Sunday, May 29, 2011

Manga review: "Blame!"

I first noticed "Blame!" while reading "Right Turn Only!!" on AnimeNewsNetwork. It was described as hard SF manga and it ways "Reader's Choice" (don't know real significance, but stands for some kind of recommendation). When I confirmed it is not still coming out (because I already have too much ongoing manga on schedule) I decided to read it. It turned out as a great choice.

"Blame!" is a hard SF manga by Nihei Tsutomu. For me, hard SF imply that work's (be it movie, book or anything else) primary and most characteristic is science fiction, and that it wouldn't be the same with it. For example, Miles Vorkosigan series is set in science fiction setting, but it is primary detective/thriller action; you could change the setting and still have the same feeling. On the other hand, "Eon" by Greg Bear is primary SF, although it has elements of other genders. Manga is a bit bad medium for hard science fiction because it lacks the space for explaining the science and technology, but "Blame!" nevertheless has this feeling. Funny, I am already contradicting myself: "Blame!" could work in another setting, a fantasy one. But as Arthur C. Clarke used to say: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"...

The motto of this mange is "Adventure-seeker Killy in the Cyber Dungeon". Wikipedia also regards this as a cyberpunk manga, although to me it doesn't have the cyberpunk feeling I know from "Neuromancer" or "Snow Crash". I wouldn't go deep into the plot, especially since there is not much of it. Main character Killy is wondering trough mega-structure The City searching for people with terminal net genes. Problem is that there are not much people; most of them are dead from conflicts with hostile cyborgs and AIs or malfunctioning safety services, so most of his search consists of fighting them.

Things sometimes get very confusing, so I can't say that I really understood 100% of this manga. I think I would need at least one reread to get it completely. First two volumes are especially hard to understand, but when you start with third one, you will already be hooked up. The manga has 10 volumes.

Setting is really great. I am a sucker for mega-structures. Imagine this: you have a incredible large room you can't even see walls; there is 13 of them inside one structure; this structure is just a small part of one level; there are some 10 levels (I can't remember if it was particularly said how much there is levels)! The City if mostly empty, but there are still great numbers of peoples. Trans-humans, cyborgs, robots, crazy AI's, people reduced to animals...

There are not many characters. Main one is Killy, who doesn't talk much, but doesn't hesitate to fight. Scientist Cibo become his partner after he saves her from death. She is much more talkative and gives the most of explanations (not that they are always understandable). Except two of them, there are not many characters that last for more than one or two volumes.

I found ending especially well, although it stays both unexplained and unresolved.

For conclusion, "Blame!" is a very good SF manga, but I don't think it's for everybody. Often confusing, slow paced and lots of tech-speech makes it unsuitable for people who expect a light read, but if you like SF for itself, you will probably like "Blame!".

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