I love Tsutomu Nihei for obvious reasons: his art, which mixes stylized designs and disgustingly intricate detail, is fucking amazing. Nihei is intersted in drawing exactly two things – awe-inspiring cyberpunk worlds and badass humanoid creatures in sleek trench-coat and leather variants. Oh, and explosions of blood. These things are exactly what you get from Nihei’s long-running debut manga BLAME!, a masterpiece of sci-fi action with very little dialog and something getting blown up on almost every page that doesn’t feature a massive illustration of some crazy-looking structure. BLAME! is one of my favorite manga for these very reasons, though I admit that it has some little issues; the most prominent of which is how, gorgeous as Nihei’s art is, it is sometimes troublesome telling just what the hell is going on in his complex panels. The other issue is simply that BLAME! has almost no plot whatsoever, though I’m totally fine with that if it means every single page can kick so much ass.
Biomega takes BLAME!’s always-turned-up-to-ten style and pace and edges it right over the line to eleven. Once again, there is very little dialog or plot in Biomega, but at the very least, the little plot that’s there is comprehensible. By the end of the first volume, you have a full grasp of what’s going on, which I don’t necessarily demand from a story this badass, but at least it’s nice. The biggest thing that Biomega improved on BLAME! (and I apologize if the later volumes of BLAME! are also like this; I haven’t finished the series myself) is that the art, beautiful as ever, is no longer confusing. The panels are much more clean and crisp and without the unnecessary overload of detail that BLAME! sometimes featured.
Besides improving on BLAME!, Biomega is an incredible work for accomplishing what almost nothing else manages – completely absurd action with a straight face. Generally, when it comes to action movies (because Biomega is far more like a movie than a manga), a choice is made between creating a ‘serious’ action film, or a ‘campy’ action film. Something that features completely over-the-top action is expected to not take itself too seriously, lest it take it’s toll on the audience’s suspension of belief. Canaan is a good example of a story that took itself seriously, but featured such absurd scenes that many people had a hard time reconciling the plot against it’s portrayal. However, Biomega manages to take itself completely seriously and still pull off ridiculous stuff without batting an eye, and succeeds.
Probably the most hilarious and bizarre feature introduced in the first volume is that one of the main characters is a bear. A straight-up fucking bear, talking and firing a gun and everything. The manga does not even attempt to explain this, and because it is introduced so early, it’s easily bought. It is simply taken for granted that this must be a world where sometimes bears talk and watch TV and wield sniper rifles. It is through leaving us in the dark about many things that the story accomplishes acceptable absurdity. When the main character rides down the side of a building on his motorcycle, vaults off of a window, curves around the spire of an adjacent tower, and finally careens to stable ground, it never forces us to wonder ‘how was that humanly possible?’ but instead makes us think ‘damn that guy is badass!’
What’s more, Biomega accomplishes so many incredible feats in it’s first volume that I was left wondering how Nihei could possibly follow it up. Besides crazy motorcycle hijinks, there are intense fights involving heavy weaponry, a scene where the main character rides through a horde of zombies, cutting them to pieces with an axe as he goes, a point where he punches out a huge mutant creature – and then the climax of the volume, which I dare not spoil, is jaw-droppingly badass to the point of earning the main character permanent GAR status.
Biomega is everything I could want from an action manga. Wasting no time with a story and characters that would likely never impress and leave one waiting desperately for each new fight scene, it instead blasts forward with a nonstop torrent of awesome and does so with nothing short of perfect artistic direction. After Biomega, I’d feel like an idiot if I ever bothered with another mediocre action series.
If you are willing to shell out 13 bucks for it (a decision that is much harder to make when you know that you can finish the volume in about 15 minutes) then I highly recommend Viz’s release under their Signature Series line. The excellent print quality and gigantic pages are the only thing that can do this manga justice, and it just looks damn sexy on a shelf. Otherwise, though, I’m sure you know where you can find it.
You literally won’t, since you drop every damn thing.
It’s actually pretty rare for me to ‘drop’ a manga. They are too easy to just pick up and finish.
Alright! Nihei is my favorite mangaka as well, and among his series I’d also have to say that I prefer Biomega over Blame!. However, let this be a warning to you if you plan on following this series for the long haul. I’ll try to be as vague as possible so as not to spoil anything, but I can’t make any promises.
If, as you say, Biomega is like an action movie, than about midway through it becomes more like the bizarre direct-to-video sequel of that action movie, one in which the same roles are played by different actors, sort of. I’ve heard that it was due to Nihei wanting to end the series before his editors were ready to let him, but whatever the case, right around the junction between chapters 27 and 28 the series almost changes genres entirely from hard sci-fi to something almost resembling fantasy. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if this was a separate series- it’s just that you reach the end of the last chapter and at first you think “Aww, what a great conclusion!” but then five minutes later you realize that the conclusion was actually awful because you have no idea what happened to the majority of the cast. It’s a pitfall Nihei tends to fall into a lot; while he’s a genius at illustration, his ability to tell a coherent, cohesive story isn’t quite up to par. His recent series, Knights of Cydonia, appears to be trying to rectify this, but at the expense of some of his fantastic artwork and surreal, almost-Kafkaesque worldbuilding techniques. Despite its flaws, though, I adore Biomega, and if you’re in it primarily for the action you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Incidentally, if you’re a fan of Nihei, have you checked out Heeen’s Nihei-centric forums? There are a lot of cool things there, including rare interviews and figures.
I haven’t yet, but I will surely check it out! Also holy fuck a manga called Knights of Cydonia, I guess I know what song I’ll be listening to the whole time I read it LOL.
“a point where he punches out a huge mutant creature”
Did he say “Welcome to Earth!” right after? :)
This sounds like a crazy read. But I love that cover with the sleek motorcyclist.
LMAO nah, because he almost never speaks, just kicks ass. Matter of fact, I don’t think he ever speaks to his enemies. He tends to shoot first, never ask questions lol. Actually Killy from Blame was eevn worse about that, I think it’s just Nihei’s thing. He don’t fuck around.
I understand how you feel. Nihei is absurdly good. If he wasn’t a mangaka, he could be an architect. I love the background of his work, among what you have already pointed out.
He doesn’t rely on dialog much. Most of the stories are conveyed through his art alone. That imo is totally wicked.