“Maybe on Earth. Maybe in the Future”
As expected of most cyberpunk titles, Blame! is a dark futuristic story laced with enough action to keep you at the edge of your seat. Unlike other works in the same genre, however, Blame! avoids most of the philosophical/existential questions usually associated with cyberpunk. Also not present are the verbose in-battle rants/soliloquies that some would find unnecessary. Instead, the author demonstrates that actions do speak louder than words sometimes.
One of Blame!'s unique features is its lack of narration: only a few details are tossed in and it's up to the reader how to connect the dots (the
"no spoonfeeding" policy). Because the author doesn't specify how everything comes together, there are multiple interpretations of how and why events actually happened. The story parallels The City itself in having endless possibilities and the imaginations of the readers are given plenty of room and materials to roam freely and do as they wish. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing would depend on the reader’s attitude towards open endings. Although some would be left unsatisfied due to the lack of details, others may also take it as a form of interaction with the story.
It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and in Blame!, pictures do almost all of the talking. Rather than describing how powerful Killy’s gun is, Nihei spends a few pages showing the havoc caused whenever the trigger is pulled. Instead of saying “The Megastructure is vast and gloomy”, the artist shows the characters wandering through the labyrinth for months, through endless hallways or under pitch-black skies. More often than not, the deafening silence is only broken by the humming of machines or the roar of explosions. To say that the art simply complements the story would be incorrect since the art is pretty much integral to its delivery.
As for the quality of the art itself, it’s nothing short of impressive. The character designs may take some getting used to at first but Nihei’s style gradually improves throughout the series and his illustrations in the latter volumes are flawless. Also, the settings and action scenes are smoothly drawn and insanely detailed. Given his background in architecture, it’s no surprise that Nihei is exceptionally good at drawing colossal structures and perspective shots.
Not many manga out there could offer straightforward action, extraordinary art, and a little grey matter exercise at the same time. While most of the characters aren’t exactly emotionally charged, it’s a refreshing break from the clichéd personalities of anime and manga.