D-Frag! Volume 17: Dumb Fun



Call me crazy for saying something like this, but very few series are able to successfully convert on their own brand of humor like D-Frag! can. We’re now 17 volumes and 16 years deep, and I honestly can say that through this incredible period of time, the series has not only retained its edge but honed it even further. It’s something that lays beyond belief in my mind, personally speaking. Most long running series, especially ones that are monthly, require so much more to them to be able to survive like D-Frag! has. Seriously, we only just enter the second trimester of school while following our characters. I mean, sixteen years and we’re not even through one calendar year of D-Frag!?

It puts an insane grin on my face. The pacing’s remained freakishly consistent, the development maintaining a steady pace interspersed with big jumps to keep things interesting, and Haruno’s writing borders on greatness with how ridiculously unique they’re able to make a high school story. Allow me to put it simply:

If I had to explain why D-Frag! is so good, I would first have to start with the creation of the universe.

The depth of Haruno’s borderline insane approach begins with the very conception of the series as a comedy. Full of meta and slapstick humor, it thrives not on subverting expectations, but by going so far in a singular direction that it wraps back around to form a perfect circle. It is the pinnacle of creating something so stupid, so ridiculous and humorous, that it has become something incredibly good and well regarded.

Let me provide an example. Kazama, D-Frag!‘s main character, is infamous for his ever important role as straight-man. He’s all the series has in the regard, really. A man left to fend for his own against the insurmountable task of creating rebuttals for the almost inhumanly unhinged cast of characters. His straightness (of humor) literally turned him into a feared gang leader. Yes, the Kazama Party did exist prior to his mythos as a straight-man, but that legend was simply appended to his story- and became it’s own sort of power system within the manga.

I’m sure that reading something like that without having read the series is enough to send people into a confusion-induced aneurysm, but that’s truly what D-Frag! does best. Though, it does everything else pretty damn great as well. So, let’s actually talk a bit about this volume.

So, are you a fan of horror? Do you like surprisingly disturbing and realistic horror-inducing moments in your excessive comedy series? If you do, D-Frag! volume 17 is for you! It’s a moment that absolutely caught me off-guard when reading, and I’m sure will stun plenty of other readers as well. Haruno loves taking advantage of how D-Frag! presents itself to sneak in moments and ideas like that. You might think you’re getting a king of comedy manga with this series, but beneath that facade is much more value and pay-off.

For example, did you know that as of this point in the manga, seven different girls have crushes on Kazama? Hilariously excessive and potentially even off-putting, I hear you say. And I get it, with how so many different series handle this sort of thing. Trust me when I say that there’s actually value in how this works though, and that’s put on full display with this volume of the story. Each character finds sincere roots in their romance with Kazama, and genuinely has valid reasons for having feelings for him as a person. Similarly, Kazama isn’t totally unaware of those feelings in others, nor does he come off as dumb as a brick either. It pains me to say that this sort of work appears as a very rare occurrence, but Haruno is able to make it work without a single issue.

Changing topics with a speed that may cause whiplash, let’s talk worldbuilding. Yes, a high-school aged comedy series has worldbuilding, and I’m almost certain anybody that knows of D-Frag!‘s existence is aware of that worldbuilding. First of all, there’s the elements that each of the girls from the Game Creation Club (temp) wields. In an insane twist, there does exist some credibility to the affinities that each girl has, which is just sort of mind blowing to consider. Similarly, the idea of extrasensory forces and abilities, as well as non-natural entities is exposed. That point’s been made with the last few volumes, but the fact that it’s been something to vaguely exist since the early days of D-Frag! remains nearly beyond belief. This is not a series that many would argue has a “strong” story or purpose, but every time I revisit this work, I’m left with the conclusion that its progression and development has been freakishly well-planned out.

And really, I could continue on and on with numerous aspects of this series, and how they all end up appearing in this latest volume. D-Frag! is, quite frankly, a vastly underestimated and underappreciated work in North America. It’s the pinnacle of manga’s specific style of humor, and Haruno pushes the limit of that container to its max to provide something that has withstood the test of time. I’d like nothing more than to excitedly chat about all the great things of this volume, but what I really wanted to do was provide a review that would encourage people to read the series (digitally, unfortunately, as many volumes are out of print) and appreciate the magic that Haruno has been working with it for so long. So, if you’ve read this and found anything the slightest bit confusing, interesting, or funny: read the series.

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