I haven't delved much into my own nostlagia over sub-par 80s and 90s media. One of my all time favorite movies as a kid was the made for TV movie Escape to Witch Mountain
, a 90s redo of the old 70s film based on the book about twin aliens who need to return home. The 90s version isn't particularly faithful to the original, choosing to do its own thing and TBH, I much prefer it over the original and the later redo did. This film is pretty hard to come by, both from being made for TV and not exactly the most popular of 90s Disney TV movies either. The 90s version gives us hammy acting that I still quote to this day, so many goofy characters, a ridiculous plea for ancient alien theories to be taken seriously, A PURPLE MAN IN HIS PURPLE STORE, and weird twin shenanigans. And Xander, can't forget him. *duck calls into the void*
It's a weird movie, but I love it. If you like made for TV movies or better produced B-movies, try finding this one and give it a watch.
Why did I just bring you on that long tangent about some 90s kids movie with twin aliens? Because you know what? If you DO like that movie, you'll probably love this too. Actually, if you were born in the late 80s/early 90s at all and liked a lot of the more "lower budget" media from that time period, there's a good chance you'll like this manga. This is the first time I've ever read a work made well after the 90s that actually feels
like the early 90s, the unglamourized reality of it. There's the still lingering 70s and 80s influences that remained in every 90s kids brain from older siblings and parents. I hate how modern stuff really pretends all the decades were complete cutoffs from each other in terms of influence. You absolutely saw lingering 80s fashion and "retro" 70s fashion throughout the 90s, and of course "old tech" which for most people who weren't rich AF was just finally becoming affordable. Take any list of "cool" tech gadgets "everyone" had in any decade and slap those gadgets on the following decade to get actual accuracy. Only well off people had most of those things when they came out unless that happened to be someone's really niche main hobby. It's nice to not see the stupid trope of everyone having a camcorder or a computer, because that never was really a thing in the early 90s for most people. Most people had to wait for that, and whatever was popular from the 70s, 80s, and honestly even back to the 50s might still have some major cultural power to it. I suppose some of this is also things just don't have staying power these days. When Jurassic Park
came out, it had lasting impact for the entire duration of the 90s. Most movies these days can't pull that off, because they're made to be quickly produced, overhyped, hit base level emotional highs, and then on to the next high. Things were slower back then and when something big
came out, it would have a huge following for a long time.
Kids were outside more back then. I was surprised and amused to see the Boy Scouts in here. Scouts were big back then. I wasn't in it, but I knew kids who were in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. When I was a kid, that didn't interest me but I did think all their badges were cool. TV shows would often feature Scouts in them, and general outdoors activities. Riding bikes, playing sports and other games, exploring places you shouldn't without any adults around, etc. As a kid, I had a computer earlier than most and video games, but I spent little time on them. Most days, I played games with our basketball goal, jumped on our trampoline, road around on my scooter (by the 2000s), found games like kickball and baseball people were organizing right in the streets like its damn Hey Arnold
, general pretend playing, making bows and arrows, "sword fighting" with sticks, four/two square, chalk art, street fighting for fun, and when light up shoes were in, playing tag or hide and go seek in the dark. Computer time and video games were mostly for when the sun went down and were more of a winter hobby. The time spent online shifted more as the 2000s came around, but for the 90s? All outdoors. Indoors with friends over meant board games and maybe video games. Kids didn't carry around music much. Older teens might, but not really young teens and kids. And you were pretty expected to socialize with your entire neighborhood and the ones close by. These kids were not your friends, but you played together anyways because Johnny has a trampoline, Susie has a pool, Tim had a basketball goal, Josie has a tree house, Jeff had a Sega, and Lisa had a Nintendo system and your mom needed to go somewhere that day so you were going to someone else's house that day whether you liked it or not. If video games were played, we carted those consoles down the street like fucking morons. Adults didn't pay that much attention to what we did. We were expected to be out of the house most of the time and mostly kept to ourselves inside. I'm not saying that was good or bad, just that that's how it was. Being left to our own devices so much, 80s and 90s kids could be pretty weird. After all, who was going to stop us? No one was watching us.
I know no one around back then needed that trip, but this was for establishing to the youngsters that most media dedicated to selling you what the 90s looked like is absolutely full of bullshit and marketed towards people who were not even born yet
as a pseudo-nostalgia. In the 90s, we were already seeing this with "retro" 70s stuff (that was called the wrong names and done incorrectly compared to its original era) and 80s stuff with kids proudly proclaiming about how they were born in the 80s (December 1989, of course). Right now, "90s" stuff is retro but entirely wrong. Why the fuck are you kids wearing fanny packs on your chest? Are you okay?! Anyway...my point is, this manga is not that. This manga depicts actual
early 90s. It's recognizeable from the way the kids behave, how the parents act, and what is and is not present.
What makes Migi & Dali also interesting is that it's mostly American
90s nonsense. There are parts where we're clearly dealing with very obvious Japanese culture. Even our setting tells us that's what we're getting. We're in a town called Oregon in the middle of Kobe. This is some Mother nonsense. It's weirdly accurate for the parts that are uspposed to be American that you can tell someone did a lot of research, but it's not truly American due to the random very uniquely Japanese things here and there. The school system in the manga is obviously entirely Japanese in structure, but then so much of the main kid and town interactions are culturally very American. I suspect the mangaka must've watched a lot of 90s import media or something. It's a weird mix, but if you like that sort of thing, things like the Mother series/Earthbound, you may like this.
Our plot is pretty ridiculous right from the start. Two twins whose mother was murdered pretend to be one child to get adopted and investigate the townspeople in the place she was murdered at and find her killer to get revenge. Immediately, we learn the twins are very much not properly socialized. They're borderline feral. The boys are both very intelligent in some ways and completely ignorant of all social logic in others. The twin shenanigans are a big part of the humor in the series. It's so silly it reminds me of old cartoons that would've still been airing in that time period but from previous decades. Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera silliness. Sometimes, it felt like I was reading Charlie Brown
or watching early Doug
, but in a fucked up way. Creepier moments had the mood of an Are you Afraid of the Dark?
episode, especially the more black comedy type episodes.
As the manga goes on and the boys learn more about their mother's death and the world itself, the manga gets darker and also shifts more to a coming of age story. The boys personalities get more distinct from each other over time, which causes fights initially. Our boys learn to grow up properly as two separate people. Overall, I was pretty happy with how the manga ended.
As a side note, the psychology featured in this is long regarded as pseudoscience. It's certainly accurate for the time period. Memory regression was the go to bullshit of the day thanks to the doctors who orchestrated the Satanic Panic (many of them are still practicing btw and faced no legal reprecussions for sending tons of innnocent people to jail and medically abusing patients), but it is definitely bullshit. Theories of PTSD as a "memory repressing" disorder have been debunked now for at least three decades, with it being known now PTSD actually causes people to over-remember
trauma not magically forget it until it randomly "resurfaces" or is "pulled out" by hyponosis. If your doc ever recommends you do hypnosis in a therapy session, you have a Satanic Panic "conspiracy" therapist and you need to get the fuck away from them. They've induced such paranoia in some of their patients to make them murder their own children. Some have held patients at gun point. Others have used psych drugs for waaaaay off-label shit to put patients in states to manipulate them. And that's not getting into the rampant sexual assault they've caused while implanting fake memories about sexual assault from caregivers into patients' brains. If you're ever interested in reading up on that, I suggest going through all the pages at Grey Faction
(I'd start with their timeline
) or by reading the book Sybil Exposed
that details the very earliest point of the Satanic Panic with the blatant fraud cause of "Sybil", who never had DID (then MPD) and was being offered high dosages of drugs her doctor got her addicted to in exchange for continuing to fake her illness, was completely financially dependent on her psychiatrist and literally lived with her for decades, and was having a sexual relationship with eventually all while Sybil's real, completely innocent mother who was easily identifiable was getting to be labeled by people at large as a child abuser and a devil worshipping "witch". Fucked up stuff. Her doc's only other main claim to fame was claiming she could cure homosexuals (quite ironic since she was banging "Sybil", guess she couldn't cure herself). I only bring this up because the same organization that caused this is currently trying to rebrand and push this shit out as "normal" psychology again. Some other red flags to look for: "RA" abuse, "ritual abuse", "religious abuse" all are used as new phrases for "satanic abuse", though the last one may not necessarily be that in all cases. That one depends on context, but if someone is usuing "religious abuse" and "RA" interchangeably, that's definitely a red flag. Some of these doctors have already aligned themselves with QAnon as well and anti-LGBT groups (the Satanic Panic after all was just based on the old, anti-semetic blood libel+anti-queer/gender non-confirming stuff thrown in boosted by the AIDS epidemic Reagan intentionally allowed to run rampant), but being related to the field of mental health, they've been welcomes by many leftists with open arms without a second thought. If someone brings up "the body remembering what the mind forgets" or anything along those lines, RUN THE FUCK AWAY. Trauma memories do NOT work that way. (And if you wanna argue about that, hit me up by email. May take me a bit because I work long hours, but I will
get you loads of modern, medical reasearch on that no problem.) In fiction, this stuff doesn't bother me much. Specialized academic topics are rarely accurate in media, and one shouldn't really be surprised when they're not. For me, this doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the work. I'm just putting this information out there because we're currently in the midst of Satanic Panic 2.0, and it has much of the same types of targets and same types of bullshit psychology and psychiatry being pushed around. But for the 90s, this being popular is pretty accurate, unfortunately. What's depicted in the manga, though, is not physically possible, of course, despite what the ISSTD claims. So, take the psychology and psychiatry featured in this manga as nothing more than dramatic fantasy nonsense.
Getting back to the manga, I ended up loving most characters. I love the old couple. I love the twins. I love the weird friends. That was another element that really rang true to me. I know people will highlight how weird kids can be online these days, but kids were in some ways weirder
back then and no one was filming it or recording it. You could go through your childhood being a complete fucking weirdo without it coming back to haunt you later. A lot of weird stuff may only ever be seen by a few friends in private or at a "secret hideout" or something. Your secret was mostly safe. It didn't usually follow you into adulthood, no matter how bizarre it was. A lot of that weirdness never fully went away, but we learned ways to keep it secret but still talk with the "right" people about it when we could. Now it's like every random thing about someone is always on full display with real names attached. Personally, I find that much weirder. The intimacy is lost, as is any boundaries. The twins themselves are weird and feral, due to their early life, but the boys they befriend feel just as weird. Together, they make their own little group of weirdos, the "Be Birds". Beaver eventually became my favorite of the group.
And speaking of weird into adulthood, this is what I'm talking about:
This dude was still unhealthily obsessed with birds after all those years. LMAO. Love it. You know damn well he definitely sent one of those birds. Early pigeon man in the making here, LOL.
This moment also just feels like it should be a meme:
I really miss these weird kid friend groups. They used to be everywhere in media. These days, so much media is about the "most powerful", "coolest", etc, it's boring. Where are the normal people at? Where are the kids groups? The whole neighborhood groups with their own dynamics like in Ed, Edd n Eddy
and Hey Arnold
? Even when shows and movies aren't about super heroes, they still feel like they might as well be. I'd much prefer something more like Clerks
. The twins here are "exceptional" in the things they can pull off, but there's no coolness to it. It either comes off as creepy or weird every time. There's no power fantasy in this.
I love how many normal looking people are in this. Both because it's not as common to see normal looking people in media anymore, but also, it actually does make the boys stand out as "pretty boys" who use their innocent, pretty faces to manipulate people. Pretty hard to show that in other works when everyone
is pretty. It actually stands out here. All the characters are easily identifiable. I hate when I read a manga and there's so much lazy designing and same face going on I struggle to even tell who the fuck anyone even is.
The boys also feel like thirteen year old boys. They have some pretty strong planning ability like an adult, but their logic around everything is deeply immature. One of the boys is already very hormonal and interested in dating, the other has no interest at all. Many of the boys' interests are still quite childish. Their bodies are long and slender, not quite adult-like and not quite child-like either. Everyone, the boys friends and themselves, feels like proper teenagers, not adults who happens to be in school as is common in both Western media and anime. This makes the boys all quite awkward, but that's the reality of what it means to be a teenager. Awkward and cringey, child-like but not quite a child and adult-like but not quite an adult. A messy in-between of intense emotions and strangeness. The strangeness of puberty in a way adds to the psychological horror elements. Many of the things the boys think are potentially scary that the manga fully plays through as if it will be often turn out to simply be completely ordinary things the boys are ignorant about. These reveals highlight how innocent the boys really are, despite their constant scheming. They are, after all, only thirteen.
There are points for me as an American that feel weird with the rest of the American culture due to differences between Japanese and American culture. The father wanted to bath with his already teenaged child comes off as a little odd for me, but I know the culture around bathing is very different over there. I found in the posts where it was very "off" to me, it was usually the mangaka pulling from Japanese culture instead at that part.
As for the mystery and horror elements, it's decent enough. You can sort out what really happened pretty early on, though there is one big, major twist near the end of the series that I didn't expect.
I like that the twins ended up with very different interests, and the artsy twin wasn't into "realistic" art either. It gets tiresome seeing the entire field of art reduced to just realistic art, "theater kids" (who were almost always part of the kids at school who were really well off, struggling artist my ass), and safe bland writers. It's nice to see a proper weird art kid who's really messy. A little more Mirrormask
than the usual Hollywood, but messier.
This manga is not for most people. It may feel very nostalgic for a certain kind of person though. For all those weirder kids with weird friends, who loved unusual things too much, who felt too much all the time that lasted for like an hour before the next whatever, who may have failed miserably at socializing with normal people, this one's for you. If you love slapstick and weird comedy and the 90s, this might also be for you. If you like horror happening in a small town, this might be for you. I feel like this manga would hit with a lot of very specific, largely unrelated groups but not with the average, mainstream modern audience. This is really, really for someone
, but not for the majority of everyone
. And to me, I like when a story goes that way. If something can please everyone, it's never going beyond that surface level. If there's no risk involved, you never get a big payoff. This was exactly my kind of thing, in a strange, weird, specific way. I can't say if you'll love it, but it's definitely worth at least checking it out.
Currently, the anime adaption has started airing. I may update this page with my thoughts on that or give it a separate review. So far, it's been matching the tone of the anime.
4/5 Very nice art, the art adds to the mood of the story
4/5 Great character development, but the mystery could be better
3/5 Average, never really gets creepy
5/5 This shit cracks me the fuck up, I'm sorry