage to lose the mute guy; but they spot this dealer who the narrator says sold him some dud stuff, so he waves the gun at him.

He drives off and they follow him in their car to his house. They push their way into the house and the narrator threatens the wife with the gun, insisting she give up her husband. But he has jumped out of the window and the climax of the story is a suggestion that they might, well, rape the wife. There’s so much wrong with all this that it’s hard to know where to start with critiquing it, but I was most irritated by the fact that Johnson didn’t seem to have any idea where he wanted the story to go. It’s simply an aimless night-crawl, a bunch of naff and random incidents. Even Tarantino would have turned up his nose. And, yeah, I know what the defence will be, that you can’t trust the narrator, that he might be lying or exaggerating or just too high to determine what is real and what is not. But I don’t care. Unreliable narrator or not, a story is still meant to be entertaining, and this one isn’t.

“And therefore I looked down into the great pity of a person’s life on this earth. I don’t mean that we all end up dead, that’s not the great pity. I mean that he couldn’t tell me what he was dreaming, and I couldn’t tell him what was real.”

After the second story I was going to ditch the book, it irritated me that much. I didn’t though, obviously, mostly due to the good will engendered by the one preceding it. The rest of Jesus’ Son thankfully does not plumb the depths of Two Men, nor, for the most part, reach the heights of the first episode; no, it settles down to a consistent good or very good. However, there is one real stand-out, the best of the bunch, which is called Emergency. In terms of plot, Fuckhead and Georgie work at the hospital, and a guy comes in with a knife through his eye. I won’t say any more than that as I don’t want to spoil it for first time readers, but for those who have read it: baby rabbits. Oh, and the graveyard. Johnson’s writing is wonderful in this one, full of humour and pathos; and the structure of the thing, with the pay-off of that last line, is perfect.

I’ve mentioned Johnson’s writing style more than once now, but it probably deserves even further discussion. I really liked it, in the main. It’s tough, but sentimental and sometimes beautiful, which, if you think about it, is kind of what it’s like to be out of your head on certain substances. However, I do think his writing is also occasionally too obvious or predictable. What I mean by that is that it often gives you exactly what you think you’re going to get from this sort of thing, which is to say a ‘classic’ American novel about lowlifes. It’s also sloppy in places, especially in terms of the imagery which sometimes doesn’t work; and the whole thing creaks a bit, like you can’t always lose yourself in it. At times, I was too aware that I was reading a book, that someone sat down and wrote this out on a typewriter or on paper, that it came from someone’s brain; for example, the end of Two Men, which is deliberately provocative, and the main character’s name [it just doesn’t feel authentic].

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND BY LEWIS CARROLL

I want, perhaps one last time, to write as I once did. To not punish myself, and punish you, with my words. Last week, I began a review in dialogue in which I meet adult Alice, old Alice, close to death, in a darkweb chatroom, knowing that it was so odd and unsettling that I would never publish it even if I finished it. I cannot continue to present you with flowers that smell like dirty feet. Yet it troubles me to put together sentences and make them stick. In Tokyo, I collapsed, and ever since I have been experiencing a ‘dropping’ sensation in my head. Momentarily, I feel as though I am falling, and, as in a real fall, I anticipate the end point as a sudden, devastating impact. I anticipate the impact, but do not experience it. It troubles me to attempt to think coherently, to pull together the loose threads of my mind. But I want, perhaps one last time, to force myself to do it, and produce the kind of review I once produced with ease.

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

I will write about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, because that is why you’re here. I will write about Alice as though I know her, as though she is the solid surface upon which I have fallen. I will call her Alice, although she denies the name and wishes that I would call her something else. She is easily bored, and possibly a little stupid. Certainly, she is impetuous and sometimes thoughtless. She follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole, remember. She drinks from strange bottles and eats strange things, without a great deal of consideration, without being sure that it is safe to do so. When talking to a mouse she cannot help but mention her cat, even though she understands that it frightens the poor creature. She often puts her foot in it, not out of malice, but rather out of carelessness. In person, she would be infuriating, to me at least, but in fiction she is charming, because she has a dreamy disposition and is not without obvious faults.

168ecea2578c4c7f05c52f361feffd24.jpg

Alice follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole and enters a world that is disconcerting to her. Within that world she is transformed; she becomes ungrounded, peculiar. She is the outsider there. The inhabitants, whom she thinks speak in riddles, question the turn and quality of her mind. Alice’s experiences in Wonderland are often compared to a dream, and they are dream-like in ways. She says so herself, in fact. As in the dream realm, the population and landscape of Wonderland isn’t unfamiliar, not completely so. Alice recognises the mouse and the bird, the door and the fire. It is more accurate to say that the familiar is distorted. The mouse speaks, for example. The dream realm isn’t another, or alien, world, it is a wax model of your world that has been placed too close to the fire. Yet there are signs, clear signs, frequent suggestions, that Wonderland isn’t part of the dream realm at all, but that Alice is more likely mad. Indeed, it is this way of interpreting the story that resonated with me, that moved me even.

The inhabitants, as far as Alice is concerned, speak in riddles, remember; their behaviour, moreover, strikes her as strange, unrelatable. This confuses and angers her and, in fact, makes her doubt herself. I feel that way all of the time, have done my whole life. Other people, the oppressive other, seem perfectly content and comfortable; they engage with each other successfully; and yet I cannot understand them. ‘We’re all mad here,’ the Cheshire Cat says, but isn’t it Alice who is mad, as she is the outlier? My concentration levels are poor these days, and I am unable to read carefully, but it seems to me that Carroll presents Alice, not as a young girl having weird yet harmless adventures, but as one who is unstable, as one who is, specifically, suffering from a crisis of identity. She is, to my mind, experiencing a fracturing of the self. Consider how we are told that she, in the ordinary world, pretends to be two people; she plays against herself, she admonishes herself. In Wonderland, the caterpillar asks her ‘who are you?’, to which she replies ‘I hardly know myself, sir.’

A GIRL ON THE SHORE BY INIO ASANO

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>I had arranged to meet Georgina one evening, but she went drinking with her friend instead. I was relieved,</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>although I felt as though I should be indignant. I’m sorry, she said in her message to me, I know I have let you down,,, but I couldn’t say no. |I no longer lay awake at night and cry. Georgina came over not long after midnight ?? She apologised for her perfume.</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>*At what point did womens bodies become boring to me</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>Irene is 31 and a virgin. She had been concentrating on travelling and her career, she said. I met her in Nottingham, a city where once, years ago, I had been punched by a young man in a case of mistaken identity.     Irene is 31,</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>The one thing I regret in my life is my lack of sexual experience, she told me. \\I feel as though I am living my life backwards</p>

<p style=”text-align: center;”>I am not always able to maintain an erection/.</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>i tell them i am drunk, but the truth is that i am bored</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>Sophie wants to be my sex slave™  SPIT IN MY MOUTH</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>[I no longer cry at night]</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>It is not true to say that there is no end to this, there are countless endings,</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>I once read books in order to escape my life and myself and to escape you. I once wrote as means of  ;</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>I picked up A Girl on the Shore and looked at the pictures. At the arseholes, the dicks, the vaginas. And I thought about how, once upon a time, I was not<em> wading through filth</em></p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>A Girl on the Shore is not filth. It is, in fact, almost beautiful, almost moving in the way that it represents sex between the two main characters. I had: arranged to meet CarA in Manchester but she cancelled when she got her period.</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>       I do not cry</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>The more sex I have the harder it becomes to remember a time when I truly enjoyed it</p>

<p style=”text-align: right;”>spit in my mouth</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>Upon how many <strong>faces</strong> have I ejaculated?  Asano Inio > mangaka. It seems as though each of his major releases are significantly different in subject and tone. ] A Girl on the Shore is about a boy and girl</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>I lay awake at night, my dick in my hand  “The girl is called Koume and the boy is called Isobe.” — Gulag of the soul — Koume was, perhaps, forced, but certainly coerced into sucking a guy’s dick, some guy that she likes, maybe, in some way […] They are young, at school ‘ – Koume and Isobe〈</p>

¶a rebel from the knees downwards

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>Isobe likes Koume || he wants to kiss her, to be with her, as something like a boyfriend. Koume will not kiss, because kissing is intimate, unlike sucking dick. She is using Isobe, or gives that impression, which frustrates and upsets the boy ↵ She is using Isobe in order to feel better about herself  -</p>

I sometimes wonder why they fuck me % what are they doing it for, for pure enjoyment?

<p style=”text-align: right;”>That hardly seems likely.</p>

I do it because, well, what else is there to do

<p style=”text-align: center;”><strong>?</strong></p>

<p style=”text-align: left;”>I met Linxian Δ outside a bar, early afternoon</p>

<p style=”text-align: left;”>I ejaculated in her mouth an hour later. The next day, she messaged me to ask me if I thought she should shave her vagina and, fleetingly, I was moved</p>

<p style=”text-align: left;”>≤ I do not know why ≥</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>It is clear that Isobe and Koume do not understand themselves, do not understand their relationship. There is real charm in the way that they fuck, with innocent eagerness, as though it is new and exciting. There is an intimacy to it that I had forgotten existed, and which they do not recognise ↓ Arseholes, vaginas, mouths….these things have lost meaning for me ↑ I see them, I touch them, I taste them, I fuck them, but I don’t know them any more. I realise this only now, as I write.</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>Years ago, I remember feeling honoured, as stupid as that sounds, to be allowed to slide my hand under the waistband of a woman’s underwear • Sometimes I would leave it there, enjoying the moment, not wanting to drive further down. [I felt chosen] [I feel nothing now]</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>There is a touching moment when Koume says of Isobe that he has the cutest face when he cums. They are two confused, lonely, hurting people, who don’t ever really talk to each other, except to needle and bicker. The way that they communicate, honestly, sweetly, is with their bodies =</p>

<p style=”text-align: center;”>I was touched</p>

+ fleetingly

They find themselves in sex; their awkwardness disappears and they let themselves go.

One understands that there is hope for them, maybe together, maybe apart

but Hope, <strong>nevertheless</strong>

<p style=”text-align: right;”>Yesterday I met Kimberley, who is studying law. She wants to have a good time.</p>

Koume’s family think that she is earnest and pure, and we are perhaps meant to snigger because, we, the readers, know that in reality she isn’t

⇒because she fucks and is fucked⇐

because Isobe fucks and eats her ass and asks her to shit in his mouth – (let’s not be coy)

But the sex in the book is the most earnest and pure I have encountered in literature

<p style=”text-align: center;”>     Did you</p>

<p style=”text-align: center;”>                                 have a good time, Kim</p>

<p style=”text-align: justify;”>I am not crying</p>

DOMU: A CHILD’S DREAM BY KATSUHIRO OTOMO

They often come to me from different towns or cities. I meet them at the train station, and on each occasion, as we exit, and start the climb towards one of the bars in the city centre, I turn my head and draw their attention to the Park Hill housing estate. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I do. The woman is not the same but this scene is; repeated I don’t know how many times now. Look, I say, and they look. And then I begin my explanation, which, by this stage, is almost scripted; and I’m boring them, I know; and I’m boring myself; but I can’t help it, as I am intensely moved. I didn’t grow up in Park Hill, but it was a place just like it; hard, raw and grey. The design of the buildings mirroring my experience. It’s pretty ugly, they say, or something of that sort. I don’t tell them that I feel ugly too, for this sort of thing formed me. I too am hard, grey concrete. For a while they stopped buses going up there, to the estate where I lived, because children would throw bricks at them. Where did they get such a supply of bricks? Were they stolen from the tower blocks themselves? In my mind I see little gutter kids sitting in the dirt, carefully removing bricks from the base of tall buildings. And in the next moment I see them toppling, in a perfectly choreographed, Twin Towers-like collapse.

domu-arch-21.jpg

On the surface, Domu, by Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo, is a horror/murder mystery. At a large housing complex, the residents are dying – twenty-five in less than three years – in unusual circumstances. What appear to be suicides, murders and accidental deaths, are, the police think, somehow linked. The latest apparent suicide had, they note, no history of mental health problems and left no note. He also had no access to the key to the door leading to the roof, from which he flung himself, and the door itself showed no sign of being tampered with. At one stage, one of the detectives says that it is a ‘locked roof mystery,’ in a nod to the once popular locked room subgenre, of which Gaston Leroux’s The Mystery of the Yellow Room is a prime example. In the early parts of the manga, Otomo builds his puzzle carefully and expertly, leaving numerous clues and providing a number of possible theories. It could be that there is a serial killer in the housing complex who has a grudge against the residents. Or is that someone has a grievance with the complex itself, someone who was forced out when it was built perhaps? Or could it even be one of the children? Or a ghost or spirit of some kind?

After a while, however, although the ‘mystery’ remains important to the police, the truth is revealed to the reader and the story then becomes more about the housing complex itself. In fact, even from the beginning it dominates the book in a visual sense. It is a huge, brutalist structure, of the kind I grew up in. It is described as ‘really creepy’ by one character; while another says of it that it ‘goes on forever.’ It appears in almost every frame, often in the background, looming ominously behind the residents or the police. Having lived in something just like this, I understand how they function in the mind. It is a little world in itself, a world made up of often vulnerable people, a little world from which it feels impossible to escape. Wherever you are you can see it or you can feel its presence. One interesting thing that Otomo does as an artist is draw important scenes where the lens has panned out, so to speak, to show only the complex, and the speech therefore appears to be coming from the building itself, rather than the characters. It gives the impression of, not only its immensity, but of a community swallowed up by the complex. In this way, Otomo uses it a little like the Bates motel or the house in The Exorcist; it is not directly responsible for the crimes, but is, nevertheless, a symbol of evil.

649966af032fab83d6961ef9d265b961 (1).jpg

The truth of who is murdering the residents, and the police, is Cho, a senile old man with extraordinary powers. He can levitate, for example, and can move objects with his mind; but, most importantly, in terms of his crimes, he can influence people to do things, such as kill themselves and others. His nemesis is Eksuko, a little girl with similar, if not stronger, powers. The two engage in battle and this provides Domu with its thrilling climax, which is, as far as I am concerned, the best action sequence in manga. On this, my issue with Akira is that there is simply too much of that sort of thing, but here Otomo provides a perfect balance between action and character development and psychology. In any case, it is said that Cho was abandoned by his family, who simply moved out and left him. The murders are, therefore, part play, by a bored old geezer, and part revenge. When he makes someone kill themselves he needles them about their failures, about how awful their lives are. Like the housing complex, Cho could be said to have a symbolic function. He is the suffering, the hopelessness and the destructiveness of the residents. He is the bad spirit, energy or atmosphere.