MANGA REVIEW | Playing Second Fiddle In New "BLAME!" Retelling
For a series that ended well over fifteen years ago, Tsutomu Nihei's BLAME! still has a lot of life left in it. A recent Netflix movie brought Nihei's series back into the consciousness of manga & anime fans alike, erasing the mediocrity that the 2003 net anime series brought to the forefront. With aid from artist Koutarou Sekine, this reboot of an origin story has been brought back to manga form with BLAME! The Electrofishers' Escape. The question remains as to whether or not it's as fun to read as it is to watch.
Somewhat retelling the first few chapters of the original manga, BLAME! The Electrofishers' Escape places its focus on a group of humans attempt to survive extinction. With Exterminators and Watchtowers constantly searching for life forms to eliminate, a small team attempts to search for any sort of supplies to keep living another day. That's when they come across a lone traveler with one powerful weapon alongside him: Killy. With his aid, the humans seek to find a way to take back control of The City, as all electronic eyes stare back with the intent to kill.
Unlike in the original series, Killy takes more of a back seat approach to his role in The Electrofishers' Escape, with Zuru being the head of the operations. Speaking in Fury Road terms, Killy is Mad Max and Zuru is Furiosa, as BLAME!'s main focus looks to be just here for the ride in this scenario. Having Killy act more as a backup character than the main focus somewhat adds a bit more humanization to the underlying story that occurs, seeing as he's very stoic throughout the original series. In a way, it brings a new sort of uniqueness to the world of The City and the Safeguard that aims to kill what's left of the human race.
Sekine's art style does a very good job with replicating Nihei's original designs. The action sequences are finely detailed, and while most of the gore is minimal, it captures what sort of damage the likes of Killy, the Exterminators, and whatever sort of threat comes along their way. One of the best visuals belongs to that of Cibo, presented as a talking skeletal being missing the bottom half of her body. (It brings to mind the design of Ivan Klimatovich in the 2004 Hellboy film, with both he and Cibo also sharing a similar sharp tongue in the process.)
While the story being told is very well-written, I can't help but feel like nothing has been added into this adaptation to make it stand out from the film. Although Sekine does a stellar job with bringing the movie to the manga format, nothing really sticks out as being different from what Netflix and Polygon Pictures delivered a couple of years ago. It's a good read for those who've never seen the movie, but those who have may find themselves disappointed by the lack of diverse content. With that being said, I would be very interested in seeing this version of BLAME! continue in some form, as it has the opportunity to add a few new twists to Nihei's original series.
As a manga adaptation, BLAME! The Electrofishers' Escape does a pretty good job mimicking Nihei's original series. However, those who have seen the Netflix film may not find anything particular new or noteworthy about this side-story (unlike, say, the Summer Wars manga adaptation). Still, it manages to be quite the spectacle on the eyes, making it a read that's nonetheless fun enough for fans of Killy's quest for finding the Net Terminal Gene.
Promotional consideration provided by Tomo Tran of Vertical Comics