BLAME! Volume 1
by Tsutomu Nihei
Edited by Luis Reyes
Review by Andrea Johnson
TokyoPop Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1595328343
Date: 09 August 2005 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In a dark, never-ending underground labyrinth, Killy is always climbing up. He must go up, he must find if there are more survivors, more like him. He needs to know how far the mutations have spread, and if there is any hope for mankind.
Blame! is a surreal cyberpunk thriller filled with big guns, cyborgs, and gigantic concrete and steel constructs far beyond the human scale. Taking place in a future where humans suffer horrific mutations and are hunted by cyborgs, life offers very few options: fight and run, or die. Unlike characters in many mangas, Killy is a true lone wolf: he has no side kicks, no helpers (who last more than a few pages), and he doesn't talk much. This architecturally artistic yet quiet style of manga takes a bit of getting used to if you're more familiar with the chattier, ensemble-cast stories.
When we first meet Killy, he is traveling with a young boy, one of the few humans left with "pre-mutation" genes. The child is quickly abducted by cyborgs, who are secretly on the hunt for his genetic code. In the consequent chase, where Killy hunts down the cyborgs who have taken the boy, we get some stunning views of this H.R. Giger-esque world. After recovering the child's corpse, Killy is approached by a unnamed scientist, who we believe will take the body to a safe location. The scientist doesn't offer any long-term help to Killy, so we don't know if they are friends. I don't even know if the scientist is human or not.
A number of levels up, Killy comes across a gang of teenagers. They might be human, they might not. They tell him he can go anywhere in their turf but up. Post firefight, he resumes his climb. Through the flashback of a dying scientist, we learn of genetic researches the humans were doing, the invasion of the cyborgs, and their slaughter of as many humans as possible. All the dying scientist will tell Killy is that "The Authority" is behind all of this.
This first volume gives the reader only a cursory look at the world of Blame!. We know something went horribly, viciously wrong at least one generation in the past, and that mass killings of humans are still occurring. We know human tribes and families are separated by vast distances in this steel prison which is devoid of all humanity. Something called The Net Terminal Genes is mentioned, but no details are given. Blame! is a beautifully, if violently drawn manga. With so little dialog, we rely on Nihei's talent at showing emotion through facial expression and body language, an art at which you will quickly see he excels. Blame! requires the reader to fill in the details and trust that answers will be given later. Like many long-running manga, this is a plotline with plans within plans. You'll get the answers when the characters are good and ready to give them to you, and no sooner.
I recommend Blame! to manga fans who enjoy the darker, post-apocalyptic story lines, who don't mind few characters and no additional narration by the author. There is no humor here, and little hope for a happy ending. Nihei is putting Blame! on the table for us to take it or leave it.