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Dream Fossil

Welcome to another midweek manga review! This week I’ll be looking Dream Fossil from Vertical Comics, but first, here are a few news items which caught my eye.

And now, onto the featured review of Dream Fossil!

Dream FossilDream Fossil
by Satoshi Kon
Vertical Comics, 426 pgs
Rating: Not Rated

Dream Fossil is a collection of fifteen short stories from early in the career of Satoshi Kon, the acclaimed director of Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress and Paprika. Available in English for the first time, these stories from the 80s and 90s range the gamut from sci-fi to slice of life and provide an interesting glimpse into the earliest beginnings of one of anime’s most gifted creators.

Several of the stories within Dream Fossil are reminiscent and feel like first run drafts of ideas and situations that would later appear in his movies. It’s difficult to read “Joyful Bell,” a story about a man dressed as Santa Claus attempting to help a young girl get home and not think of Tokoy Godfathers, or “Beyond the Sun”, which depicts a elderly, bed-ridden woman’s hilarious day trip, and not compare it to Roujin Z, a movie Kon worked on. While some of the stories within this volume feel like first run attempts at ideas he’d more fully flesh out later in his career, there are others in areas I wouldn’t really expect to see from him. “Waira,” which involves samurai brothers embroiled in a battle of succession and the local legend which stalks them both, stands out as the only period piece in the volume and seems to lack the heart and emotional core that mark much of his other works. A Page from Dream Fossil

The fact that this is some of Satoshi Kon’s earliest works is most evident in his artwork which bears the unmistakable look and feel of an 80s and 90s anime. More specifically, the characters’ faces, their manner of dress, their expressions and body language will undoubtedly remind readers of another Japanese artist, Katushiro Otomo. This isn’t a coincidence as Satoshi Kon spent several years working with Otomo as an assistant. The similarities between the two don’t stop at the external visuals either. “Toriko,” a story about a rebellious high schooler struggling against a brutal militaristic regime bears some strong surface similarities to Akira’s teen gangs and ruthless military, despite the fact that the details of the stories differ substantially. Speaking of “Toriko,” one of the most striking things about this volume is the reproduction value of several stories. Apparently the original artwork for “Toriko” and “Desert Dolphin” were lost, leading the Japanese publisher to reproduce them using the published editions. While I have no idea what kind of technical process is involved in such a thing, it’s hard not to notice that those two stories have a photocopied feel to them, something that’s hard to ignore when the majority of the book is so clean and clear. It’s certainly distracting, but hopefully it’s not enough to ruin the reader’s enjoyment of them.

Dream Fossil is a fascinating look at the early career of one of the anime industry’s most internationally successful directors. With several of the stories feeling like predecessors to his later work, it serves as an interesting glimpse into the beginnings of ideas and themes that he would bring to fruition elsewhere. Some are more enjoyable, clever and entertaining than others, but for fans of late Satoshi Kon, this seems like an unmissable volume.

Dream Fossil is available now from Vertical Comics. Review copy provided by the publisher.

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