Absurdism Done Right
- Mangaka : Tatsu Yukinobu
- Publisher : Action, Comedy, Ecchi, Horror, Romance, School Life, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Shounen
- Genre : Viz
- Published : October 2022
Somehow combining nearly every genre under the sun, it’s difficult to describe Dandadan succinctly, except to say that it’s an absurdist sci-fi shounen that feels less like a manga and more like a surreal experience.
Mixing absurdism with heartfelt characterization, Dandadan is a unique blend of UFOs, spirits, and psychic powers. It might not be for everyone, but if you can embrace the weirdness, you’ll find an endearing main duo and an entertaining (but weird) action-packed plot.
Join us today on Honey’s Anime as we review Dandadan, Volume 1!
At its heart, Dandadan is about two high schoolers who are each seeking companionship and support for their own unique beliefs. Momo Ayase is done with scummy boys who belittle her belief in spirits and her grandmother’s work as a medium. Ken Takakura might share his name with a famous (and handsome) actor, but he’s actually a geeky boy obsessed with aliens and the paranormal.
When these two meet, they end up daring each other to test the other’s beliefs. What ensues is an absurd first chapter, in which Ken is possessed by the spirit of a horny grandmother who steals his “banana,” and Momo is abducted by aliens and awakens to psychic powers before they can impregnate her.
Yes, Dandadan is very much a mature read, and although we wouldn’t call it vulgar, there are frequent crude jokes—so keep that in mind. The plot is absurd, but takes frequent breaks to slow the action so the reader can come to grips with each curve ball.
The crude humor works in tandem with absurdism, as Ken and Momo join forces to defeat the evil granny spirit and restore Ken’s missing manhood. Momo’s new psychic powers allow her to keep Ken’s curse in check, while Ken’s curse allows him to transform and protect Momo from various spirits and aliens.
The artwork has a refined roughness to it, likely inspired by Tatsu Yukinobu’s work as an assistant to Fujimoto Tatsuki on Chainsaw Man and Fire Punch. The monsters feel straight out of Jujutsu Kaisen or Bleach, while the absurd humor and occult plotline remind us of Mob Psycho 100. The quirky action is broken up by some genuine moments of characterization that prove the series has more to offer than just unadulterated insanity.
Why You Should Read Dandadan Vol 1
1. A Mixing Pot of Genres That “Just Works”
Look at the list of genres above…how Dandadan can manage to cram so many different genres together without feeling piecemeal is nothing short of pure magic. Any one of those genres is normally enough to base an entire series around, and Dandadan could have settled for just dealing with spirits, or aliens, or psychic powers.
Instead, Tatsu Yukinobu has pulled these discordant ideas together and marshaled them into a strange, harmonious mix of absurdism and heartfelt characterization. It’s not something you’ll find very often, but the mangaka has pulled this strange idea off with aplomb.
2. Surprising Character Depth
With a series like this, it would be easy to skirt around the characters and instead focus on the plot. And certainly, Dandadan has a lot of action squeezed into the first volume, but it also manages to give strong personality and convictions to the main characters.
Both Momo and Ken have experienced isolation and bullying because of what they believe in. Having those beliefs proven right gives them a sense of self, but at the same time, they learn the other person’s beliefs also exist—opening up a bigger world of possibility for self-confidence and growth.
Why You Should Skip Dandadan Vol 1
1. Strange Isn’t For Everyone
We’ll be honest—Dandadan probably shouldn’t be your first-ever manga to read, or maybe even your tenth. Its absurdism relies on the reader being comfortable with a variety of different manga tropes, but even so, the absurd mixture of aliens and spirits and psychic powers isn’t going to be for everyone.
That said, we highly encourage you to give the first volume a read, and see how you feel. You won’t know until you try!
An unlikely cocktail of absurdist plot and genuine characters, Dandadan carefully walks the line between insanity and reality. From a privates-stealing granny ghost to a sumo-wrestling alien attacking a shrine, Dandadan delivers a convincing narrative about standing up for yourself and your beliefs.
Are you going to check out Dandadan Vol 1? Let us know down in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!
by Brett Michael Orr