Domo: The Manga
written by Clint Bickham
Domo is a brown, furry slab with arms, legs, eyes, and, as his most noticeable feature, a big, square mouth lined with pointy teeth. Like the Cookie Monster, he looks scary but is really just a friendly guy with more joie de vivre than common sense. He’s like a big ol’ golden retriever, jumping around with excitement and knocking everything over as he goes.
Domo is the mascot for Japan’s NHK television network, and in his native country, he is featured in 30-second animated shorts between shows. This book adopts a similar format, with a series of very short stories that could easily be told in a minute or two.
Since Domo is a TV character, it’s ironic that several of the stories revolve around his fascination with what he sees on screens. In the first story, he watches TV with his friend, an elderly rabbit named Mr. Usagi, and practically destroys Mr. Usagi’s den as he energetically acts out the roles of a samurai, King Kong, and finally, a lethal TV chef. In another episode, he decides to be a superhero and wreaks chaos throughout the forest, and in another story, he becomes fascinated with a friend’s Wii-like video game and persuades all his friends to dress up as game characters. (Not bad for a guy with a one-word vocabulary: The only word he ever says is “Domo!”)
The stories are straightforward enough for young readers to follow, and the formula stays pretty much the same in each: Domo gets carried away and causes havoc, but his friends forgive him because they love him. The details are well done; in one episode, Domo decides to teach a beetle to fight, and he puts the beetle through a rigorous program that includes eating tiny but complicated meals, trimming a wee bonsai tree, and reading the works of Sun Tzu, a set of details that older readers will probably appreciate more than the target audience.
And this book really is designed for children: The colors are bright, and Domo will be familiar to many readers through extensive promotions in chain stores. With a minimum of dialogue and only two to four panels per page, the comics are simple enough for even nonreaders to follow. The one thing that may throw younger readers is the amount of Japanese culture in these stories, as in the details of the beetle’s training regimen or the onigiri (rice balls) that Domo tries to feed to a hungry bat. Other elements, as when Domo and Mr. Usagi kneel on their cushions drinking tea, may not strike readers as foreign.
With bright colors, lively stories, and a lovable (if rather limited) hero, Domo: The Manga is a good choice for young readers, especially those who enjoy animated cartoons on TV.