The English title Blame! is a heinous and unabashed mistranslation of the proper title Blam! (the sound of a gun firing and a gun being the most talkative amongst all the books characters.) Why they thought that Blame! made any sense as a title when that’s not the way it’s pronounced in Japanese is completely and utterly beyond me. I suppose when so much of your work day is spent translating works with titles like Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, the world loses a certain sense of coherency after a while.
That small diatribe out of the way I should probably start talking about the manga itself. It starts here: this is very clearly a first work. When a book is largely nonverbal the effective use of showing through panels is essential and there are a lot of moments where one is lost amongst action. Like going to a rave and having the strobe lights flashing just in time to see the awkward in between moments of every action. I had to reread the first chapter three times just to try and piece together what in the otherworldly hell had happened. Part of this was the panels failures in perspective, another was again that assumed motion in-between panels. It just didn’t work in the beginning. Fortunately, it slowly got better.
The art often varies in that not even remotely subtle way of an artist with either a deadline or an impatience to finish his story, which as a man whose first (and often only) drafts include whole sentences cut off half way through because ‘Yay! This next thing is going to be so cool!’ I more than understand, but then there is likely a reason my work is collected here and not in glorious leatherbound tomes.
First comics, like first novels, are tricky and just as easy to tear apart. One is forced to look through the iffy/rushed art of the first pages and just let the book fall into its niche.
And what a violent, bloody niche. Its main character exists solely to drive you from one worldbuilding moment to the next. A largely episodic travel log through the towering monoliths of a tech-gothic nightmare or wet dream depending on your preferences. It is as strange as it is lonely (and it is very very strange) and the lack of dialogue hammers this to a scalpel’s edge.
I had always meant to pick this up when Tokyopop existed back in my teens. It looked cool, violent, and darker than the coffee I pretended to drink in debate class. I am glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t have appreciated it in the same way. It would have just been a ten minute read as I nodded in whatever ordinary joy I got from reading manga. This book is bigger, thicker, demanding you take it all in, perfect and imperfect alike.
I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing the rest of these as the come out. It depends solely on whether an overarching plot surfaces. I may, I mean I’m going to read them, and writing about books is one of the few things I can still do with any sort of ease. We shall see.
The new animated film will be released on Netflix on May 20. I’m looking forward to seeing how color changes the endless melancholy of the world, and I’m sure the limited run time will remove all those quietly horrifying moments that bookend so much of the story’s violence.
“Ooh, bodies! So many bodies” – Tsutomu Nihei, Blame! (Seriously, there is like no dialogue in here and it’s all pretty terrible)