Blame! vol. 5 (TokyoPop edition) – Tsutomu Nihei

4 out of 5

Maybe reading Knights of Sidonia has better conditioned my brain for Blame!; maybe Nihei’s various ideas finally congealed into a followable narrative; maybe the book finally just ‘clicked.’  Or maybe it’s all circumstance and this volume just happened to be consistently coherent.  Whatever the reality, Blame! volume 5 – besides marking the midpoint of this series – is the first entry where I wasn’t just following the art based on ‘feel’ but rather had a sense of where we were and what was happening in each panel.  Story-wise I didn’t have to keep flipping back to understand who was what and why.  And most importantly, the plot actually felt like it lurched forward, and wasn’t just hopping and skipping through random whimsy Nihei wanted to stuff into a sci-fi series.

If any of that sounds like I’ve been hating on the books, I haven’t.  Tsutomo’s imagination and sense of design is admirable, and the world of Blame! has remained fascinating.  But it can also be a simmering stew of difficult-to-discern action, thanks to the extremeness of that action as well as the surreal architecture, and the plot has slowly taken shape from vagueness volume to volume, with each successive collection adding a new (and generally perplexing) wrinkle.

But Nihei stayed on point here.  I mean, there’s time travel involved, but still.

Essentially, Killy and Cibo scuffle deeper into Toha Heavy Industries.  Simple enough, but the roadblocks thrown in our way elicit some fantastic battles and those inscrutable ‘duh’ stares from Killy.  I feel you, K.  We revisit a scene from last volume and add some clarity, and the AI running the Toha show apparently makes an interesting decision.

As Nihei streamlines, though, his replacement tactic for his subplots is to essentially insert boss battles every few pages, and the repetition of this is the reason for the knocked off star.  ‘This guy again?’ I found myself asking.  The battle’s not a threat, just a delaying tactic.

That aside, feeling like the gears are turning in unison is exciting, and I hope the day volume 6 drops in price (damn you OOP manga!) comes soon so I can see where this goes.