Domu (童夢 Dōmu) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo. Similar to his work Akira, the story centers on an old man and a child possessing extrasensory powers. It was serialized between 1980 and 1981, with the chapters collected and published as a tankōbon in 1983. The main inspiration for Domu came partly from an apartment complex Otomo 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.
It has sold over 500,000 copies in Japan, was granted an excellence award at the 1981 Japan Cartoonists Association Award, was the first manga to win the Nihon SF Taisho Award, and won the 1984 Seiun Award for Comic of the Year. It was released in English in individual volumes in 1995, compiled altogether in 1996 (reissued 2001), and was one of publisher Dark Horse Comics' top sellers for that year.
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 there in only three years. Inspector Yamagawa and Inspector Takayama investigate 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.
Yamagawa interviews with the complex's manager and 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, nicknamed "Little Yo", a strong but mentally disabled man who was accused of child molestation by other residents; and Yoshikawa, an abusive alcoholic. The manager also mentions Chojiro Uchida, nicknamed "Old Cho", a senile old man who lives alone.
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 sewn on. During a later interview with Mr. Ueno's wife and son, the detectives learn that the cap went missing following his death. 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. He realizes that the killer is watching him and offers the beeper as a trophy. To his fright, however, the beeper suddenly explodes. Yamagawa is pursued and taunted by the killer in a pursuit 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 his life. She confronts Old Cho about the deed, repelling his attempted attack. Later, 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; Takayama later sees a similar apparition. Old Cho levels 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, traumatizing Etsuko. The following night, as Yoshikawa hangs out in the complex courtyard, Old Cho offers him the dead patrolman's pistol.
In the morning, Takayama visits a professor to get his expert opinion on the recent events, as well as any information on Japanese shamanism. The professor refers Takayama to a practicing shaman named Noriko Nonomura. After Takayama meets to Nonomura, they travel to the housing complex to let her examine it for signs of supernatural power. At the moment of their arrival, Old Cho and Etsuko are having a psychic battle; Nonomura realizes that the children in the complex are the objects of Old Cho's madness, and tells Takayama to protect them at all costs. Takayama fails to understand the warning.
Meanwhile, a policeman appears at Old Cho's apartment regarding his patio doors, which were shattered when Etsuko was attacked. The policeman and the manager are surprised to find the residence completely empty, save for a ring the policeman finds near the patio doors.
Later, Old Cho possesses Yoshikawa and kills a young boy, before going after Etsuko. When Hiroshi and Little Yo wander into the scene, Yoshikawa shoots Little Yo and, later, kills Hiroshi. Sensing Old Cho on the roof, Etsuko teleports to face him. This leads to a gigantic battle across the apartment complex. Etsuko then suffers a mental breakdown when Old Cho blows up a building with a gas main, killing many children that were witnessing the battle on their balconies; Little Yo and Mrs. Tezuka are killed as the building collapses. Overwhelmed by Etsuko's power, a terrified Old Cho flees the scene. Etsuko's powers kill two firemen and cause more damage before she is calmed down by the presence of her mother.
In the aftermath, Yoshikawa is blamed by the media for the tragedy. Old Cho is taken into custody, but Okamura gathers very little information. After being given another psychic attack by Old Cho, Takayama begins keeping watch on him. While doing so in the complex's courtyard, Etsuko enters the scene and focuses her powers against Old Cho. He is easily overwhelmed and killed. Etsuko then teleports from the scene, leaving Takayama clueless as to how Old Cho died.
- 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 Takayama - 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 in an attempt to kill 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 intellectually disabled man who lives with his mother in the complex. 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 Takayama 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.
- 1981: Japan Cartoonists Association Award, Excellence Award
- 1983: Nihon SF Taisho Award
- 1984: Seiun Award, Comic of the year
- Looper director Rian Johnson has cited it an influence.
- (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia