3 out of 5
From series to series, we have watched Tsutomu Nihei grow. From the narrativeless, visual thrust of Blame!’s beginnings to its more layered – but still textually sparse – conclusion, through the hyper-compressed obliqueness of something like Biomega, then stretching that style out to more laidback soap opera over Knights of Sidonia’s 15 entries. Aposimz seemed to be navigating its way between those styles, with a dense world that also allowed for characterization up front. We’ve settled into something of a road trip format by this point, with various hanger-ons accompanying Etherow, Titania, and Keisha on their way to / through killing emperor Suou and his Frames, Nihei working some interesting elements into the social and political dynamics of the world. It’s been weird and mysterious in those great Nihei ways, but it’s also been fun, and, like, pretty linear, and thankfully not in the occasionally cheeseball way of Sidonia, in which we take multi-chapter breaks for harem comedy.
And then here, Nihei’s gotten a little tired of drawn out, badass, complex battles with new Frame forms, and maybe just wants to draw some Lovecraftian-inspired Frames, so that’s pretty much the first half of volume 8: Etherow and crew are intercepted, some tentacles appear and are blown off, and then they continue. Are the designs cool? Absolutely. Does any of this feel like it matters to the story…?
But we do start to dot in some oddities related to Kajiwan’s cult-y church, and some narrative gears start to churn in the book’s latter half, which draw some intriguing common-goals between Etherow and Suou’s Frames, which gets us back to more “typical” pacing: an extended battle sequence against impossible odds; more new Frames – somewhat more relevant to the story this time; and a sudden about-face of the status quo.
That last bit feels especially confusing – which is another Nihei trope, in a way – but since that’s balanced out by Aposimz having a mostly straight-forward plot, it definitely leaves me intrigued to see into what that confusion might lead in the next volume.