Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Manga Review: Biomega (volume 1)

I dropped by the local library looking for more comics to read for here (I'm working my way through the rest of the Akira manga but it takes me more than four days to read five volumes of manga, these days anyway) and I stumbled across this one at the library. It looked interesting, is part of the Sig Ikki line (whose books I've enjoyed before, like Ooku, Children of the Sea, and Afterschool Charisma) so why not?

Biomega by Tsutomu Nihei

Summary: The year is 3005 CE and the majority of Earth's population are now zombie-like drones, courtesy of NSS virus. However, there still appears to he hope for mankind in the form of people who can transmute the virus and it's Zoichi Kanoe's job to find these people and protect them.

The Good: The story is low on words but big on action and the action sequences are well done, the eyes just glide across the pages and the transitions from panel to panel feel very smooth. Because of that the volume is a fast read, not that a volume of manga takes particularly long to read anyway, and the action barely stops making it go faster still. There is a small epilogue to the volume, titled "Interlink" which provides a hook for the next volume with some information that wasn't on the back cover and which suggests that there is more to the story than there first appears.

The Bad: There are stories that go for "show don't tell" and others that go for "tell not show." And then there is Biomega which barely shows nor tells, it takes almost the entire volume for all the information on the back cover. True most of the backstory can be gleaned in the first few chapters (clearly something has gone wrong on Earth that has resulted in massive environmental damage and zombies) but the story so far is moving quite slowly. There does seem to be a rather large plot hole in the series (namely, a colony on Mars that hasn't had contact with Earth in seven centuries also has the virus yet, the virus is seven centuries old, then it really should have spread even farther than it has) but hopefully future volumes will clear up exactly what triggered this epidemic. Also, why is there a talking bear who can shoot guns? Has science progressed far enough that there are now genetically modified bears or does this just come under "rule of cool"?

The Art: There is nary a screen tone to be seen in this work, a few gradients in the background perhaps but everything else is meticulously done in pen and ink. The rough edges make the art work perfectly with the setting, a broken world with many unpolished edges of it's own and it's a good thing too since the art is the main focus of the book. As per usual, the Sig Ikki books are slightly large than the standard US manga volume which makes for easier holding and really show off the art. Also, the cover is slightly darker than the above image, that cover seems to be from a different edition actually but it's essentially what the US cover looks like.

So, barely anything is explained and nothing, other than the sketchy pen and ink style, set this manga apart from half a dozen other cyberpunk stories. Do I want to read the next one? Eh, nothing compels me to seek out the rest of them but if I come across the rest of the volumes (wikipedia lists six in total) I'll certainly check them out.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Helen

    I really like your blog so I thought I would add a little for Biomega.
    It might certainly seem "slow" as far as the story goes, but it is also quite deep. Indeed, I think what people who have read the whole series tend to dislike is, rather than the low rythm, the difficulty of understanding the plot. Nihei is not an author that tells a story in a way to be easily understood, nor there is a final chapter in which everything is explained and finally understood. The reader needs to do that, and even more, as Nihei's stories usually have blanks that you may fill however you like.
    As for the art, it is not usually said and have not read anything of it but if you look for an old famous engraver by the name of Giambatista Piranesi, you will immediately see the similiraty (the italian disproportionate and distorted sceneries devoid of life and so quiet and still that gets to your nerves).
    Yes, I love Tsutomu Nihei mangas.

    Congratulations for your blog,