COUNTDOWN 7 DAYS, Vol. 1
by Kemuri Karakara
DMP, 184 pp.
Rating: YA (16 +)
In the world of COUNTDOWN 7 DAYS there are two worlds. The world of the living and Sheol, the world of the dead. Oddly enough they’re not that different from each other and even the dead souls never stop learning. Enter Mitamura, a teacher at the Sheol academy for the departed. On a supervised field trip he looses a student and is forced to recruit the recently deceased Hanasuke to help him find her. From there the duo’s paths seem entwined and they quickly find themselves sucked into a whole host of problems plaguing both worlds. In addition to the main story, there’s a short one off tale called “Soothead” included at the end.
The second of DMP’s two Kemuri Karakara offerings: Where as Replica was an action packed series, COUNTDOWN 7 DAYS has a much stronger comedic bent and seems more focused on relationships and characters rather than non-stop action. The characters actually might feel a tad familiar to readers of Replica. Mitamura’s a quiet young man who has a problem connecting with people, meanwhile Hanasuke is a loud, brash and outspoken fellow. While the relationship between the two at times seems to echo that of Replica’s two leads, Mitamura and Hanasuke’s relationship and interaction feels a little less forced and a bit more natural. I found the interplay and back and forth between them interesting and believable. That said the characters aren’t without their downsides, particularly Mitamura. I get that the story seems heavily driven by his learning to relate and care and be open to others and that he needs to start out fairly isolated and aloof, but Kemuri Karakara doesn’t seem to think that’s enough and includes a bit of backstory for Mitamura that makes him seem down right sociopathic! There’s a heartless and cruel incident from his past that made it really difficult to relate to him or care about him in any way, shape or form, which is a bit of a shame since he’s one of the leads. Amazingly Karakara is able to salvage his character, and while I’m still not sure I’m rooting for him or care about him, his presence is tolerable, though he’s tainted with an aura of a budding serial killer.
If the main story wasn’t enough, the second half of the volume is compriised of a one off called “Soothead”. “Soothead” is an interesting tale of a near perfect kingdom plagued by a boogeyman, evil genius, supervillan known as, surprise, Soothead. It’s a bit of a complex tale involving politics and the manufacturing of a common villain for the purpose of preserving the peace. It’s an interesting concept and one that has it’s roots in real world politics, it’s not exactly uncommon for people in power to manufacture a threat to unite or galvanize the populace, but here’s it’s done for benevolent purposes rather than sinister ones. That said the idea does present a bit of a problem since I’m not really sure why the kingdom isn’t rife with paranoia regarding Soothead and why and how he’s capable of being behind all the countries’ ills while continuing to evade the law. Still, it’s interesting and I’d actually like to see more done with the concept and the characters.
Visually there aren’t too many surprises here. COUNTDOWN 7 DAYS looks good and I feel that the artwork suits this tale more than the action packed Replica. Kemuri Karakara does a good job at depicting the emotions of everyone involved and the layouts are interesting and easy to follow. The designs are slick and polished looking with the odd foray into the more comedic overreactions scattered throughout. Perhaps it’s thanks to the lively back and forth between Mitamura and Hanasuke, but these overreaction don’t really feel out of place or at odds with the rest of the story at all. “Soothead” is a bit of a treat with a fantastic design for the titular character, one that echoes the classic doughboy look of DC’s superhero, The Sandman, with some nice modern tweaks to it. The action sequences in the tale are probably the best I’ve seen from Kemuri Karakara and where energetic, humorous and engaging to look at.
COUNTDOWN 7 DAYS was a pleasant surprise, given my lukewarm reaction towards Replica I started into this volume expecting to dislike it, but it ended up being a wonderfully entertaining and enjoyable with a few minor bumps here and there. I don’t think it’s groundbreaking work, but I wouldn’t mind reading more COUNTDOWN 7 DAYS and I thought that “Soothead” showed some amazing potential and would love to read more of it. If Kemuri Karakara ever chooses to revisit the concept and flesh it out I’d definitely be willing to give it a look.
COUNTDOWN 7 DAYS, Vol. 1 will be available on March 15 from DMP. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.