The 2nd Dimension

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Reading Journal: Blame! (complete)

Manga Overview
Book Info

Overall= C
Story = C
Art = C

In the post-apocalyptic future, the complex networks of machines have created chaos and the human world was destroyed. The robots known as the "Constructer" continued to build a meaningless structure with no one to guide them. Soon these cities reach out to the outer planets and another breed of life form emerges. Follow the journey of a strange man, name Killy, in his search for the understanding of the chaotic world being run by Silicon lifeforms out to destroy him and every living thing in their path. (Source: ANN)

I did not particularly like this manga, but despite that I just could not stop reading. Much of that is due to the fact that it is so easy to read. I don't mean that the plot is easy to understand, because it isn't. The plot essentially involves a character named Killy going around an unimaginably massive structure shooting these huge semi-organic creatures called "Silicon Creatures" with his compact-but-insanely-powerful Graviton Beam Emitter while withstanding their onslaught with a superhuman healing capabilities all the while searching for something called "Net Terminal Genes" which will allow him to access the Megastructure's network dubbed the "Netsphere". That's about as much as I was able to comprehend across all ten volumes of this manga, partly because there is little to no dialogue to explain what is going on. And what little dialogue there is involves cryptic terminology that is never fully explained (at least as far as I could tell). Character and plot development take a back seat to the action. Characters show up, then leave or die, then come back in another form for reasons I could never understand, all the while Killy stoically goes about his business babbling about "Net Terminal Genes" and blowing stuff up.

And the artwork didn’t do much to clarify things. Well, actually the art is pretty cool taken by itself. The visuals are dark, and at times look more like a rough sketch than completed artwork, sometimes being extremely detailed and other times extremely minimalistic in order to emphasis the scale of the Megastructure. The dark artwork fits nicely with the dark, ominous setting without being too angst-ridden or moody.

But even though the art style is impressive, it makes it very difficult to follow the action. It's like there will be a bunch a panels, but I could not tell how they were all connected. You'll see Killy in one panel, and a Silicon Creature in another, and some kind of blur in another and then an explosion, but what any of that stuff has to do with each other is vague. It is especially difficult given that the plot and characters’ motivations are so obscure to begin with.

So if everything is so confusing then why the heck would I say that it is easy to read? Well, for one thing, since there is so little dialogue, it is easy to breeze through a volume in a few minutes, even if you might not understand what happened. And even though the action can be difficult to follow at times, it's still hard not to get caught up in all the unrestricted destructive fun of it. But the main thing that attracts me to this manga is its sheer scale of concept.

Killy goes throughout this metal dungeon and for a while it's hinted that at some point he will reach the surface. But the more I got into the story the more I realized that there actually is no surface; and though the total size of the structure is never definitely given, some online research revealed that it could be as large as the Jupiter's planetary orbit! That gargantuan scale gives artist/writer Tsutomu Nihei plenty to play with in terms of setting designs. In fact this is probably the first manga I've read almost purely due to the setting alone. In each volume, I couldn't wait to see what place Killy would wander into next because each "room" or "level" is so different from the one preceding it. The fact that Nihei is a former architect probably contributes to the boundless imagination of the setting. Plus, given that scale the idea that "constructors" are constantly adding onto the Megastructure, and the Netsphere and Authority somehow manages it all, fascinates the heck out of me.

So in summary, Blame! is purely cerebral storytelling with plenty of action with a larger-than-life scale. So while I was not particularly impressed by the lack of character development, the confusing plot, and hard-to-follow action scenes; I am still likely going to pick up the prequel and sequel volumes and maybe even the anime at some point (if they are ever released in the US) simply because I am fascinated by the world of the Megastructure itself.

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