Review – Blame! Vol. 1 by Tsutomu Nihei

Blame! Vol 1
By: Tsutomu Nihei
Translator: Melissa Tanaka
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Series: Blame!
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)

Recently, I’ve had Blame! recommended to me a few times so when I had the opportunity to read the first volume of the Master Edition, I jumped on it. Blame! Vol. 1 by Tsutomu Nihei is a manga set in a post apocalyptic world which follows a lone man on his search for the Net Terminal Gene.

Blame! follows Kyrii, a man who lives deep within a city so large it has encompassed everything. There is nothing but metal, level after level, with no ground to speak of. Kyrii is searching for the Net Terminal Gene – a mutation that connected humans to the cybernetic NetSphere long ago. Alone, he searches the vast city for any clues to the gene.

The world this manga is set in is fascinating. The entire world is cold metal. Everything takes place within an immense, labyrinthine structure, a city that, while once great, has now fallen into ruin. Corridor after corridor, floor after floor Kyrii searches for any clues about the Net Terminal Gene. Only a sliver of sky is seen, and even then only once. A once thriving, highly technical world is now gone. Humans – true humans – are incredibly rare. Cyborgs exist, but even then, the vast majority of this vast complex remains uninhabited.

The sheer size and scope of the ruins Kyrii explores is best understood later within the volume. Depictions of long corridors and an endless expanse of floor upon floor of metal causeways truly show just how vast this world is, and, beyond that, just how empty. The city is unnervingly empty. Even enemies aren’t plentiful. Characters met in one section don’t always know about the pockets of civilization found in other sections. No one knows just how high the floors reach. Those on higher floors have no idea how many floors lie below them. Floors that lie across bridges house creatures so different from Kyrii that they might as well be, and probably are, entirely different species.

I was held completely captive by the dilapidated sci-fi world alone. I love this aesthetic, and I am always on board for mysterious pasts and fallen civilizations. While little of the world and either its current or former inhabitants is known in beginning chapters, more information does come to light as the manga continues. Later in the manga more information is given as the main character himself comes closer to his goal. Inferences can also be made by what the characters don’t know, and its these inferences that can be the most unnerving.

Now, the art can be a bit gory. Kyrii comes into contact with multiple groups of enemies throughout the story. Due partially to the type of weapon he wields – a Gravitation Beam Emitter – the destruction is a bit intense. Enemies are, at times, quite monstrous. They are unsettling at best and grotesque at worst. This is something I love, but do be aware that there are blood, guts, and some terrifying looking monsters within this manga.

Kyrii isn’t one for emotions. He is stoic, calm in the face of terrible danger and grotesque monsters. Thus far, little is known about his personal history. He isn’t necessarily a character one follows because he is likable or easily relatable. He’s the sort of character one reads about simply because he’s so incredibly good at what he does. If utterly decimating hordes of bad guys is what you like the most in a main character, Kyrii fits the bill rather well.

There is very little dialogue in this manga. The main character is often on his own exploring the far reaches of his world, ever in search of his goal. He doesn’t talk to himself as he traverses one level after another nor are any of his thoughts outlined in text. There is dialogue when Kyrii comes across pockets of civilization, or another lone wanderer. Yet, no dialogue is needed most of the time. The setting itself speaks volumes, more than any sort of info dump or self-reflection could. For example, there is a line where a character says that they don’t know what dirt is. The following cells and pages show exactly why.

Events begin to really pick up towards the end of the volume. More characters are introduced, more dialogue is present, and more world building occurs. Some of the earlier chapters, while visually interesting, do feel as if little progress is being made. This does change towards the latter half of the manga.

I really enjoyed Blame! Vol. 1 by Tsutomu Nihei, and will definitely be continuing with the series. One thing of note if you’re planning on purchasing this volume. This particular edition is the Master Edition, which an over-sized, very lovely edition. However, it is pricey, so keep in mind that it is also available in digital format on platforms such as Comixology.

About author

Kathleen Townsend

Kate writes things, reads things, and writes about things she reads. She’s had a few short stories published, and works as a freelance editor. Favorite genres include epic & high fantasy, science fiction, time travel stories, video game related tales, light novels, and manga.

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