As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Hey, everyone! I’m Mokugyo, the manga-and-anime loving writer of MANGA.TOKYO! It has started to get hot and humid in Tokyo recently. Tokyo is one of the most popular cities in the world and it has various tourist spots and means of transportation. In preparation for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, many places in the city are currently being redeveloped, and we see construction sites everywhere.
Speaking of construction sites, today I would like to write an article on Blame! (stylised as BLAME!), a manga which is set in ‘the City’ of the future world, which constructs buildings on its own without human hands. This popular manga gained a lot of attention in the 1990s and has finally gotten an anime film adaptation. Since the title of the manga includes an exclamation mark, I would like to introduce to you the charms of the film using ‘!’s.
Blame is a serious sci-fi manga written by Tsutomu Nihei. When it was first serialized during the late 1990s, the unique setting and storyline became a topic of conversation among manga fans and sci-fi fans.
The story takes place in the future in an area known as ‘the City’, which endlessly constructs buildings and expands itself via special online networks. In this world, humans have become targets of extermination, and they secretly live in the corners of the city. Killy, the protagonist, has been on a journey starting from the 6000th floor of the City, in order to find a human with the ‘Net Terminal Genes’. By using this human’s abilities, the City’s network can be stopped, and thus humans can get back their freedom.
The most difficult challenge in making this manga’s film adaptation was reproducing the manga’s unique setting in the screens. In the past, the manga has gotten two animated short-film adaptations, but a long film had never been produced. This is one of the reasons why Blame! is not that well known in Japan.
This time, the author Tsutomu Nihei has redrawn the character designs and setting illustrations just for the movie, and we can say that it is an anime adaptation which strongly respects the original manga.
Another of Nihei’s works, Knights of Sidonia (Sidonia no Kishi), was released after Blame! but has already gotten an anime adaptation. In this anime series, there was an episode in which a scene from Blame! appeared, and this gathered a lot of attention among Blame! fans.
Blame! was released in the 1990s. Now, it has finally gotten an animated feature-length movie adaptation that was released in May 2017. For all these years, fans had been waiting for the manga to become visualized on-screen. The movie adaptation is a fabulous entertaining film not just for the fans, but also for those who have never read the manga.
One of the unique characteristics of Blame’s protagonist is that he hardly speaks. The same happens in the original manga. Killy is very quiet, and it is difficult to understand what he is thinking about. That is what makes this film so fascinating. The viewers get to imagine how Killy’s feelings are changing throughout the movie. He is a very mysterious character, so each viewer can make different interpretations about him.
The voice of Killy was played by Takahiro Sakurai, one of the most popular male voice actors today. He is well known for playing many famous characters such as Griffith from Berserk and Suzaku from Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch). One of the most recent characters he voiced was Osomatsu Matsuno, the eldest brother in Osomatsu-san. In the Blame! film, Sakurai has only a few lines. However, he does an amazing job in expressing Killy’s character just through those lines. He speaks in a very low and soft tone which only he can do! Killy is an inhuman character who hardly shows any feelings who becomes cool thanks to Sakurai’s high-level voicing skills.
Another important character, Cibo, is voiced by popular voice actress Kana Hanazawa. Just like Killy, Cibo does not show a lot of emotions, so she is another unique character that you should keep an eye on!
I think we can all agree that the aspect which makes Blame! so entertaining is its unique setting. The story takes place in the City, which endlessly constructs itself without any human intervention. This enormous city with the expanding metallic buildings is so cool! It is easy to imagine that it must have been very difficult to animate such a unique setting. We can also say that this animation process was made possible thanks to the development of computer graphic technology. The high-quality CG techniques that Polygon Pictures had shown in Knights of Sidonia are also fully utilized in Blame!
The sound effects of Blame! are another fascinating aspect of the movie, and this is something that the movie’s director also pointed out at the stage greeting. Many different sound effects are used to express various factors, such as the enemy robots’ movements, the banging of the weapons, the echoing of the sounds coming from far away, and so on. If you are planning on watching this movie, I recommend you to watch it in a theater with the best audio equipment. You will have the chance to get completely absorbed in the world of Blame!
This new film has tons of entertaining sci-fi aspects! One interesting factor is the scenes shown from the characters’ viewpoints. There are quite a few scenes that are shown from Killy’s point of view, and it is funny how the words such as ‘Kiken (Danger)’ and ‘Juudenchu (Charging)’ show up on the screen. By looking through Killy’s eyes, the viewers get to understand what Killy, who hardly changes his facial expressions, is seeing and thinking at that moment.
Another charm of the movie is the gun that Killy uses, the Gravitational Beam Emitter. It has a rather long and unique name, but its power completely matches its name. The food that humans eat in Blame! is also very interesting. The food is nicknamed ‘Shakisaku’ among Blame! fans, and it is something very unique to this world. On top of this, there are many other futuristic aspects in the story such as the characters’ costumes and the human villages; they all match the sci-fi story. Various sci-fi gimmicks appear in this film, and they would definitely get you excited!
Finally, I would like to tell you about the Blame! Exhibition, which was held in a gallery at Shibuya. In this exhibition, visitors got the chance to look at character design illustrations, storyboards, background illustrations, and many more!
In the height comparison chart, visitors got to see the height difference between the characters. Killy is about 180 cm. Oyassan is about 165 cm. Cibo was taller than 200 cm! This chart made it clear that Cibo is surprisingly tall.
There was also a booth in which fans could experience the VR (Virtual Reality) world of Blame!, and there was a long waiting line. In the VR, the player got the chance to become Killy and see the beginning scenes of the movie from his viewpoint!
At the event space, there was a big screen that showed the movie’s trailer and a video of the four steps in the film-making process: story reel, animation, FX, and composite. Fans got to learn about how the movie went through various procedures before it was completed.
Although the gallery was rather small, the exhibition was something that allowed fans to fully enjoy the world of Blame!
Because Blame! has a unique setting and many special terms, it may seem like a difficult movie to understand for those who have never read the manga. In fact, when I read Blame! for the first time a few years ago, I felt that although it is a fascinating story, not everyone may enjoy it because of the complicated sci-fi aspects. However, this new film adaptation faithfully reproduces the world of the original manga, but is also a very entertaining story that anyone could understand. The story is made simpler in the film so that people can understand it without any prior knowledge. The inorganic city in Blame may seem like a completely different and unrelated place compared to the world we live in today. However, even in such a severe world ruled by online networks, humans try to find the best way to live fulfilling lives. Blame! is a sci-fi action story, but it also illustrates the human drama in a cruel environment. It is a movie that has universal charms that would entertain many people.
It has been announced that Blame! will be shown at an overseas movie festival.
Approximately twenty years have passed since the serialization of Blame!, and now, it has finally gotten a feature-length movie adaptation. This is proof that CG animation in Japan has made another step forward. I hope that everyone throughout the world gets the chance to enjoy the fabulous world of Blame!