Blame! Vol. #02 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN: 1-59532-835-1
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Blame! Vol. #02

By Jarred Pine     November 14, 2005
Release Date: November 08, 2005

Blame! Vol.#02

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Tsutomu Nihei
Translated by:Stephen Paul
Adapted by:

What They Say
On his quest to find the humans possessing Net Terminal Genes, Killy enters Cluster Town, where he comes across a woman who offers help. Her vast knowledge of the power behind this city may prove to be an asset to Killy, as long as he can give her what she needs. But the two will have to work fast, as they attempt to break through to the next sector of the Authority--the massive network that makes up the brain of the city.

The Review
You will probably never confuse or compare Blame! to any other English translated manga on the market, which for me makes this title a must read for all cyberpunk fans.

TOKYOPOP continues to use the cover art from the original tankoubon, moving the logo and volume number around a bit which creates a much cleaner cover. The colors look great on the matte finish, as well as the small illustration on the back cover. TOKYOPOP also breaks out the color plates and gives us 4 color pages that look fantastic. I hope to see more of these in the future if available. There are no chapter headers, as each chapter just continues into the next, and no extras are in this volume as well.

The print reproduction is decent, although I was hoping that it would have been more crisp considering the source artwork. The gray gradient tones are not very smooth and at times I thought pages were a little too dark. With all the massive amount of tone work, I imagine this title is a pain to print; so with that considering it feels like a decent job.

Tsutomu Nihei’s artwork is about as completely opposite of the majority of English translated manga on the market as it can get. There no cute, doe-eyed characters with pointy hair or revealing clothing. No bishounen or lusty ladies or samurai inspired designs. The character designs of Blame! are the melding of flesh and metal, to the point where neither is distinguishable from the other. There is not a lot of facial expression work, but in a way the pale, lucid faces seem to fit in with this world where there appears to be no sun (and most everyone is no longer human).

The backgrounds are absolutely stunning. Nihei-sensei was schooled in architecture, and his sense of perspective and building construction are really highlighted by his skill. He also creates wonderfully directed action sequences that explode off the page, sometimes in a great full-page panel. Overall, the artwork fits the story perfectly; it gets extra props for being an unconventional style that makes a lasting impression.

The SFX are translated and subbed both in the margins and in the panels themselves. Now with a manga where the selling point is the artwork, subbing SFX in the panels would normally be a no-no. However, TOKYOPOP has done a wonderful job with keeping them extremely small and unobtrusive, fitting right in with the original SFX. The subbing in the margins are also done with small text, keeping the pages from becoming cluttered. Great work.

The translation continues to read very clearly and keeps that terse mood between characters and their world. There are a few cyberpunk influenced terms entering this volume, all of it flowing nicely. I am not familiar with the original text, but everything seems to read quite well from my experience.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
In a market where it slowly becomes hard to tell the difference between one title and the next, Blame! is a raw and gritty cyberpunk tale that will not fail at making a lasting impression. Whether that impression is good or bad definitely relies on the reader’s ability to stomach a bleak world filled with despair and grotesque species born from the union between man and machine; where not many characters are very likeable but their thirst for survival cannot be questioned.

After crossing the bridge, Killy hops a cargo transport ship that is headed towards a place called Cluster Town where he is following a lead about possible humans who posses Net Terminal Genes, a technology that was possibly used to communicate with The Authority. The ship is making a delivery to the Bio-Electric Corporation (B.E.C), dodging the attacks of a pale-faced race called Dry Men, and the cargo ends up being quite a shock once it is revealed and helps illustrate the type of oppression going on in this world. For a small instant, Killy actually has a hint of humanity in him as he turns against the cargo navigator (who is nothing but a head on top of some tubes and other strange cybernetic devices) and begins destroying the cargo dock at the B.E.C with his Graviton Beam Emitter.

On the run in Cluster Town--a rundown, futuristic city reminiscent of Blade Runner where the citizens are enslaved by the B.E.C--Killy finds himself having to fend off laborer gangs, security drones, and a killer B.E.C. enforcer who throws a giant metal boomerang through any material. Killy’s main goal lies within B.E.C, where by happenstance he comes across a former head scientist named Cibo--who is now a rotting corpse hooked up to a power supply and a couple network cables while serving time as punishment in the bowels of the building. Together, after Cibo “finds” a new body, the two will bring down the B.E.C as well as attempt to break through the Mega-Structure, the giant metal plate that separates their level from the one above. A previous attempted almost resulted in the entire destruction of Cluster Town. As Killy and Cibo make their way up the spiraling towers to the border, they will come across nasty firewall programs that were designed to keep intruders out. However, a surprise showing by The Authority provides some help as well as reveal the true purpose behind the net sphere and their shared need to find humans with Net Terminal Genes.

For those who were left frustrated with the fragmented and disjointed storytelling of the debut volume, the pace here is much more linear with a nice flowing story building throughout the entire volume. During the first half of the book, much more is learned about this dystopian world that Killy traverses. There is some obvious signs of oppression and survival of the fittest going on, but society as a whole seems to almost be in a state of anarchy. There is a melding of human and machine, creating a seemingly infinite race of new species that were born of this marriage between flesh and metal. It’s completely grotesque and gritty, which is absolutely fitting for this story.

While there are flashes of something alive inside of Killy, other than the smiles he gets from destroying everything with his beam gun, most of the character development in this volume comes from Cibo, the banished scientist who gets her revenge and continues her life’s work of breaking through the Mega-Structure with Killy. After the two meet up, there is a flashback chapter where we learn about her experiments with synthetic genes in order to break through into the Net Sphere (the next level). It’s unsure whether it is coincidence or design, but her previous body looks like a twin of Killy. Speaking of bodies, there is also a nice little twist during their attack on the B.E.C. where we learn a bit more about Killy. It is another wonderfully directed action sequence that made my jaw drop, although the signs were obvious after reading the previous pages a second time. There are quite a few twists and turns in this story along with the bounty of revelations that really make this volume a bit more palatable for those who were put off before. However, for fans of bleak cyberpunk tales like myself, this is just gravy on top of a wonderfully created and most interesting world.

Settling down a bit from the disjointed introductory volume, Tsutomu Nihei begins to web his bleak cyberpunk story with this sophomore effort that fans of the genre should eat up by the spoonful. The raw and gritty settings with grotesque characters will probably keep this title from achieving mass appeal, but this is a title that many should be excited for. Nihei-sensei’s story and artwork breaks the status-quo, creating a unique experience that is not repeated in the English translated manga market and spins a fresh take on the burned out cyberpunk genre. This title sits right in my wheelhouse, and I’m loving every page of it.


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