Blank Slate Vol. #02 -

Manga Review

Mania Grade: C

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translation Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 and Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 8.99
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 978-1421519258
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Blank Slate

Blank Slate Vol. #02

Blank Slate Vol. #02 Manga Review

By Thomas Zoth     October 08, 2010
Release Date: December 02, 2008

Blank Slate Vol. #02
© Viz Media

Zen finds out the mystery of his past in what is surely a shock to him… but not so shocking to seasoned anime and manga fans.

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Aya Kanno
Translation: John Werry
Adaptation: Carla Sinclair

What They Say
What does it take to find your true inner self? Zen's memory has been wiped, and he can't remember if he's a killer or a hero. And a lot of people will do anything they can to keep it that way.

Answers: At an abandoned military base, Zen finally finds the truth about his identity. Now that he knows who he is, does that mean his destiny is written in stone? Conspiracies, espionage and attempted coups - that all tie into the conclusion of Aya Kanno's intense tale of lost identity.

The Review!

As this is the second part in a two part series, it's going to be impossible to avoid spoilers in the discussion of this volume. With that warning in place, we pick up with Zen as he's just decided to investigate his past. Due to his devil-may-care nature, he's never really cared until now, when an encounter with a government scientist has lead him to believe he's under the control of unknown parties. This doesn't sit well with the proud Zen, and he's decided to do some investigating, because when he goes on a nihilistic rampage, he wants to make sure it's him doing the rampaging, and not some mysterious puppet master.
He returns to an isolated cabin in the woods where he find his "Big Sis", a leader of a band of thieves known as the Zendo. They apparently found Zen lying abandoned and wounded on the ground, and decided to take him back to camp and nurse him back to health because he was simply too smokin' hot to let die. Some might find this plot point silly and contrived, but I found it hilarious. If you have to come up with some reason for your protagonist not to die against all common sense and logic, you might as well have fun with it. Big Sis takes Zen back to where he was found, and it begins stirring up some memories inside. Zen decides to return to the General's Summer House, where he met the General's young daughter in the first volume, to uncover more clues. Of course, this leads up to a big confrontation where Zen, the men chasing him, and the young innocent daughter come together face to face in a conclusion where all of the plot twists are shockingly revealed.
Except both twists are pretty standard. First, we learn that Zen is such a badass due to a government super solider creation program. So much science fiction mayhem is caused by these government super soldier programs! The reason these are so common in anime and manga must be because Japan doesn't have a huge military industrial complex, due to Article 9 of its constitution which prohibits the country from having an offensive military. To a country that doesn't fight offensive wars, conspiracies to produce invincible soldiers must seem like the most sinister thing of all. However, anyone who's really looked into corrupt defense contractors knows that a super soldier program wound end the gravy train: The real money's in bloated, marginally effective weapons systems that soon go obsolete, so the corporations can keep on sucking up taxpayer money with minimum returns. But bloated, marginally effective obsolete super soldier programs just don't have the same drama to them, do they?
The second plot twist is one of the worst kinds, where the twist effectively negates the entire point of the first three fourths of the narrative. So far, we've been following along with doctor Hakka, a conflicted man who doesn't know how immoral he's willing to become in order to fight for his idea of justice. Turns out that was just all for show, because he's the criminal mastermind behind it all and perhaps the most immoral one of all. Zen, after all, is just a victim of programming and thus has no evil intent. So while it comes as a big surprise, all of the character development and tension of Blank Slate is effectively thrown out of the window, essentially making a second or third read-through pointless.
In Conclusion:
Blank Slate ends with a big, shocking twist ending, leading me to wish that big shocking twist endings were officially banned for 20 years by the World Fiction Authority. Too often, the big twist ends up making the first half to three fourths of the story nonsensical, or it robs the narrative of any character development, because it turns out nobody is really who we think they are. This is sadly true for Blank Slate. Still, it's a stylish try at a well-worn genre by Kanno, so fans of the genre and mangaka can do worse by checking it out.


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