Page 45 Review by Jonathan
Before the hyper-kinetic BIOMEGA and the supra-chlorophyllic space odyssey KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA there was BLAME! Actually, it's apparently pronounced Blam, as in gunfire, which has to make you wonder why they didn't just call it that. Plus surely it would have been a moderately onomatopoeic title, rather than a bizarrely irrelevant one? Though my phonetic pedantry might be slightly coloured by the fact I have spent many a moment recently explaining to a bemused 5 year old why the phonetic sounds she has been learning for all the alphabet don't actually translate perfectly to how words sound... But then Tsutomu Nihei's works don't tend to make complete sense either, he's more of an action man, whom I suspect might be prone to screaming "BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!" in the ear of his inking assistant whilst they're working on a particularly frenetic scene just to help them get into the mood...
Yes, as part of the current generation of denshoushas of Japanese cyber-punk manga, on a par with Hiroya GANTZ / INUYASHIKI Oku in my mind, following in the blazing trail left by Katsuhiro AKIRA / DOMU Otomo and Masamune Shirow, Tsutomu Nihei takes no prisoners whatsoever when it comes to helping his readers understand what the hell is going on in his works. I can't help but admire that almost autistic blinkered approach. You wouldn't want it all the time, but it's a refreshing change occasionally, particularly in the speculative fiction genre. He did do a similarly austere Wolverine mini-series for Marvel where Logan gets flung forward to 2038 a few years back (that's now long out of print) which Stan Lee was probably twitching uncontrollably to add some dialogue to.
Nihei just loves hi-tech weaponry, especially big guns, has a definite penchant for villains that have been infected by weird mutating techno-organic viruses, and utilises vast chaotic super-structures for his story settings. As a student of architecture, he clearly likes to make good use of what precise draughtsmanship he's learnt in that respect for his backgrounds, which are always in complete juxtaposition to the utterly chaotic full-on mayhem going on in the foreground.
Fans of Nihei will clearly see the huge influence this series has on BIOMEGA and KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA. The foreground art isn't quite as polished at this point in his career, but it's still extremely impressive. It has as barebones a plot and dialogue as BIOMEGA, but again, that's not really why people buy his stuff. Personally, I prefer KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA as it is a more sophisticated story, but this is absolutely cyber-punk manga at its most direct and forceful.
I suppose I should give you a little plot summary to finish as BLAME! is most definitely a great manga in its own right, where lone wolf Killy wanders "The City", a huge, randomly expanding super-structure that began on Earth and may well now be bigger than the size of a Dyson Sphere, but certainly extending past Jupiter. Armed with his trusty Gravitational Beam Emitter (a VERY big gun basically), he's looking for any surviving humans with a particular genetic marker that will allow them to access the "Netsphere", to take back control of the computer network of The City. Along the way he'll repeatedly encounter the techno-organic mutated Safeguard, who view any humans without the Net Terminal Gene - which is most of them - as a threat to be extinguished on sight. With that now said, it's time to lock and load and away we go!