BLAME! vol. 1 (Master Edition) – Tsutomu Nihei

4 out of 5

Taking us to near the end of volume 2 of the tankobon Tokyopop editions, this recollected, re-translated, over-sized, art-cleaned-up version of BLAME! is, very much, an ideal way to experience the story.  The most notable ‘change,’ of course, is to the art: by enlarging the image, and presenting a printing that gives us a much sharper white / black contrast, so much of Nihei’s admittedly confusing (until you’re used to it) choreography is vastly easier to interpret when it’s not cramped and hidden underneath his excessive lines and the Tokyopop books’ heavier blacks.  The translation is also a bit less stilted, with sound effects in-image (TP printed them in the gutters, which is nice for not changing the art but can also be distracting to the page flow) and – maybe sadly – giving us the lead’s name (I assume correctly…) as Kyrri instead of Killy.  Aw.

And so, for 300+ pages, we watch Kyrri’s slow ascension up and travels through the weird-ass vertical stratum of Blame!, all staircases and hallways, as he searches for humans who have access to ‘the net,’ whilst avoiding / rocketing massive holes into the various factions of techno-organic monstrosities he meets along the way.  It’s minimalist and over-the-top at the same time, with so little dialogue and story to get in your way, and yet the insane, nightmare architecture and Dark City / Matrix mutations all lending the tale an in-built sense of mythology that makes it fascinating.

I knock a star off simply because I’d selfishly ask for a little more bang for my buck: at $34.95, you get absolutely zero anything extra.  Now, while collecting the originals was generally cost-prohibitive, and you’re getting this lovely embiggened, ‘remastered’ edition of Blame! – with enough of an experiential difference between the old and new that it’s worth having both – there’s still the sense that there could’ve been a page at least explaining the new printing, or giving some context on Tsutomu, or something.

I know, gift horse a mouth-lookin’.  Regardless, if’n you have or haven’t read Blame! before, but you’ve taste-tested something elsewhere (Other Nihei work; the animes based on his stuff) and are interested – this is a must-own.