Karasuma Wataru‘s Deus x Machina chapter one gets little done in terms of plot, and is curiously short for a debut chapter. However, the amount that it does to create the presence of it’s lead character, Machina, is astounding. Nearly every panel in the chapter was designed to showcase how she’s perceived by those around her. For my first Manga Pages column, I’ll be tackling the imagery of this chapter.
The first panel featuring Machina has her looking down on someone with her boot on his head. This sets the tone for how Machina will be portrayed throughout the chapter.
The next page solidifies her presence by portraying it in every panel. The old man being questioned by Deus x Machina is looking up at them in panel 2, and the next one shows the duo looking down imposingly from way over the horizon line. In this chapter, there’s almost not a single panel wherein another person’s head is above Machina’s or portrayed as superior to her presence.
Being placed in higher standing isn’t the only thing that makes Machina feel in control of every situation – she’s also more than a little sadistic and crazy, with excellently chilling facial expressions such as the one above.
The crowning moment of superiority is when a tavern owner tries to apologize for his son thieving Machina’s gun by cooking her a meal (“the town’s best”). In a tavern full of people and in front of the boss, she flips the table over, goes all Gordon Ramsay on their cooking, and then demands a better apology. (She doesn’t actually care about the apology, she just wants to fuck with their heads.)
There’s only one moment in the chapter where someone dares put their face above Machina’s and tell her to fix her attitude. Machina responds thusly:
That’s the “don’t you look at me like that, bitch!” face.
In anime and manga, a clenched fist is a clear sign of uselessness. It’s the symbol of a defeatist mentality where the character wants to fight but doesn’t believe they can. Machina is clearly looking down on the kid’s useless rage.
That idea is solidified when she calls him a pussy for sitting around crying. This is coming from a naked girl who’s probably less than five feet tall, but has utterly dominated the kid with her presence.
Machina’s way of doing things is cruel, no doubt – she drops the kid to the floor, stomps on his head, and then shoots the picture of his dead parents while telling him to get over it and fight like he’s got a pair. On the one hand, Machina is clearly trying to help the boy, but on the other hand, it’s not a compassionate assistance.
The look on her face says that she’s clearly enjoying this kid’s pain as she shatters his world. She probably doesn’t care about building the kid’s character as much as she enjoys watching him squirm.
She goes so far as to threaten the kid with a gun, telling him that if he doesn’t fight then it’s “[his] turn to die.” I wonder if this scene was inspired by the convenient store worker scene from Fight Club…
Deus x Machina are so terrifying at this moment that human facial expressions can’t even describe what the kid sees. He’s looking at monsters – some dark figures that could strike him dead. Chilling!
That’s today’s Manga Pages. I’ve only just started Deus x Machina, so there may be more posts on it if the other chapters have such consistent imagery (though if it’s the same kind as this chapter, then I’ll leave it be.) Look forward to whatever comes out next time!
(Images taken from Horobi no Michi‘s scanslation)