Seiko Ayase on the cover of Dandadan Vol 4Dandadan Vol. 4
Written and illustrated by Yukinobu Tatsu.
Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian.
Adapted by Jennifer Leblanc.
Lettered by Kyla Aiko.
Published by VizMedia.

Guess who’s coming to dinner? After putting an unspeakable horror to bed, the gang once again retires to grandma’s house to fight over food with somebody who is arguably food. Yukinobu Tatsu’s Dandadan started off as a screwball rom com (it still is) that became a magical testicular rescue mission (yes you read that right, also it still is). But by its fourth volume, the series has hit a comfortable groove: combination found family story and supernatural detective agency.

The lovers’ triangle has been kind of put to rest, and our heroes Momo and Okarun edge closer and closer to a real kiss. But an awkward new member joins the group- Momo’s first crush? The primary function of this guy is to make Okarun question his own resolve, while pulling a nonstop series of amazing, hilarious faces. The goofiness of the art in Dandadan brings me some serious joy. Anyway, he’s a himbo with an issue only an exorcist can fix. His effect on the freshly acknowledged smitten edition of Okarun would be funny if it wasn’t so annoying. I do love that the dynamic between the boys immediately descends into the absurd rivalry the series does so well. That said I don’t want tension I want action so I also find Okarun’s behavior as frustrating as Momo does.

Magnificent expressions...!The soap opera factor is strong this volume. The new girl in the mix gets a character moment turn-around as satisfying as Okarun’s inability to grow up irks me. It’s still a bit of a bare-ass underwear fest, purely to further the plot, I swear. I mean, somebody hired a Masamune Shirow temptress at the school infirmary to play the role of sadism nurse. Tatsu knows when and how to be effectively gratuitous. Dandadan knows what its doing. By now he’s hitting on the same stuff in rotation- monsters interrupting relationship, which gets more and more complicated because monsters. Yet you never really know what to expect from this series.

The balance this time is more toward atmosphere than action. There’s a culture piece about the economic reality of being a mercenary (alien fighting shrimp) in lieu of the expected “monster of the week” kick punch conflict. And what follows, the exploding visible man, is more chase than fight. The next monster after that is the boy from before Okarun and Momo met. Dandadan has its patterns, but Momo is already changing up what it means to encounter an alien, or a yokai, into something the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl would do. Not every meeting needs to end in death or banana-organ harvesting.

Maybe my favorite little moment was the living beckoning cat statue (currently housing the soul of a legendary witch-hag) going to the grocer for eggs. Emotional slam cuts from absurd to poignant abound in this volume, and why not. Tatsu’s is a cluttered enough series that the emotional development is already earned by now. Dandadan is about consistently upending expectations. Currently Tatsu is more interested in giving his readers heartache than giving targets to the giant punching claw arms he stuck on the Loch Ness Monster.

Which is to say, the fight that opens Volume 4 rules. Momo doing psychic attacks as sweeping underwater body gestures, spell casting, fighting without touching, it’s excellent stuff. The team combo finishing move! All of it occurring inside a school that’s underwater, with fluctuating gravity rules, like a level in Mario Odyssey. The ideas in this book are sensational. Though it isn’t combat that whips, the street chase to the dump is also really thrilling action comics. Dadadan is the manga of someone who wants to do it all, and does.

Momo grab in actionThe artwork for this book is just great. The fight scenes are all immaculately conceived. A range of action from Geof Darrow maximalist destruction to a Police Story chase scene. The comedy of latter’s constant near misses is just as exciting as the exploding concrete of the former. The SpongeBob SquarePants S-tier goofy faces are marvelous, someone who can do tight getting loose for the fun of it and killing that style too. I’ve compared Dandadan to Ranma 1/2 and Dai Dark because none of them take themselves seriously until it’s time to.

Dandadan is in conversation with manga and comics, Tatsu knows what has been written already. It’s satisfying entertainment, gets me in my ongoing cape comics place. For all its knowledge and subtextual dancing with the sequential art canon, Tatsu doesn’t have anything to say outside of developing the story and world. A post-superhero manga, not trying to make you think about the nature of good and evil, trying to make you look at some nice gams.

Expectations and inhibitions are still off the leash in Dandadan, a manga that’s the treat of reading somebody who doesn’t care about anything except telling a story that’s fun. Always sentimental, unflaggingly horned up, and decidedly silly. A good serial story can make what comes next inconsequential compared to the fun of what’s happening now. Whatever happens when and if Okarun gets all of his junk back (yes, new readers, aforementioned testicular junk) is sure to be just as weird as what threw them to the winds. Just freaking kiss already.

The fourth volume of Dandadan is available from VizMedia and wherever dirtier manga, books, and comics are sold.