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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/13/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Blame! Vol 1."

Blame! Vol 1
By Tsutomu Nihei
English Language version produced by TOKYOPOP

Review by Kelly S. Taylor

It's my own fault. I chose this book to review because its blurb lauded its similarity to French comics. Halfway through the manga, I remembered why I don't like French comics. It's not the French. It's me -- I say as if I'm breaking up with this manga. Although I'm no Mary Sunshine, I'm just too...American to enjoy this much existentialism in one large dose. If you are a jaded, Goth, cyberpunk with a taste for Satre, though, Blame! may be just your cup of absinthe.

The artwork is complex, dark and evocative. Nothing cute, cuddly, or warm here. Things, people, and scenery manage to look simultaneously drippy and mechanical. Adding color to this stark techno reality would only be necessary if you prefer to see the occasional spurts of blood and guts in red instead of black. The style is masterfully cinematic. You can almost hear the drips and empty, echoing clanks as the protagonist moves silently down level after level of this mechanical hell. Although dialogue is sparse, the viewer gets a clear sense of the lonely passage of time from the way the artist arranges wide and narrow shots of the empty passageways. No comment is necessary to underline the poignancy of a scene where the main character climbs past a television displaying a sunny beach scene to an uncaring tangle of pipes and conduits. Tense silent exchanges take place in skillfully executed close-ups. Blame! is a testament to how much narrative can be conveyed without words.

This visual clarity is particularly welcome since the few words used don't help you out very much. I'm about to launch into a plot summary here, but because of the scarcity of narrative, I'm somewhat hesitant to do so. I must stress that this is only my opinion of what might be going on. The protagonist, Killy, is traveling down an endless labyrinth. He is attacked by and kills several metal, metal-slimey, and pure slimey creatures. I'm not terribly sure why. Although he seems pretty nice, he usually ends up killing anyone or anything he talks to. Maybe that's why they call him Killy. Other people/things he encounters are looking for something they call "New Terminal Genes." Killy may be looking for them too. I'm not sure. I have no idea what they are.

That's it. That's the story. It's pretty much him walking around. Occasionally stuff tries to kill him. He kills stuff. He walks some more.

At the beginning of this review, I characterized Blame! as existential. I say this because I'm assuming that the writer is trying to make a metaphorical comparison between Killy's endlessly violent, endlessly pointless journey and our own uselessly aggressive reality.

Then again, maybe he just couldn't come up with a plot.

In summary, all I can say is that Blame! is a superb, dark, masterwork that calls into question the purpose of authority, belief, and even purpose itself. You will like it... if you like that sort of thing.

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