Manga Title: Blame!
Mangaka: Tsutomu Nihei
Genres: Cyberpunk, horror, action
The tale begins in the setting of ‘The City’; little is known about it at first except for that it is a vast construction with innumerable levels going upwards and downwards for thousands of floors. Our protagonist, going simply by ‘Killy’, travels through this massive place searching for Net Terminal Genes, which are not explained in this part of the manga except that they seem to be present in certain people and allow access to what Killy’s refers to as the ‘Net’.
His quest takes him deep into the twisted, nightmarish passages and caverns of The City, where he encounters its various denizens upon the way.
Of particular note is the weapon that Killy uses in his quest, a handgun which is called a ‘Gravitational Beam Emitter’. This handgun has incredible destructive power, being able to kill almost all the creatures Killy encounters while at the same time devastating buildings in its range of fire. How he came across the gun or its limitations aren’t revealed yet, but a quick glance at volume two showed me they would be in future.
The main character Killy is the only one to receive much attention, but information about him is scarce except for his purpose and the extraordinary weapon he has. His personality comes across as somewhat psychotic at times; in one part he deliberately incites the cyborgs he meets and acts with what appears to be a disregard for his own life.
He reacts amiably towards humans when he does encounter them, and even gets angered when he sees how some of the beings in The City are being mistreated.
Blame! is populated with potential side characters that do not come to the foreground in volume one. Killy seldom remains with characters long enough for any development to take place, though I’m sure that’ll change as the series continues. A character he meets in the second chapter, with only an upper torso for a body (the rest being cybernetic parts) and a pet dog, may have a recurring role.
In one scene Killy passes the dead body of a boy to this unknown character and she/he in turn passes on information to Killy about unknown life forms that have been detected thousands of floors above.
Blame! is definitely not intended to be read in the way one might be used to with manga. Reading it is a jarring, dizzy experience like an epileptic roller-coaster ride. The pictures tell the story, and the art is technological and gloomy – giving the impression of being after a catastrophic event. That being said, the art itself is something I am in awe of. The architecture of The City is immense in its scope, and drawn in detail by Nihei with wires, pipes, cables and organic life forms festering from the walls and stretching out into the distance above. It’s easy to see how much Nihei labored over his creation.
The action is nail-biting and graphic. Gory battles smear across the pages in between the mechanized, apocalyptic backgrounds. Human, half human and inhuman inhabitants of the city emerge from nooks and crannies, all making this a manga that’s not for the fainthearted. In all I was glued to the pages for the first volume; my eyes were burnt into the macabre scenery and I couldn’t help but follow Killy’s bloody path as he makes his way toward an almost impossible goal.
Blame is one of Nihei’s most popular works, especially in Germany where he’s said to have a large fanbase. I looked up this title due to my fascination with Sidonia no Kishi (Knights of Sidonia) – a currently airing adaption of Nihei’s manga – and am thoroughly enjoying adventuring into the roots of where this talented and unique artist came from.