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Dendera: A Tale of Old Ladies and a Bear
Written by author Yuya Sato, Dendera is the story of Kayu Saitoh as she undertakes her villages tradition of dying at the age of 70 atop a mountain, only to be whisked away by a number of old women intent on choosing life over death and taken to their settlement known as Dendera.
From the outset of the book, you could call it the beginning of the end, as Kayu Saitoh looks to accept her death with dignity, as she prepares to enter Paradise. The thought of an existence devoid of the typical hunger and ravages of old age sound appealing to anyone at the age of 70, surely. So, when Kayu Saitoh basically starts a fight with Makura Katsuragawa, enraged at being saved, it is a bit understandable. As the story progresses, Kayu Saitoh comes to meet many of the women in power and learns the structure of her new home.
Mei Mitsuya, leader and founder of Dendera and the Hawk faction, a group intent on attacking the village and sending the women to die.
Matsuri Shiina, leader of the Doves, a peaceful coalition in Dendera that want nothing more than to grow the village into a worthwhile place to stay.
These women, and many other, whom Kayu Saitoh either comes to know or remembers from the Village shape Kayu Saitoh’s emerging personality as she becomes accustomed to having to use her head more often now that her life is in her own hands now. This bodes well for her, as Dendera finds itself at the mercy of a powerful bear, known as Redback, who terrorizes the elderly women in the middle of Winter. Compounded by infighting, sickness, and dark secrets that threaten the very foundation of Dendera, it becomes ironic that Kayu–a woman that doesn’t see herself as part of, or even wants to be in Dendera, finds herself at the crossroads of the settlement’s future.
Yuya Sato does a tremendous job of making a number of characters stand out in a variety of ways, to trademarks in appearance to general action (or inaction,) of others, providing a cast of characters that stand out as more than just a bunch of old women. In particular, Kayu Saitoh’s development of a personality and her development–while mostly reluctant–made for prime character development in a somewhat short amount of time, considering the number of stories the author had developing at any one time.
Also of note, was the character, Redback. The large bear that terrorizes and rips through the community of Dendera like a force of nature stands out in Mr. Sato’s writing of the characters. While actually incapable of speaking, Mr. Sato does a tremendous job of making you view Redback as more than just a simple-minded creature, in part because she is portrayed very realistically and as somewhat a simple-minded creature. However, it’s that simple-mindedness that keeps her interesting as a character and adds to the mystery of what this monstrous creature will do next.
With that in mind, it should also be noted of Yuya Sato’s graphic description of the carnage throughout the story. Intestines unraveling as victims run, lives ended by sudden decapitation at the jaws of Redback, entire sections of people ripped and eaten, are just a bit of the imagery Mr. Sato describes in his work. The scenes of Redbear attacking, eating, and at times even playing with the women of Dendera are done extremely well in the somewhat odd way that Mr. Sato puts his words together, whether they be from the viewpoint of Kayu Saitoh or Redback herself. Whereas Kayu Saitoh sees the actions of Redback as gloriously gory, Redback at first, sees these more as simple games to test herself and the humans.
Over the course of Dendera, the reader is introduced to a lot of foreign ideas. The universal concept of finding something to fight for, though, makes itself abundantly clear throughout the story and can be seen as the one common thread even the most differing of characters note carry with them. Yuya Sato shows a great ability to weave together a compelling mystery around unlikely circumstances, and was shown quite well in wrapping up Dendera.
Final Verdict: Dendera offers a few differing viewpoints, and using Kayu Saitoh as a point of reference, made for an interesting look at the settlement. While I think it was necessary for later scenes, the cast at times, felt a bit large for Dendera and some were offered, it would seem, mostly as fodder. With that said, Dendera offered a satisfying amount of character development of the most intriguing kind, in turning the somewhat off-putting Kayu Saitoh into a character you could legitimately root for. If you’re a fan of something a little different than your typical Western novel or you’re looking for an alternative to the adventures of a young hero, Dendera could well be the perfect book for you.