Dead Mount Death Play Vol. 1 Review

Title: Dead Mount Death Play Vol. 1
Author: Ryohgo Narita (Story), Shinta Fujimoto (Art)
Publisher: Yen Press
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Supernatural, Action
Publication Date: December 11, 2018

The Story

All it took for me to become interested in this series was to see that Ryohgo Narita’s name was attached to it! I was a fan of both Baccano and Durarara so when I heard that he was writing another manga, I was filled with both hype and excitement. So how did the first volume of his new series stack up against the previous ones?

In this series, The Corpse God is using the power of necromancy in ways that are disrupting his world, therefore, a hero by the name of Sir Shagrua (nicknamed The Calamity Crusher) is sent to stop him. Both Sir Shagrua and The Corpse God possess the Evil Eye which has the ability to sense and see the spirits of those who have been slain around them. The two of them clash; however, The Corpse God uses a spell and in a brilliant flash of light, Sir Shagrua finds himself in the modern world… or at least that’s what the manga wants you to believe until it’s revealed that it was The Corpse God who transported himself, not only 1,000 years into the future but into our world from his own.

The Corpse God takes over the body of a 16-year-old boy who was just recently slain by a maniacal girl named Misaki who loves to kill for entertainment. The boy’s body belongs to Polka Shinoyama and it is currently not known why he was the target of Misaki and the mafia that she’s contracted with; however, now that Polka is dead and The Corpse God has inhabited his body, he simply assumes his identity. When fighting Misaki, his Evil Eye reactivates and his powers return in some capacity. He begins to use the souls he sees around him to instantly kill Misaki. Clarissa, an intermediary who stands atop of a freelance agency, visits the scene and Polka demonstrates his power by bringing Misaki back as a zombie.

Clarissa offers “Polka” to stay with Misaki and Takumi Kuruya, a man who stays behind the scenes for the mafia and communicates through a long-range drone that he operates. Since “Polka” can see spirits, the real Polka never left his side so he decided to bind his spirit to Takumi’s drone temporarily (which later gets transported to a stuffed shark toy). Corpse God now begins his journey on deciphering the world he is in along with gathering as much money as possible so that he can buy things like diamonds and sapphires, stones that (at least in his world) have the ability to store enormous amounts of magic power. The only problem is stones like that in our world aren’t sold for the price of bread like they are in his.

Those plans are derailed when the Shinjuku Police begin investigating some of the more bizarre cases that have been happening, some have been the handiwork of Corpse God. Their chief (or manager as they refer to him as) Tsubaki, likes to give all of the criminals odd nicknames such as Lemmings, Grim Reaper, and The Fire-Breathing Bug. Tsubaki tries to kick over some rocks at Clarissa’s bar when one of his men, Arase, shows up. Suddenly, the power is cut and as Polka and Misaki try to escape, we are introduced to the criminal known as Lemmings! With that, our first volume comes to a close.

I have to say that this is a really interesting start to the series but it feels weird to read a Narita series and not have it seem like Pulp Fiction. In both Baccano and Durarara, Narita wove a story that had many different branches to it. He would jump from branch to branch at any given moment and then find a way to tie everything together. Here in Dead Mount Death Play, the story is more straightforward and single-pathed which seems a bit odd for him but I have to say, not having to piece things together and make sense of it all is quite refreshing. It doesn’t make his story any less interesting, though. I’m thoroughly hooked on it after one volume!

Characters

With this being a new series, we have quite the cast to talk about already!

First off, we have Corpse God who assumed the identity of Polka Shinoyama. Corpse God was depicted as an evil ruler in his world that had to be stopped; however, his true intention is just to live a life of peace and quiet. He seems to have no trouble killing those that stand in his way but he’s also gentle and values human life. Evidence of this is when he enters a burning building to save a bunch of children from dying in a fire. He merely sees the souls of the dead as toys to play with but at the same time, doesn’t want to create new souls if they don’t deserve to die. He has some odd balance with his ethics and it takes a few chapters for them to really explain his rationale but once they do, you kind of understand that he’s not exactly as evil as they may him out to be. He’s definitely an antihero style protagonist and is a really interesting character.

Next up is Misaki Sakimiya. She loves killing others for the sake of entertainment and always slays her targets with a smile on her face. As an assassin, she goes by the name Zaki and has a high-spirited personality. She always seems happy but she’ll slit your throat without thinking twice about it if the command is issued. After being turned into a zombie, she was quite excited to find out she couldn’t die. Heck, she was even excited to learn that she didn’t even have a pulse anymore. She’s the kind of girl that likes killing so much that she wondered what it would be like to kill herself, which she attempted to do until Corpse God took control over Polka’s body and it was reported that her target was still alive. Because of this, she kind of fell in love with Corpse God and moved in with him, pledging her services to him… kind of. More like, she’s just hanging around and getting involved for the sake of her own entertainment. She’s a rather fun character, though, and I’m enjoying her so far.

Takumi Kuruya is a bit of a mystery still. We know he works for Clarissa and likes to do his assignments from the shadows. He operates remotely through a drone and even uses that for communication. He is kind of a rat, though. He will sell out his friends in a heartbeat if it means saving his own skin. There is some dishonor there but when he’s not in that kind of situation, he remains loyal to any job, even if he’s reluctant to do some of the things he’s asked to do. Don’t know how I really feel about his character yet. I’d like to know more in order to pass a solid judgment on him.

Clarissa seems to be both feared and respected among the underground and police communities. She runs a bar along with the freelance agency that Polka, Misaki, and Takumi are a part of. Not much is really known about her true goals as of yet but we do know that she loves herself some other women! She kind of reminds me of Izaya from Durarara as she seems to be in the information broker role but to a different degree. Like Takumi, I’d like to know a bit more about her first.

Finally, we have our members of the Shinjuku Police. The first being Tsubaki Iwanome, their manager. He’s kind of laid back and child-like in personality. He loves giving criminals odd nicknames and, apparently, likes drinking on the job even when he’s trying to gather information. I wonder if giving criminals odd nicknames is a nod towards Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul series where they gave the ghouls different nicknames as well? Who knows?

Finally, we have Kozaburo Arase. He’s a former member of the yakuza who works as a detective alongside Tsubaki. He has a fierce fighting style and is compared to a wild animal. That is further accentuated by his back tattoo depicting a tiger up against flowers and a flowing waterfall. Arase has an encounter with Polka and Misaki during the first volume and it really drives home the fact that he has a bit of bloodlust in him despite the fact that he was only asking them a few random questions. His ability is respected so much that Takumi even tries to make a cover story up to get him to leave the two of them alone. A story that Arase sees through almost immediately. He’s going to be quite the formidable opponent later on down the line!

Final Thoughts

Whew! That was quite the cast for a first volume! All in all, this is a great start to a brand-new series. Narita doesn’t shy away from integrating the supernatural into everyday life and that is still apparent here in Dead Mount Death Play. In Baccano, he used a wine that granted immortality. In Durarara, he used the legends of Dullahans. Here, he’s using corpse gods and necromancy. The way he weaves the supernatural into his stories seems really far-fetched and it sticks out like a sore thumb but at the same time, despite that, it actually fits perfectly and seamlessly. When you read his stories, you’re keenly aware that this shouldn’t be happening in the real world but at the same time, it’s expressed in such a way where you accept it for reality.

Something like that isn’t really easy to pull off but Narita has a great knack for it. The characters are standing out really well so far and each one of them is interesting. The first volume sets up the premise of the series, introduces you to the world and main points of interest, and moves the plot forward at a reasonable pace. Everything that makes a first volume of a manga great is present here and Fujimoto’s art is complimenting Narita’s storytelling perfectly. Everything from character designs to emotional expressions all drives home the dialogue and help shape our characters into their unique forms.

I truly think Narita has another hit on his hands and I’m calling it now. It’s only a matter of time before we see an anime adaptation of this. Just after one volume, I can tell this story has anime written all over it. Give this series a year or so to get ahead in Japan and we’ll see an anime of this by Fall/Winter 2020. That’s my bold prediction! Check this one out for yourselves, especially if you’re a fan of Narita’s work! It’s different and familiar from his previous works at the same time and I think you’ll enjoy it!

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**This item was provided for review by Yen Press

About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years! He is also the author of the original English light novel Final Hope.

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