In space, there’s a legend that if you possess the bones of Zaha Sanko, your greatest wish will be fulfilled. But Zaha, a teenager, is pretty attached to his bones and spends his days with his skeletal guardian Avakian evading capture from all manner of alien creatures. Together they search for the truth behind the legend and swear to bring down whatever entity cursed Sanko and his bones. Dai Dark is Q Hayashida’s latest work after Dorohedoro, and right from the very first page I knew I was in for yet another unique, whirlwind tale.
What draws me to Hayashida’s work is that you can never really guess what wackiness will come next. She creates these expansive worlds, and just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, there’s a new trippy ball she throws at you. Dai Dark is no different.
An enigmatic mix of space, necromancy and spaghetti, it’s a real ‘roll with the punches’ story. But, I will be honest in saying it takes a while to find your footing in it. I described the story as a whirlwind, and it really is that. There’s so much information and teasing threads of world building, you feel like you’re scrambling to put together the larger puzzle. But you never quite get the chance to look deeper before being chaotically whisked away by Sanko and Avakian to the next absurd or intriguing scene.
That aside, Sanko and Avakian are charismatic and endearing leads. Sanko walks the thin line between being capable and a walking mess. He has a happy-go-lucky personality, and in one memorable scene registers his ‘undercover’ name as Meatball Spaghetti. Bouncing off him is Avakian, who certainly has his skull screwed on right. The banter between the two is a delight in every scene.
I particularly enjoy how the volume shifts between ‘present’ Sanko and his childhood. The chapters provide a bit more context to Sanko and Avakian’s lives, but more importantly, reminds us that at the core of this story is a boy who even at a very young age was hunted for his bones.
Dai Dark is a violent, harrowing tale. And yet it never threatens to feel dreary as Sanko and Avakian bring a comedic balance to it.
Drawing readers into the story is Hayashida’s distinct and detailed art style. Each panel feels like a mini artwork, with fight scenes impactful and dynamic. Hayashida particularly doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to the gore. There’s some especially gnarly scene with Sanko’s abilities allowing him to literally rip the bones out of his opponent’s body. Whether this is a positive or negative is up to your own personal tastes, but I loved it.
My only complaint is the design of the spaceships. At times they could seem a bit muddled together, with no distinction between areas. This was particularly prominent in the manga’s colored pages, where ships appeared like blobs of clay. I can appreciate how the designs are a unique take on spaceships, but they looked a bit off to me.
Dai Dark volume 1 is an intriguing introduction to Q Hayashida’s latest tale, but it hasn’t quite gripped me yet. It’s a world that I’m sure I’ll need another volume to find my footing in. But with such a fun premise and great characters, I’m more than happy to dive back in.
Dai Dark is licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment.