Friday, November 5, 2010

Ted reviews Tsutomu Nihei's Biomega

Tsutomu Nihei's cyberpunk action manga Biomega is a big ol' slice of pointless explosion pie.

This is not necessarily a strike against it. If you want things like a plot, or characters with even a degree of empathy—well, you just keep on drivin', stranger. But if you want a gorgeously drawn comic in which a super-soldier with an axe on a motorcycle and a bear with a hook for a hand fight zombies for the fate of the world but don't want to have to turn on your brain, look no further.

The year is 3000 A.D. Zouichi Kanoe is a synthetic human created by Toha Heavy Industries, tasked to investigate a city filled with zombie-like "drones," mindless biological terrors, and look for any surviving humans. Naturally, this involves shooting lots of zombies with his futuristic super-gun, chopping them down with his futuristic super-axe, and/or running them over with his futuristic super-cycle. He's assisted in this by an A.I., Fuyu Kanoe, that rides with him in said super-cycle's computer.

Zoichi quickly comes across Eon Green, who is immune to the NS5 virus, has crazy special regeneration powers, and is guarded by a bear with a gun.

Naturally, things get complicated: the Data Recovery Foundation (which, as far as I can tell, is also a parody of Microsoft) sends in its soldiers after Eon as well, which requires Zoichi to terminate them with extreme(ly cool-looking) prejudice.

After gets complicated. There's some sort of long-term plot involving humanity's colonies on Mars, at least two immortals, virtual worlds and clones, and a geosynchronous satellite headquarters, and after a while I lost track of it all.

But who cares? This isn't a manga that prides itself on its thoughtful and original plot. This is a manga where a dude shoots down nuclear missiles with a rifle longer than he is tall.

By sheer coincidence, I've lately been researching the Halo series of video games. These games, for those of you who don't know, also feature a heavily-armored super-soldier whose partner is an A.I. that manifests as a foot-tall hologram of a young woman and who mows down lots of grotesque zombie things with an array of futuristic weaponry.

The odd thing is, despite the fact that Master Chief (the guy on the right) never takes off his helmet and we never see his face, he's actually more human and relatable than Zoichi, who never displays any emotion other than Grim-Faced Seriousness. Same goes for the A.I.s: Fuyu doesn't do anything other than provide exposition and situation reports, but Cortana is a droll commentator who gets some of the best lines in the games.

It's not that Biomega is a bad series, per se. Certainly it looks great; Nihei's inks are beautiful, switching between delicate hatch-marks and chunky black spaces in order to produce both intricate landscapes...

...and brutal action scenes.

But the plot is either impenetrable or nonexistent, and the characters are, in a word, paper-thin. Even more embarrassing is when Nihei tries to be philosophical and talk about human nature and so forth.

But, hey. If well-drawn, well-paced, totally pointless action is your boat? If you thought Akira would've been improved if it had half as much dialogue and twice as many zombies? If you want to see a bear riding a motorcycle away from a gooey explosion?

Then Biomega is for you. Just don't be expecting anything remotely original or thought-provoking when you're flipping the pages.

1 comment:

  1. There is a story, not complex. It's a great simple story, the main point is that since Zoichi is a NOT a human(his a synthetic designed for combat), and WAS trying to find/protect the "host" Human. He was raised with others like himself and the AIs with a foster mother. This book mostly reminds me of one of his old works, BLAME!. The main character, Killy, to that IS human and he is just looking for a certain gene to access the net. The gun of killy though was a super powered version of Zoichi. I love simple story lines like this, because to me a story that is TOO complex can/will end bad.