“Trapped In Your Head” – Dragon Head (manga) – 10/10 Black Cats

All that is really necessary for survival of the fittest, it seems, is an interest in life, good, bad or peculiar. ~Grace Paley

Mangaka: Minetaro Mochizuki

Genre: Action/Mystery/Psychological/Drama/Horror

Review Status: Complete (10 Volumes/10 Volumes)

Licensed: No. It was formerly licensed by Tokyopop, but has not been relicensed.

Art: It’s a more realistic style than most, more like Satoshi Kon’s work than Studio Ghibli. In short- they look like people you could meet on the street.

: In the horror of witnessing so many classmates perish before his eyes in a violent train wreck, Teru discovers two survivors in the tunnel: Ako and Nobuo. But salvation from this bloody carnage is far from their grasp. As they try to dig out from the wreck in order to come up with a plan to stay alive, the lack of light and food, combined with the stench of death and decay, will lead one member of the group down a dark and demented path. And with sudden, violent earthquakes shaking the tunnel, escaping to the outside world may lead them to an even greater danger… (Tokyopop)

Review: When a disaster happens, sometimes what matters more is actually surviving instead of finding out what happened. In the aftermath of the crash, that’s the priority of the three survivors. However, trapped in a tunnel for days on end, they aren’t left with much to do except speculate and worry.

The first part of Dragon Head delves into the psychosis that can occur in extreme isolation, when people must face conditions not much different than sensory deprivation. Their fears become paranoia, that perhaps there’s something in the dark, or someone that survived but isn’t showing themselves. A monster eventually takes form in their minds, and between it and sudden changes that could spell their doom if they don’t think on their feet, two escape into a world that’s desperately changed and may never be the same.

Hard philosophical questions are asked, and none of the answers are easy and clear-cut. When is it okay to take a life? At what point do you stop helping others and start looking out for yourself? When do you stop searching for answers and accept the world around you?

The biggest challenge they have to face is the world outside. A disaster of unimaginable proportions has occurred that has flattened towns, raised huge ash clouds, and sunk the coasts into the sea. The disasters they face grow worse as they travel onward towards Tokyo. People have become crazed by the events, creating both allies and enemies to the pair.

When you think things can’t get worse for them, they can. They do. As Ako and Teru continue their journey to Tokyo, they deal with all the things the disaster can throw at them. Earthquakes, food and water shortages, flooding, death, and have to deal with it all when they’re still suffering from the psychological effects of being trapped underground and not knowing what had happened for two weeks. The not knowing becomes their drive- they need to know what happened to their families and what’s happening to Japan and gives them one of their reasons to survive. The other is their own fears that haunt them.

Overall, this is a moving, engaging story of two people trying to survive in an apocalyptic world. It may not be pretty, but it is pretty good.

18+. There are two brief instances of partial nudity on Ako’s part, one where she’s unconscious and being groped, another where she’s in a bath. You only see her breasts briefly. There is also the implication of her having been dry-humped, and two instances of attempted rape. This is very violent, with people committing suicide and murder. There are people shot, stabbed, and beaten. You only see one corpse more than once, but the wounds aren’t gruesome. For the rest of the story they’re usually covered in ash or mud.

Other titles you might enjoy
Drifting Classroom (manga)
Metro Survive (manga)
7Seeds (manga)
Akira (manga)
Jisatsu Circle (manga)
Doubt (manga)


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