The Denizens of Dystopia – Blame!

blame!I’ve never seen a manga quite like Blame! I say ‘seen’ as very little dialogue appears in the first volume and the story is told by following the gritty, industrial-style artwork panel by panel.

Manga Title: Blame!
Tsutomu Nihei
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’.


The City

His quest takes him deep into the twisted, nightmarish passages and caverns of The City, where he encounters its various denizens upon the way.


Denizens of The City

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.


Shooting a cyborg

Pencil Sketch:
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.


Killy and mystery character

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.


Intense detail

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.


Demi-Human – Ajin

ajin cover (2)

Manga Title: Ajin
Author/ Artist:  Tsunina Miura/ Gamon Sakurai
Genres: Horror, supernatural, mystery, action
Demographic: Seinen
Rating: M (mature)

Ajin (demi-human) is a fitting name for this manga. A running theme in the story is human nature, and in the case of the characters that nature is often less than human. The manga follows Kei Nagai, a high school student who discovers one day after an accident that he is one of the feared ‘Ajin’ – a type of being that can’t die and regenerates wounds shortly after receiving them.

kei regenerate (2)

The dark nature of humanity soon shows itself to Kei as he is immediately hunted down for a large reward that has been placed on the head of any Ajin captured. Fortunately, he finds some compassion in his childhood friend Kai who immediately comes to his aid, and who doesn’t see him differently, despite his regenerative abilities.

kei and kai

Kai and Kei

Kei struggles to escape his would be captors, whilst coming to grips with his dilemma and figuring out what his new found powers are. He slowly begins to discover that Ajin aren’t only immortal, they also possess a unique vocal ability that paralyzes others, as well as a powerful kind of puppet called a ‘Black Ghost’ that they can manipulate mentally for attack and presumably other purposes (all that’s seen in volume one are its attack abilities though).

In volume 1 a few characters are introduced and it’s hard to distinguish between the good and bad guys. That’s to be expected though, the overall feel of the manga is pretty dark, and even Kei reveals some of his twisted intentions later on. Apart from having ordinary reward craving civilians on his tail, there’s the police and a mysterious duo from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (aka. Ajin hunters) who are also pursuing him.

Tosaki and Izumi

Tosaki and Izumi

They are Tozaki-san and Shimura Izumi. Tozaki is cold, methodical and has love for mints that he pushes on others. Izumi is his quiet sidekick who just screams that she’s holding a secret. They’re knowledgeable about the Ajin, especially their powers and weaknesses, the latter being very limited.

If things weren’t bad enough for Kei, another group is also searching for him – this time a group of fellow Ajin. Headed by a key figure among this secret sect, they seek to bring Kei to them for unknown purposes. Whatever it is though, their methods aren’t subtle.

Apart from the main plot involving Kei, there are flashbacks to another Ajin’s past – Tanaka – and his torture at the hands of his human detainers. In addition, later in the volume another female Ajin reveals herself in the most unexpected place.

boss and tanaka (2)

Tanaka in Captivity

The storytelling in Ajin is compelling to read; the time -skips that occur are well placed and give you enough tidbits of information to keep you hungry for more. This among other reasons made it a real page-turner for me.

Another enjoyable aspect is the overall brooding feel of the manga. This atmosphere grows with Kei’s gradual descent into accepting his predicament, physically and mentally. The dark past surrounding the Ajin is gradually revealed, including the persecutors who’ve tried to capture them and use them for experimentation and as weapons.

The art is fitting for the mood too, with dark and gory sketches and occasional escapes into wild abandonment by the artist.

abandonment (2)A particularly creepy feature in the artwork is the design of the Black Ghosts – ghoulish, mummy type creatures. They’re without a doubt the most sinister apparition I’ve seen appear in a manga recently.

Black Ghosts

Black Ghosts

Ajin is a title worth keeping an eye on (I’m thinking of anime adaptions in the near future) and is a tense, inwardly chafing journey into the realm of the demi-humans, and simultaneously into the dark recesses of the psyche.

What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?