BLAME! vol. 6 (Master Edition) – Tsutomu Nihei

3 out of 5

Collecting logs 55 up through the conclusion, Blame!’s vol. 6 Master Edition does everything the previous volumes did – up-sizing and cleaning up the art, brightening the darks, smoothing out the contrasts – but some changes, while subjective as to their effectiveness, have me considering the TokyoPop originals (volumes 9 and 10‘s logs are featured here) as, unfortunately, better.

The subjective parts: the TokyoPop printings are notoriously dark, and makes Nihei’s sketchier work incredibly hard to read.  Vertical’s brightening of the art and removal / smoothing out of various visuals artifacts has often been a blessing.  However, there are points where showing all the details has made some things seem less defined than when they were hidden in shadows, and when we get to these final chapters, the stark black and whites of the originals are actually exploited to prime effect.  I prefer how these pages looked in the Tokyopop tankobons.  Vertical (and/or whomever did the lettering) also chose to render some of the artificial beings’ letters in a faint, vaguely digital font.  I get it, but part of Blame!’s appeal to me is how alien it ends up making our ‘human’ characters feel, and then when those are juxtaposed with the clearly ‘other’ types, everyone starts to exist in this morass of grey sameness that I feel vibes with the book’s themes.  So separating out a digital character as clearly digital tarnishes that a bit.  There was also one bit where a ‘munch’ speech bubble / sound effect was retranslated as ‘crunch’, which is rather amusing.

The removed part: late in the game, Kyrii / Killy is meant to be trapped inside of some type of field that restricts his movement.  While wiki pages helped me to identify this as a ‘stasis field,’ it’s still clear – in the TokyoPop books – that he is, at least, contained within something that restricts him.  In this Master Edition, that effect is completely gone.  So it just looks like Kyrii is choosing not to move for a bit.  It’s weird, and I think it removes some of the immediacy of the battle.

Overall, if this is the only way you’re experiencing Blame!, it’s still an amazing conclusion, with some appropriately gloomy coloring added to the final few painted pages punctuating the story’s dreamlike drifting cyclicalness; however, there’s one detail that seems entirely removed that, I imagine, would make a battle more confusing than usual.  That is to say: my rating is definitely based on a comparison, and shouldn’t be taken as a non-endorsement of the book.  It’s a fantastic presentation, consistent with the other Master volumes; it’s just also worthwhile being able to flip back between the two editions.