Today I want to talk about one of my new favorite manga — Dandadan! I recently got back into reading manga, something I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed… and quite honestly can’t understand why I ever stopped. Either way, I’m back into the wonderful world of manga, and I want to talk about it!
Dandadan is written and illustrated by Yukinobu Tatsu. Fans of Tatsuki Fujimoto, the author of the manga and soon-to-be anime Chainsaw Man, may have noticed Tatsu’s name among the list of assistants on one of his previous works: Fire Punch.
What is Dandadan?
Dandadan is a relatively new ongoing serialisation in Weekly Shounen Jump magazine. The story is all about spirits and aliens, and it’s this blend of these disparate influences that makes the series into something incredibly fresh, wacky, and genuinely hilarious.
The story centers around two particular characters: Ken Takakura, a young boy who is obsessed with all things alien; and Momo Ayase, a young girl who was raised by her grandmother at their shrine and as a result has been brought up being told that evil spirits or “yokai” do indeed exist.
Momo is a young, hot-tempered and bold girl, which can lead to her sometimes making decisions that result in violence, but she is also conscious of when her behaviour has gotten out of hand — when this happens, she will always apologise for what she has done. She is also courageous enough to be able to take on the supernatural, whether it be in the form of a spirit or an alien. Momo is also completely obsessed with a certain actor — so much so that she went out with her ex-boyfriend purely because he looked like this actor. Tha actor’s name? Ken Takakura.
Enter our other main character, who is also, as previously noted, named Takakura Ken. In order to distinguish him from her celebrity crush, Momo takes to calling him “Okarun”, from “occult”.
Okarun is your typical nerdy kid who keeps to himself at the back of the class and occupies his time by researching everything to do with UFOs and aliens. He recognises his own flaws — particularly when it comes to his social awkwardness and his difficulty in making friends — but that doesn’t stop him from expressing himself and speaking out.
When Momo decides to stand up for Okarun as he is being bullied, not only does their amazing relationship begin, but the totally crazy and hilarious world of the supernatural opens up to them. The two initially butt heads as Momo criticises Ken for his belief in aliens, and Okarun laughs at Momo’s belief in spirits. But after challenging each other to prove each of their beliefs are legitimate, they are suddenly faced with the shocking reality that both are indeed real — and they may have bitten off more than they can chew.
From hereon the series really hits the ground running with all sorts of surprises and developments you probably wouldn’t have expected. I’ve read my fair share of shounen series, and despite my love for them, I do find it difficult to get into new series. For example, outside of One Piece, I only keep up with My Hero Academia and Jujutsu Kaisen. So when I started Dandadan and I saw just how distinctive it was, I was completely hooked.
Why it’s my current favourite shounen
Let’s start with the superficial, surface-level reasons as to why I like this series so much — the art is amazing. Yukinobu’s art style is incredibly clean, as can be seen with the main characters and background, but the creativity knows no bounds when all of a sudden these crazy-looking aliens and spirits are introduced. Momo’s character design is great and memorable, while Okarun starts a bit plain, but soon catches up with his leading lady.
Dandadan does some really great things that make the series like a classic shounen in that there are battles, power systems, and hype moments. But it also feels incredibly modern in the way characters are written, the way in which they speak, and the way in which Tatsu handles comedy.
The very first chapter slaps us in the face with some seriously wacky bad guys, the craziest of them having the very evil goal of wanting to steal Okarun’s genitals — you heard me, his genitals. Spoiler, by the way, he loses his man-parts, and they are still trying to reclaim his balls in the most recent chapters.
As much as there is some potty mouth-type humour throughout the series, it’s never done in a way that leaves you feeling uncomfortable or that it was too much. Yes, there’s an ongoing plot that they are trying to recover Okarun’s bollocks, but that part of the story still feels more like a running joke than being something serious.
The author isn’t afraid to add in a romantic subplot either, with the two main characters displaying an obvious interest in one another. As a romance lover, these chapters make for a refreshing break away from the usual madness of Dandadan, and always leave me wanting more. The characters are complete opposites, and thanks to being so well-written, they work tremendously well together.
The series is utterly crazy and it feels like every time you think you understand Dandadan and nothing could possibly surprise you anymore, another nutty development happens that just leaves you wondering if what you just read was a fever dream. The series is currently sitting at around 30 chapters as of the time of writing — so if you haven’t already, definitely check it out!
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