Dandadan Volume 1 by Yukinobu Tatsu with translation by Kumar Sivasubramanian and lettering by Sara Linsley has a comedic premise, hilarious characters, but some offensive comedic elements that need to go. The Viz Media manga has student Momo Ayase feels frustrated with the lack of eligible men and wants to find love. Fellow student Okarun, is friendless and obsessed with aliens.
These two collide in an encounter that goes from zero to turbo with aliens, spirits, possession, and schlong. I cannot decide if Dandadan Volume 1 is hilarious or not to my taste. There is a cute story and blossoming friendship amidst the insanity in these five chapters, so I am curious about what future volumes hold.
A Tough Heroine, Shy Nerd, and Comedic Conflict
Momo, dumped and kicked by her trashy now ex-boyfriend at the start of the manga, tells us a couple of things through her actions. First, Momo is not that discerning when it comes to men. I mean, her ex said to pay for their date or put out, or they will not go on a date. Second, despite the lapse in judgment, Momo is no pushover. She may have lost that fight, but she stood up for herself against him. The only reason she dated him, she tells her friends at school, is because of her obsession with Ken Takakura. She loves the strong yet awkward type of man; her ex lacked the qualities but had the physical resemblance.
Okarun looks the part of the typical nerd, complete with round glasses, a close shave on the bottom half of the hair, slightly longer on top, and the errant strands in the middle pointing up at odd angles. He reads a book in class as his classmates throw balled-up paper at him. Momo sees this and, annoyed, sits down by him, so they stop.
When Momo leaves the class, Okarun follows, thinking she has an obsession with aliens like him. After being mean to him, Momo extends an olive branch by saying she believes in spirits. Okarun scoffs that there is no such thing. So they challenge each other. Okarun will visit a haunted tunnel, and Momo has to go to an abandoned hospital that is a UFO hotspot.
Dandadan Volume 1’s Challenge Has Comedy But Also Offensive Humor
They chat on the phone as they reach their respective destinations, and Okarun meets Turbo Granny. She makes a disturbing, gross offer to Okarun, who jets from the tunnel despite Momo’s warning not to run. I cannot say I blame him since the pedophilic ghost wants to eat his schlong. Momo tells Okarun she is on her way to help, but she is about to have her own problems. Triplet lookalike aliens capture her to procreate because they have no women on their planet. I get this is an attempt at humor, but it didn’t make me laugh. It is 2022. Can we stop making assault and pedophilia a joke?
Okarun arrives, now part Turbo Granny because she cursed him since he lost the race and dukes it out with the aliens. Momo, whose grandmother is a spirit medium, awakens some powers and helps defeat the aliens. Unfortunately, Okarun is still cursed, and, to keep Okarun himself, Momo has to keep her eyes on him. The comedic moments lie in the interaction between Okarun and Momo.
The way Dandadan Volume 1 has Okarun give a heartfelt declaration to protect Momo because she was the first person to ever stand up for him, as Momo cheers him on, only to give up in the next second when the aliens knock him into a wall is comedy silver. Momo’s reaction is comedy gold.
A Broader Message On Character
There is love in the air, or at least a crush. After when Okarun gives Momo his clothes to put on, stating he’s “an awkward fellow,” a phrase Momo’s beloved Ken Takakura makes, it is easy to see where this manga could head. As Momo learns, looking at the character and not the physical package is an important lesson. Okarun may not be her usual physical type, but he has the traits that make her heart flutter. Also, Okarun is the nickname Momo gives him because his name is Ken Takakura and Momo gets…distracted when she hears Okarun’s real name. There is enough adorableness in Dandadan Volume 1 without playing into problematic or offensive tropes.
Both Okarun and Momo have hilarious personalities. He is shy, but when upset with Momo or passionate about a subject, he is loud and bold. Momo is bolder but has moments of shyness, especially as she starts caring for Okarun. They complement each other. Momo’s grandmother also has the common characteristics of a grandma in this kind of manga. She looks beautiful, statuesque, and tough. Similar to Momo, she exudes strength while having kindness about her.
Elements like the comical assault are unnecessary and rampant in all forms of entertainment. Dandadan Volume 1 has characters that stand out thanks to their interactions. I hope to see more of Okarun and Momo’s relationship in and out of school. Please retire spirit and alien pedophiles chasing teens to assault them. Comedy is possible without offense. There is much to love and enjoy in Dandadan Volume 1, provided Yukinobu Tatsu moves away from offensive, trite elements. Fingers crossed because I am rooting for Momo and Okarun.