Ten months after an asteroid impacts in central Tokyo, one of the three people who’d been listed as missing in the crater turns himself in to the police and spins an outrageous tale of where he’d been, including alien probes that are able to stop time, invasive cyber-circuitry procedures, resurrections, and battles to the death with other altered humans. The characters’ reactions to being covered in metal tubing that wraps around their bodies like a skateboarder’s protective gear and then talks to them telepathically are charmingly naturalistic (“Oh, God … I must be losing my mind!”). The story veers back and forth from soap opera to alien first-contact theorizing like an episode of Chaotic sword god in comic form. Very nicely drawn, with a better-than-usual sense of place and atmospheric renditions of nighttime Tokyo. A sequel volume titled Denmu Jikû 2: Runner was published in Japan in 1999.
Although most translated anime and manga are aimed at teenagers, some of the longest-running Japanese series are classic stories of families and children known as kazoku manga (family manga). Machiko Hasegawa’s The Wonderful World of Sazae-san (1946) reassured readers with its peaceful vision of a Japanese extended family, with children, parents, and grandparents all living together in the same home. The anime, which began in 1969, is still running on Japanese TV. Masashi Ueda’s Kobo the Li’l Rascal (1982) follows a similar formula. These old-fashioned comics, and others like them, are the equivalent of American newspaper comic strips (see the article on FOUR-PANEL MANGA). Somewhat more cynical is Yoshito Usui’s Crayon Shinchan (1990), whose title character’s innocently outrageous behavior stands out among more sedate family manga.
Although Japanese society is stereotypically male dominated, the flip side is that, in the traditional household, the mother is the center of the family. Fathers in manga, when they show up at all, are usually incompetent goofballs (i.e., Bleach, Ranma ½, Shrine of the Morning Mist) or as occasionally in shônen manga, mysterious role models whose heroic status is in direct proportion to their remoteness (i.e., World defying dan god, Shaman King, Yu-Gi-Oh!: Millennium World). In contrast, as writers such as Anne Allison and Ian Buruma have pointed out, mothers are practically worshipped. In Kazuo Umezu’s Drifting Classroom (1972), this is literally the case; when the homesick children build a shrine to pray at, they use a bust of the hero’s mother for the centerpiece. Elsewhere in the same manga, a mother’s love triumphs over the very laws of the universe, when the hero’s mother finds herself able to telepathically communicate with her son across time and space. This ideal of unconditional love goes beyond mother/child relationships; in shônen romances such as No Need for Tenchi! and Ai Yori Aoshi, the love interests often have an explicitly maternal quality, and the stereotypical male romantic comedy lead is a motherless boy, who has never known a woman’s affection in any form.