DOMU (童夢 Dōmu?) is a graphic novel created by Katsuhiro Otomo. Similar to his work AKIRA, the story centers on children possessing telekinetic powers. The manga was serialized between 1980 and 1982 and was later republished as a graphic novel in 1983. It has sold over 500,000 copies in Japan.
Otomo has stated in various interviews that the main inspiration for Domu came partly from an apartment complex he lived in when he first moved to Tokyo & partly from a news report he heard about a rash of suicides that occurred at a different apartment complex.
In the late 1990s, Guillermo Del Toro expressed interest in directing a film adaptation of Domu, and in 1999, Variety ran a story stating that Del Toro was preparing to direct the film for Touchstone Pictures, but the project has yet to materialize. Though Del Toro had once stated that complicated rights issues have prevented the film from being made, Otomo said in a 2006 interview that he gave Del Toro the rights to make the film. The American English translation of the graphic novel is currently out of print and difficult to find. Dark Horse comics no longer holds the English-language rights.
- Chojiro Uchida - also known as Old Cho, he is a senile old man who lives at the housing complex. Old Cho has psychic powers which he uses to murder other occupants of the complex. His apparent motive for the killings is to possess an item belonging to the victim, which Old Cho then takes as trophies. The old man believes that his murders and the chaos resulting from his actions are more like children's games than actual wrongdoings, and he often acts like an immature child.
- Etsuko - a young girl who moves into the housing complex with her family. Etsuko also has an immense battery of psychic powers and uses them to battle with Old Cho and stop his reign of terror against the housing complex.
- Inspector Yamagawa - a senior police detective who acts as the first lead investigator on the case until his death at Old Cho's hands.
- Inspector Okamura - the second lead investigator on the case, replacing Inspector Yamagawa. He was once a close, longtime colleague of Yamagawa's.
- Inspector Tamura - a young detective helping Inspector Yamagawa and later Inspector Okamura with the investigation.
- Tsutomu Sasaki - a young resident who has tried unsuccessfully to get into college for the previous three years, but spends his time building model airplanes when he should be studying.
- Yoshikawa - a former truck driver, he is a hard-core alcoholic whose abusive relationship with his wife caused her to leave both him and their son, Hiroshi. He seems to neglect his son, and instead lies around his apartment extremely intoxicated when not outside. Is possessed by Old Cho into killing Etsuko, but ends up being killed by Little Yo.
- Hiroshi Yoshikawa - Yoshikawa's son who is also a friend of Etsuko and Little Yo. Ends up killed by a possessed Yoshikawa.
- Yoshio Fujiyama - also known as "Little Yo," he is a large, physically strong, yet mentally retarded man who is friends with Etsuko and Hiroshi. He was once accused of child molestation by other complex residents. Becomes friends with Hiroshi and Etsuko, and dies trying to catch Hiroshi's falling body.
- Mrs. Tezuka - a woman who lives at the complex, known for disturbing behavior, such as walking around the complex driving an empty stroller. Mrs. Tezuka was once confined in a mental hospital, after what was perhaps a nervous breakdown following a miscarriage. Killed by falling debris during Etsuko and Old Cho's fight.
The inspectors Yamagawa and Tamura both appear in an earlier one-shot by Otomo, namely Ashita No Yakusoku, which involved the pair yet again as head inspectors on a bizarre murder case. This story was collected in Highway Star.
Mr. Ueno, a tenant of the tower block apartments at the Tsutsumi Housing Complex, jumps from the roof of one of the buildings in an apparent suicide. His is the latest of the thirty-two mysterious deaths that have taken place at the complex in only three years. Inspector Yamagawa and Inspector Tamura, two police detectives, investigating the death and find that it was impossible for Mr. Ueno to get on the roof, as the lock of the access door has long been rusted shut. The detectives try to find any leads regarding people who ever held a grievance against the complex.
Yamagawa interviews with the complex's manager about any suspicious occupants. He is told of a few residents that have caused problems with in the past, including: Mrs. Tezuka, an eccentric woman who was sent to a mental hospital after a miscarriage; Yoshio Fujiyama, also known as "Little Yo", a strong but mentally disabled man who was once accused of child molestation; and Yoshikawa, an abusive alcoholic. The manager also mentions Chojiro Uchida, nicknamed "Old Cho," a senile old man who lives alone. Yamagawa makes notes regarding these individuals.
Upon returning to the police station, Yamagawa interviews a housewife, who saw Mr. Ueno before his death, walking in an apparent trance past her apartment. She mentions that he wore a strange baseball cap with wings sown on. During a later interview with Mr. Ueno's wife and son, the detectives learn that the cap went missing following Mr. Ueno's death. Mrs. Ueno also says she thought she heard her front door open the night her husband died. When a patrolman jumps from the complex with his pistol missing, Yamagawa tells his men to see if any of the victims' possessions vanished after their deaths.
Yamagawa goes back to the housing complex that night. After his pager goes off, Yamagawa calls the police station only to learn they did't contact him. Yamagawa realizes that the killer is watching him and offers the beeper as a trophy. To Inspector Yamagawa's fright, however, the beeper abruptly explodes. Yamagawa is pursued and taunted by the killer, in a putsuit that leads him to the roof. There, he meets Old Cho, floating in the air and possessing trophies from his many victims, including Mr. Ueno's winged hat. Yamagawa is later found to have jumped off the building.
The following day, a new girl named Etsuko moves into the complex with her family. When Old Cho uses his powers to drop a baby off a balcony, Etsuko uses her own psychic talents to save the child's life. When she confronts Old Cho about the deed, repelling his attempted attack. At the housing complex, Etsuko makes friends with Little Yo and Hiroshi, Yoshikawa's son. Meanwhile, Inspector Okamura, an old colleague of Yamagawa's, visits the complex. Okamura sees an ghostly apparition of Yamagawa; Tamura later sees a similar apparition. Old Cho levela a psychic attack on Okamura and tells him to never come back.
After leaving a playdate with Hiroshi and Little Yo, Etsuko is attacked by Tsutomu Sasaki, a young man who has been possessed by Old Cho. Old Cho makes Sasaki slit his own throat with a utility knife, severely traumatizing Etsuko. The following night, as Yoshikawa hangs out in the complex courtyard, Old Cho offers him the dead partolman's pistol.
In the morning, Inspector Tamura visits a Professor Kaneko to get his expert opinion on the recent goings-on at the complex, as well as any information on Japanese shamanism. Professor Kaneko refers Inspector Tamura to a practicing shaman named Noriko Nonomura. After Inspector Tamura meets to Ms. Nonomura, they agree to travel to the housing complex to let her examine it for signs of supernatural power.
Meanwhile, a policeman appears at Old Cho's apartment regarding his patio doors, which were shattered at the same time Etsuko was attacked by the possessed Sasaki. The policeman and the manager are surprised to find the residence completely empty with no furniture, save for a ring the policeman finds near the broken patio door.
Later, Yoshikawa is walking around the complex when Old Cho telepathically takes control of him and uses Yoshikawa to kill a child resident of the complex, before going after Etsuko. At the same time, Hiroshi and Little Yo are wandering the halls of the complex, when they notice Yoshikawa going after Etsuko. Yoshikawa, in his state of mind, shoots Little Yo. Sensing Old Cho on the roof, Etsuko teleports to face Old Cho and stop him. This leads to a giant battle across the apartment complex, which ends when Old Cho blows up a building with a gas main, and is soon taken into custody.
The work focuses primarily on a conflict between true children (who never grew up) and false children (irresponsible or childish adults). The former, represented by Etsuko and Little Yo, face off against the latter, represented by Old Cho and Yoshikawa. Ironically, true children are depicted as more responsible than childish adults, as well as morally pure in contrast to the amorality of irresponsible childhood. The action is set against a complex backdrop (composed of literally dozens of painstaking recreations of the housing complex) worthy of the author's training as a student of architecture and drafting, and carries an underlying theme of the difficulties in such dense living conditions.
1983: Japan Science Fiction Grand Prix