Dragon Head (ドラゴンヘッド Doragon Heddo?) is a post-apocalyptic disaster manga by Minetaro Mochizuki. It was published by Kodansha in Young Magazine from 1995 and 2000 and collected in ten tankōbon volumes. It is licensed in English by Tokyopop, with Volume 10 released 2008-04-01. In 1997, the manga won the Kodansha Manga Award for general manga.
Arc 1: Escaping the tunnels
Teru Aoki (青木 輝) is on a train to Tokyo after a school trip. A disaster occurs which partially destroys the train and blocks a tunnel. When Teru awakes, he finds all his classmates and teachers are dead.
He finds Nobuo Takahashi (高橋 のぶお), who is going crazy, and Ako Seto (瀬戸 憧子), who is unconscious and wounded. Teru gives what medical attention he can to Ako, who wakes up after several days. The two of them move some supplies outside of the train, and live in the tunnel. Nobuo is convinced that there is something in the darkness. He kidnaps Ako and paints her, and mutilates the body of a teacher. Ako flees. Teru, meanwhile, finds escape through a ventilation shaft.
Teru returns to stop Nobuo from killing Ako. Another earthquake hits, and Nobuo flees into the darkness. Teru and Ako escape.
Arc 2: Searching for allies
The two surface in a deserted water-treatment plant. The landscape is covered with dust and cloud. A TV reveals that there is much danger in Tokyo, and that most cities have been taken over by looters. There appears to be no functioning government.
They find more teens, who give them supplies, and tell them they are going to Tokyo. Teru and Ako wish to find their families there, but after they see the teenagers sacrifice cattle, they decide to go by themselves. They are almost killed by a mudslide, and see military helicopters overhead. They then find a deserted small town. Teru notices a helicopter and goes to investigate.
The helicopter is crewed by Captain Nimura (仁村), pilot Iwada (岩田), and crewmen Yamazaki (山崎) and Ōike (大池). Nimura explains that they are deserters and are looking for supplies, as well as girls. Yamazaki goes into town to look for a fuel source. The others unpack their weapons. Nimura tells him they can't help unless he has a girl. Teru flees, but is chased.Yamazaki finds Ako, who attempts to find Teru.
Nimura knocks out Teru, but he quickly regains consciousness. He finds Ōike, after the soldiers separate, and kills him with a Molotov cocktail barrage.
Yamazaki attempts to rape Ako, but she grabs his gun, and makes him take her to the copter. Ako gets into the helicopter with Iwada and they take off before flames reach them. Yamazaki is burned alive. Ako makes Iwada fly back to rescue Teru and Nimura.
Arc 3: Izu peninsula
Because of wounds suffered in the town, Teru falls unconscious.
After flying into clouds and getting lost, the team ends up stopping for fuel by a cliff. Iwada and Nimura go over the geography. Because the ash cloud is between them and Tokyo, they decide to take a diversion through the Izu peninsula. Iwada worries about the lack of fuel. Before they can gain much, the road collapses and they have to fly away.
They land in Izu, and meet a woman, who tells them that a tsunami hit, and the main town has been taken over by looters. She has medical training and tells them Teru has a deadly infection. Iwada stays behind to repair the helicopter, while Ako and Nimura go to get medicine. Ako is given all the ammunition. They also have a radio.
Ako and Nimura find bodies, then run into a boy and his friend. People from the town are trying to kill everyone. The boy burns his arm very badly, but does not seem to care. His hat falls off, revealing that he has scars all over his head.
The townspeople arrive, and a policeman shoots Nimura in the shoulder. The scarred boy's friend and the policeman are killed and Ako, Nimura, and the scarred boy are captured. They learn that the peninsula is now an island, with no food. The people plan mass suicide. They have already killed all the women and children. Nimura notes that these are the town officials.
The trio run to a building filled with gasoline, the funeral pyre. They flee to the hospital, and Ako is forced to shoot a group of townspeople on the way. In the hospital, Ako finds medicine.
The scarred boy mentions a certain painting believed to be important to the events, and calls himself Dragon Head.
The trio is caught. Nimura and Ako fight through a wave of people and escape on a motorcycle. The scarred boy is beaten into a bloody pulp by a townsperson, and mocks everyone for the fear they feel. Nimura explains that he looks out only for himself, but says that he's different from the townspeople—he's afraid to die, unlike them.
Meanwhile, a less-defeatist, small group of townspeople find the radio in the forest. They call Iwada and pretend to have hostages. Iwada flies to them and they invade the helicopter. He is forced to land, but while they argue over who gets to fly away he takes a rocket launcher and blows them away.
Ako and Nimura climb to the top of the funeral pyre building, just as the black cloud moves over the Izu Peninsula. Iwada rescues them. As nothing can even be seen from ground level anymore, a townsperson ignites the pyre and blows the building up. Somehow, the scarred boy had followed, and they see him on the rooftop -- on fire and showing no expression -- as they leave.
The helicopter lands back at the woman's home. She heals Teru. Teru and Ako agree to look for their families in Tokyo, and to remain together. Ako looks up the painting and sees that it's of Mount Fuji.
Iwada says he wants to go to Tokyo too, and also to see Mount Fuji. Everyone comes with except for the lady, who stays to rebuild. She says that it is possible to feel fear without giving into it.
Arc 4: Discovery
The group goes into the black cloud. They approach Mount Fuji and see that the ground is filled with lava. They wonder if it was an eruption, but when they get over Mount Fuji they see only a giant hole. Because of the darkness, they cannot see its bottom, even after flying into it. They theorize that a meteor hit Mount Fuji. They also see the remains of the air force group that Nimura deserted—it was hit by flying rocks and obliterated.
The group heads through the black cloud and lands on a ruined shopping mall. Ash is falling everywhere, and there is still no drinkable food or water—they still can only used canned and bottled supplies. The shopping mall soon collapses, and Teru is separated from the others.
When Teru wakes up, he finds that the helicopter crashed and that Iwada is dead. There is a note from Ako. He walks towards Tokyo.
Along the way, he encounters a bandaged man, who says that Tokyo is like Hell but he wants to go back, and then runs off a cliff, killing himself.
He finally arrives in Tokyo, which is utterly ruined.
Arc 5: Tokyo ruins
Teru finds a group of survivors lead by a researcher. The researcher says that everyone has given into fear. Teru notes that everyone in the room is horribly wounded. Apparently, they have been eating food with fear-negating properties, but in their desperation to feel something have been mutilating themselves. The researcher says that numbing oneself to fear only makes more of it. A figure that looks like Nobuo is seen, but his identity is unconfirmed. Also, more Dragon Heads are with the group.
Teru opts to leave the group.
A team of rescue soldiers lands, and is massacred by the group, acting under the direction of the researcher.
Teru finds his apartment building ruined but standing. Inside, he sees a note from Ako, stating that her family is dead and that she is at the school. There is no sign of his family.
The note tells him to go to the school. He does, and meets Ako and Nimura. Nimura pulls a gun and says he's taking Ako. He holds Teru at gunpoint, and Teru opines that without fear—either by being numbed to it, or just never needing it—life is much less. Nimura says that he saw the graves of Teru's family, and that his whole family is dead. Teru and Ako defeat Nimura and flee, leaving him alive.
Foreign soldiers storm Tokyo and are attacked by the survivor group. The researcher says that he helped bring the apocalypse along. A document indicates that several nuclear devices have gone missing in Tokyo, and that weirdly the entire Japanese government vanished almost instantaneously. It also says that other governments are similarly unavailable. The document states that no one seems to know exactly what happened, but that the military is dedicated to retrieving the nuclear warheads.
Teru and Ako see a volcano rise in Tokyo, as do Nimura and a Dragon Head.
Teru and Ako sit together and watch the volcano, and Teru reflects that the world is what you make of it, and that even with the world in ruins good or evil still both have chances to triumph.
The major theme in the books is fear. As the woman in the ruined village said, a balance needs to be found between feeling fear and giving into it. Giving into fear was Nobuo's prime vice, and the teenager survivor group. Numbing oneself to it was the problem of the Izu people and the researcher's group. Teru himself gives in to fear when Ōkie and Nimura beat him up, but recovers. At the end he realizes that one has to conquer ones own fear—still feeling it but not letting it rule him—before the world can be saved.
Another theme is mystery. It is never stated exactly what happened. The characters guess that a meteor hit Mount Fuji, but it seems that the researcher had something to do with it—perhaps by assassinating the Japanese government, or by use of the nuclear weapons. It is also not stated what condition the rest of the world is in—we learn that some of them have unavailable governments, but they seem to still have a working military. We do not learn any more than the characters.