Home Dan Da Dan Episode 1 Review - An Incredible Genre Blend

Dan Da Dan Episode 1 Review - An Incredible Genre Blend

Dan Da Dan mixes the best parts of sci-fi, horror, mystery, and romance genres to the point of penning a love letter to all four. Based on the Japanese manga by Yukinobu Tatsu, Dan Da Dan is set to premiere in Japanese theaters in August and international theaters in September, with the release on the show on streaming networks Crunchyroll and Netflix to come the following month in October.

During Anime Expo 2024, we and hundreds of other fans got the opportunity to watch an early premiere and take part in what is absolutely certain to be one of the biggest anime adaptations of Fall 2024.

Strong Premise

The story follows high schoolers Momo Ayase, a girl from a family of spirit mediums, and Ken Takakura, (a boy inexplicably with the same name as a famous actor) who is extremely into aliens, for which (among other reasons) Momo nicknames him Okarun. After a chance encounter in a classroom, the two come to argue about aliens and ghosts, with Okarun insisting aliens exist while ghosts do not and Momo insisting the exact opposite due to her experiences with her grandmother the spirit medium.

On its face, this setup is quite simple, but the execution is perfect in episode one. Both characters’ reasons for so strongly believing in aliens or ghosts is connected to rougher aspects of their upbringing; Momo was raised by her grandmother and resents anything that disparages her, while Okarun grew up not having his existence acknowledged by anyone, creating a fantasy of being abducted by aliens who show interest in him.

After a bet meant to prove both sides of these beliefs, the two end up in some creepy locations tied to the occult and aliens. Even before that rising action to the episode, the series shows strong, distinctive art during the school settings, with characters moving expressively and backgrounds having a strong amount of detail despite the story only principally focusing on two characters.

It felt like the anime making a statement that even the dialogue-filled sections were going to take advantage of the motion and movement that would be lacking in a manga volume.

Sharp Action

Our first taste of action in the series actually came from a kick Momo throws at an (ex) boyfriend right at the beginning of the episode. During this sequence, and the later ones, we get a taste of the kind of tempo utilized for action sequences. The pace of a scene slowly moves from steady to decisively fast, creating a rising velocity of motion and allowing the anime to pull of really quick movement without feeling jumpy or too sudden. That decisive speed climaxes as a cinematic burst of art, mimicking the effect of a multi-page spread in manga, something the Dan Da Dan manga takes advantage of. In an interview with the director, we learned that a lot of effort and time went into this aspect of the anime, and it shows:

“I wanted to create something that the readers would probably want to see — what they saw in the manga — and try to recreate that and keep the dynamic panels as interesting as possible. What manga’s strength is is that it can show huge panels and then have smaller panels on the next page. In animation you cant do that; it has to be in a certain frame. So then I tried to recreate, within the restrictions of an animation frame, how to make those distinct changes from panel to panel into an animation. But I also wanted to naturally connect the panels.”

The anime has subtle differences between aliens and ghosts, using cool colors for the former and warmer colors for the latter, as well as differences in the animation style to make the aliens feel more computer generated and unnatural compared to ghosts and yokai, who mostly used to be alive.

It takes this interpersonal clash between the beliefs of two characters and blends them in every aspect of the anime’s production, which I found to be incredibly impressive in episode 1. Music keeps the energy going and perfectly matches each scene, assisting the changes and tempo and rounding off a great mixture of components.

Overall Thoughts

This episode of Dan Da Dan did everything a premiere is supposed to and more. It exposed the premise of the series in an unadulterated way, threw down the gauntlet in terms of animation and art quality, and introduced the basic backstories of core characters. Not too much to be excessive, but just enough to make them compelling. Nearly every aspect of the first episode, adapting the first ~70 pages of the manga, was very clearly a careful and purposeful adaptation.

I predict this will be one of the most popular anime of Fall 2024. The theatrical run will showcase the first three episodes and, as someone who has seen further along in the story, I can tell you the quality keeps going. I would strongly recommend checking out Dan Da Dan as early as you’re able.

© Yukinobu Tatsu/SHUEISHA/DANDADAN Production Committee

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