Me Gumi No Daigo

Soda Masahito's Firefighting Manga

Ended 1999 in Shonen Sunday

Me Gumi No Daigo ("Daigo of Company `Me'") is one of those not-so-rare manga that has: no sex, no battle mechs, no blazing swords, no really big hair, no space ships, no nudity. So what does it have instead? Great suspense, action, plot, art, and some of the best in-depth, interesting characters anywhere. For character exploration, I have found no manga more extraordinary (though many have matched or come close, in their own ways). Not to say it's stuffy --- it has a good sense of humor, pacing, and action.

Our hero is Asahina Daigo, a young man fresh out of school and inaugurated into Company "Me," a firefighting unit in an area known for its lack of fires (which gives Company "Me" a slacker image). Daigo is not particularly heroic; he's overly competitive against his rivals, naive, myopic, inexperienced, short-tempered, and is often off in la-la land with a spaced-out expression on his face.

But something happens to Daigo when he's in a real emergency. His eyes become bright and sharp and intense; he does and says things he hardly recognizes later; he does crazy things that no one, including himself, would expect. And as a result, he saves lives: families', children's, fellow firefighters', animals' --- in raging fires, in flooded waters, and all sorts of precarious situations. He is almost possessed by a spirit that somehow knows of lives in danger, and which somehow manages to always save them.

Through the developing story, the reader has watched as Daigo at first retreats in fear from his actions. His crazy actions unnerve not only his colleagues (which is not good in Japanese society), but also himself. Gradually, though, he has come to realize that he loves the action; risking his own life is when he feels truly alive. But, just recently (late 1997), Daigo has suddenly realized that it's as if some part of his "soul" is missing: all his almost suicidal actions, his daring plans and dangerous rescues, have been done without the motive of helping others. He does rescue for the thrill of that brief shining moment where life and death are balanced --- but not for the sake of saving others. He doesn't even feel happy when he has saved the lives of people or animals; only now does he realize that this is a distinct lack of something.

How to resolve this strange realization? Daigo, a careless, brooding young man, recently reconciled to his job, but now increasingly aware of something missing in himself.... Eventually he gains a much deeper insight into himself, and he comes to accept himself as he is; but the development of his character is the real entertainment of this series.

But it is not just Daigo whose character we see in newer and increasingly more interesting light. One by one, we receive insights into the people around Daigo, and what we see is not what we (or at least Daigo) expect.

There are many more glimpses into the characters, these and others, that show the depth at which the author has envisioned and understood them. These insights are what truly form the backbone of this manga.

Of course, there is plenty of action, too. As noted above, it's not battle violence, but the thrill of the battle against fire, against impending disaster --- yet even more than that, it's the thrill of wondering what new and strange action Daigo will perform next.

If there is one irritating thing about the manga, however, it's witnessing the awe and confusion that others feel when they watch Daigo in action --- over and over again. It's the usual shonen/boys' manga problem that the hero must always be (at some point) admired and respected in some way by other characters. But the psychological complexity and intrigue more than make up for this minor irritation.

What helps make this manga so refreshing is that it doesn't go into the weird stuff; it instead just shows how people deal with it in their daily lives. While the manga has ended (on a note that I wasn't very fond of, but oh well), it still stands out as one of the most psychologically interesting manga to have run in Shonen Sunday in recent memory.

Back to the manga listing.

Rei's Anime and Manga Page.

Back to my homepage.