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Abara (Manga) add (All reviews)
Jun 28, 2008
Set in the same universe as all Tsutomu Nihei's manga are: the nondescript urban landscape of our nightmares. The architecture is as suffocatingly bleak as usual; the story is faster paced than Nihei's most well known work, Blame, due to this manga's short length. Maybe it would be a good litmus test for newcomers to his world.

This time the Akira vibe is heavy, with body horror at the forefront. Expect human transformation and ugly metamorphosis aplenty. Though unlike Akira, I doubt Nihei's aspirations are as lofty as commenting on Japan's relationship with technology in the post Meiji-era. No, he just wants to immerse you in something completely alien, and burn his surreal Kafka-esque inspired imagery into your brain, while thankfully kicking your ass at the same time.

What we have here are a guy in black and a girl in white who are compelled to beat the shit out of each other while destroying everything around them. The beauty as ever, is about revelling in the graphic detail of Nihei's universe, not necessarily what's driving the story. How were these sprawling structures built in the first place? Something I've been asking myself ever since reading Blame. It always takes my breath away. Tsutomu Nihei's scene composition is masterful, regularly showing the scope and perspective of structures that are inhuman in their massive presence.

Nihei is a master in 'show don’t tell'. You won't see long monologues or rambling dialogue. You won't see narrative clichés rampant in mainstream manga, in his works. Nihei lets the images do the talking, what you see is what you get, and luckily for us there's a lot to see here. Painstakingly detailed environments reveal a lot and nothing at the same time. Ironically sound is more of a narrative force than dialogue from characters. Sounds such as doors sliding open, objects falling down stairs, all combine to lead you along the way.

Characters only talk when they need to, and usually mumble meaningless words that only become coherent if we use our imaginations too. Characters that look like they'll be mainstays are introduced briefly, but then are promptly decapitated.

Oh what decapitations! You will not see any as swift and graceful, as humorously mundane as the ones in this manga. The action is striking, occasionally a mess of clouds and lines, but often crowd-pleasing with clarity, and all building to a shattering climax that even Nihei has to introduce with dialogue.

Abara is a great sci-fi actioner. A little diversion from a master of the craft.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9
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