Biomega

I loved Nihei Tsutomu’s “Blame!” manga, which depicted the endlessly wandering character Killy in a bleak nightmarish cyberpunk world. He has a very pronounced style, in terms of artistic technique (eg sketchy pencil; sharp light/dark contrasts; tiny characters in gigantic zoomed-out shots), motifs (eg posthuman body horror; sad-looking faces; elaborate machines dominating the environment), and plotting (eg lots of wandering across massive landscapes; very short, decisive fights; very few characters, most of whom don’t stick around; godlike technology). While I liked “Blame!”, the storyline was so light as to be almost absent, and the terse characters didn’t give a lot of opportunity for elaboration.

Biomega progresses strongly: right after a mission to Mars, the sponsoring Data Recovery Foundation is releasing alien spores that turn people into disgusting zombies, and starting a world war among the corporations; the protagonist Zouichi (with his AI Fuyu) has to investigate them and rescue Yion Green, who seems to be immune. Zouichi, Fuyu, their ally Nishu, a talking bear,  and some villains generate more dialogue in the early chapters than in most of Blame; there are mysteries about the world and recent events to be solved; and the investigation leads Zouichi and Toha Heavy Industries through a variety of directed objectives that involve discovering things rather than (exclusively) shooting stuff with very powerful guns.

Around two thirds of the way through the series, there’s a big narrative crescendo that Nihei loses control of, and he performs an awful (twisted) reset of everything that scatters the characters in a completely alien environment. The impetus to save the Earth disappears, and thematic continuity with the first part of the series vanishes. Significant characters are never heard from again, or get a disjointed chapter and disappear, and even Zouichi’s storyline becomes episodic and disconnected. It’s as if Nihei became bored of the original setting and threw it all out, introducing a new world with another ecosystem and hundreds of years of history, and turning Zouichi from an agent of Toha Heavy Industries into a wanderer like Blame’s Killy.

While this transition is very disappointing, Nihei’s strengths stand, and if you can digest the series as two discrete parts (the second being lesser than the first), you may still be able to enjoy it, as I did.

Oh, and I liked the poor talking bear, who was perhaps the most human character among all the AIs, murderous cyborgs, synthetic humans, monstrous psychics, and alien hybrid zombies. A scene with him involved the line (from Fuyu): “Stop! You don’t have the luxury to save an unconscious bear right now!”

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