Blame! is a science fiction manga that was published from 1998 to 2003. It’s also a high contender for my favorite manga at this moment. I’ve read it recently and it was a very unique experience. With a “modest” opening like that, let’s take a closer look at this gem.
The biggest problem when trying to make a review which will make other people consider reading BLAME! is avoiding spoilers. I’m tempted to just say the tagline of the manga “Maybe in the future. Maybe on Earth” and leave at that. The story is a fun mixture of simple and complex. In the simplest form, it’s a story of a loner hero - Killy - in a quest searching for a McGuffin.
But the whole story, the whole background of the setting is not given to you on a platter. There is no “text crawl” or a page or two of text explaining who, where and why. You’re just dropped into the story with some facts being revealed to you gradually and some things you have to piece together yourself - and both kinds of reveals are very satisfying.
At its core Blame! is a sci-fi story - and a damn good one. It reminds me of reading old science fiction novels - with their strange world and curious concepts. Way too often in modern media, not just manga and anime, sci-fi is just a palette swap for fantasy in an attempt to make it more interesting. They go from swords and wizards to beam sabers and robots, but the core setting lacks the grandeur of thought and innovation. So you end up with something like “WWII in SPAAACE”. Of course, you can make a good story out of those, but they lack truly mind-blowing moments where you stand in awe of the author’s imagination.
And let me tell you - Blame! has those awesome moments in spades. It doesn’t use the setting as a means to spice up the story - it feels like the story of Killy and his search is a vehicle for you to experience the setting.
Okay, what is it actually about?
Killy the hero, travels the mysterious technological labyrinth called Megastructure, looking for something called “Network Terminal Genes” - people with clean, unmutated DNA that would be able to access the Megastructures network. With him, he has his wits and a gun with variable power - going from “Very Strong” to “basically WMD”. In his travels, he comes across different settlements and groups of people of varied level of isolation within the Megastructure.
And I will stop here. I’ve said less than Wikipedia and it still feels like too much. The story goes places and the setting opens up like a complex diorama filled with details. And the reserved and subtle way the story is told means that you’ll either love reconstructing it from the hints - in which case I’ll feel like a criminal for spoiling things. Or you won’t like it at all, in which case it doesn’t matter how much I say anyway. But here’s the thing - the story isn’t even the best part.
This is where the manga shines - and also dips a little. First about the “negatives”.
Blame! isn’t the cleanest manga. And while sometimes it can pass as a part of the style, there are definitely times when faces of the characters look a bit like sketches. And it doesn’t always pass as being a part of the style.
But by God it has style. Designs of characters, environments, objects, action scenes - everything contributes to creating a feeling of a strange but very interesting world.
Actually, as far as silent forms of media go, Blame! is probably the most atmospheric series of pictures and text that I’ve ever witnessed. And it’s all done through the presentation.
There are parts of several pages with no dialogue, just panel after panel of this strange world you’re going through - and then a huge landscape panel, often covering two pages. And often they’re not only beautiful but also awestriking in way of the size and scale of things you see - and where you see them. And this happens again and again and again.
Honestly, while I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and watch anime adaptation of Blame! I don’t think it can fully translate some of the strengths of the manga into an animated form. Often you really need to take your time while reading Blame! to take in certain panels, look at the details and the implications of architecture. And you need to do a little thinking in the process. As said before the story sometimes gives you hints and nods and doesn’t state things blatantly. And in this type of story, I think it’s great.
This manga is a journey. It’s an experience. A puzzle with an interesting solution and an enjoyable answer. Maybe I’m overhyping it, but it’s almost like it was created for me - so much it plays to all my tastes.
It’s just 10 volumes - not exactly Dragon Ball or One Piece level of commitment. And I think it’s completely worth your time. It would appeal to fans of old-school Sci-Fi, to fans of imaginative worlds and stylish action, or to people who would just like to see cool stuff. In my many, many years of reading manga, this is one of the best -absolute god-tier.
Finally back to writing stuff. In my time off I’ve turned 26, beaten Bayonetta, spent some quality time with my brother and we fixed my PS Vita. I want to try to write more, even after the SixTAY Days of Writing event is over.