Manga Review

Death Support Center fails to impress with its tired premise

Death Support Center is not a good manga. You should not read it.

That should be the end of the review, right? Two thumbs down. Zero-out-of-five stars. Next manga! Why should you bother reading my review if you already know I’m not going to recommend the book?

The real question you should be asking is why did I keep reading it if I didn’t like it? No one forced me to read Death Support Center. This isn’t my job. I read it of my own free will, didn’t like it, and kept going. And I’m probably going to keep reading it.

Why do we do that as anime and manga fans? Why are so many of us programmed for delayed gratification?

I believe it has to do with the availability of manga when I became a fan. I didn’t know anything about anything, and options were limited. One of the first manga I remember reading was called PuchiMon. It was about an adventurer named Melty Bagel and her giant sword. I didn’t read it because I liked it. I read it because it was the only manga I knew how to download from IRC.

That’s sort of how I came about Death Support Center. I had just downloaded the Mangamo app and was drawn to the cover art. I read it because it was there.

It was created by Aisatsu Nakamura and published digitally in 2019 on a service called Ganma! That’s all the information I can find on it.

The premise reminds me of a dumb but memorable creepypasta called Boothworld Industries. A man receives a mysterious call from a company called Boothworld Industries. The operator asks for the name of someone he knows. Confused, the man says the name of his ex-girlfriend. Three hours later, he is listening to her being murdered.

That’s more or less what this manga is about, except the company is called the Tranquility Support Center. It’s told in an anthology style, which is really the only way a premise like this works. However, that means none of the characters will be around long enough for you to care about them.

This style of storytelling isn’t bad by default. Many American television shows follow this approach to great success, but you need a hook. No one watches House M.D. for the patient of the week. They watch it because they wanted to see what House would say next.

In the 200+ pages currently available on Mangamo, there is no hook. I know the story is only getting started, but you have to give me something to chew on. The reason I continued reading is there were only eight chapters and it was free. If I had to go to a store and purchase the next volume, there would be nothing compelling me to do so.

Death Support Center’s biggest fault is that it’s unoriginal. The first story features a high school girl who is the victim of daily bullying. When the bullying escalates to sexual assault, our main character hires the Tranquility Support Center to kill the bully.

This story has been done so many times that it no longer has shock value. Shadow Star Narutaru did it. Magical Girl Site did it. Even the Selena Gomez produced 13 Reasons Why did it. It’s a gross and exploitative premise, but at this point, I’m more offended by the uninspired storytelling.

The next story doesn’t isn’t much better. It follows a mother in an abusive relationship who hires the Tranquility Support Center to kill her husband. This arc is a little more interesting than the first one, but not by much. At least this one has a twist.

Writing an anthology series can be tricky. You have to continually come up with interesting short stories. It’s to be expected that some will be better than others. But when you come out swinging with back-to-back duds, it doesn’t bode well for the future.

I’m going to continue reading at least until the end of the current arc, but I will likely drop the series after that. I feel bad for Mangamo. They have a few big draws like Attack on Titan and Japan Sinks 2020, but the rest of their library consists of whatever the big publishers didn’t want.

I think it’s really cool that lesser known titles are getting professionally translated, but if Death Support Center is an indication of the level of quality I’m going to find on Mangamo, I will probably delete the app at the end of my trial period.

Future Diary, Vol. 1

It’s hard to deny that there’s been a bit of a Twitter boom. Bloggers, celebrities, parents, kids–even fictional characters have and maintain Twitter accounts. It’s such a simple concept: in 140 characters or less you can tell your followers what you’re doing at any given moment. These status updates are called “Tweets,” and they allow your followers to peek through the keyhole of the door to your life. It’s usually meaningless blurbs like, “work is boring” and “some jerk cut me off,” but imagine what would happen if you could read your Tweets before you made them. This is essentially the plot of Sakae Esuno’s manga, Future Diary.

Yukiteru Amano is a social outcast. He spends all of his time updating his cellphone diary. The only friend he has exists in his head. It’s important that you pay very close attention to this next part. His imaginary friend’s name is Deus Ex Machina and he’s the King of Time and Space! When Deus is introduced, Yuki asks him what he’s up to. He responds, “I’m adjusting the law of cause and effect right now.” By the way, this is only the first ten pages. It gets much, much better dumber better.

Deus said that he was messing with cause and effect, and he wasn’t kidding. When Yuki checks his diary the next day, he notices that it’s already been written for the day. This allows him to see into the future, but only kind of. Most people don’t tweet about every detail of every day (at least, I hope not); likewise, Yuki only updates his diary a few times each hour. The future entries are also written in character, so if it’s not something that Yuki would’ve written about, then it’s not going to appear in the future diary. But wait, there’s more.

I know what you’re thinking, “This already sounds like the best manga ever made. What could possibly make it better?” Prepare to have your mind blown. There are 11 other people with future diaries and they’re going to fight to the death! That’s right, this is Kamen Rider Ryukki meets Twitter. Before you get too excited and Rider Kick Yuki in the face, it’s important that you know this rule: if your cellphone breaks, you die.

That is a terrifying thought. I’ve gone through two phones in six months without people trying to destroy them. It also makes me wonder if different models reflect the power of the user. Is someone with an iPhone going to massacre someone with $20 pay-as-you-go phone? The UI for reading the future diary is probably a lot better in the iPhone, so how is that even fair?–IT ISN’T! Maybe these are issues that are dealt with later on in the manga, but I seriously doubt it.

The first two volumes of this “chilling shonen masterpiece” have already been released by Tokyopop, with the third volume coming out in September. Trust me, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the incredibly intricate plot of Future Diary. If you’re looking for a crazy book about a kid who’s special power is text messaging, then do yourself a favor and pick up the first volume. Afterward, you can Tweet about how cool it was when Yuki threw a dart in that stupid girl’s eye. But be careful, “every [tweet] could be you last.”