A Few Thoughts on Shintaro Kago’s “Dementia 21”

I was picking up a book I had on hold at the library and a manga on display caught my eye. Dementia 21. What a strange name. The bright yellow letters really stood out. I decided to check it out and give it a shot.

Wow, am I glad I did. It’s the best comic I’ve read this year.

Dementia 21 is 17 chapters that are all standalone stories. There are two consistent things in each chapter: the main character, Yukie Sakai, and elderly people. Yukie is an elderly care giver, and all she wants is to get good reviews from her patients.

A page from the comic featuring an aged “Ultraman” of sorts

If that sounds a bit boring, you’re in for a huge surprise. It’s anything but. Each story goes to bizarre places in the best way possible, in ways that I would never expect.

Dementia 21 is wonderfully imaginative and at times horrifying. It’s rendered skillfully and shines a light on an age group often overlooked in comics — the elderly. I was in stitches reading almost every chapter. It explores the way society and family think about the older populate and always takes it to the extreme degree.

Let’s just say that the bullying by mothers-in-law is a common topic

I’m not overly familiar with Kago’s work, but it seems like Dementia 21 is fairly tame compared to his other works. It isn’t overly grotesque and the parts that are get used to wonderful effect.

The book is large-format with a nice cover. It’s a high-quality publication. There are also full-color art pieces and a brief interview in the back.

I’m pretty blown by away by Dementia 21. It came as an utter surprise. While it may not tell some overarching grand tale that changed my life, it’s truly funny. How can I not love a book with a chapter about an elderly Battle Royale for free top-tier senior care?

Author: Brett Chalupa

day: software developer, night: comic artist

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