Saturday, March 28, 2009
Tsutomo Nihei is the only creator who's works I own in three different languages. It all started back in 2002 when I went to Russia for school. I didn't buy any of his comics there (the only comics I managed to find that time were reprints of American superheroes, I think I still have an issue of Gen13 somewhere), but I did become friends with one of the other guys on the trip. He was also into manga and anime, and upon returning to Canada he lent me a bunch of stuff.
While I was looking through his collection, I noticed he had a bunch of books in Japanese, from a trip he'd taken there the year before. I didn't really pay attention to them, as I can't read Japanese and generally prefer to actually read my comics, but I took volume one of Blame, because I liked the art style. Soon I came back and borrowed volumes 2 and 3. This comic was great! And there was barely any dialogue so it didn't matter that much that it was in Japanese. All the English I needed was printed on the dust jacket "Adventure Seeker Killy in the Cyber Dungeon Quest." What did that even mean?
The next year I was in Montreal for a student journalism conference, and when I wasn't making a new friend I went looking for comics. I drooled over all the amazing hardcover collections you could get, but the only comics I actually picked up where a cheap used copy of the Invisibles volume 2, and three assorted volumes of Blame! (somehow even cheaper than English manga).
An aside: How often does that happen now? When I was a kid reading comics I didn't really care what number an issue had. Sure it was exciting when I eventually got every issue of a series or story line, but if I only had some I didn't care that much. I have three random volumes of DragonBall/Z in French too. Why don't I do that any more? About the only time I've thought of picking up the new volume of a manga without reading earlier ones is Monster, where I stopped reading fairly early, but heard such good things I thought about checking out a later volume. I didn't though.
Okay, so back to Blame! I can't actually remember what volumes of Blame I got (2, 3, and 5 maybe?), but I was excited to have them. And now I could even read them! Even if my French wasn't that good. I could at least find out the name of the main character (Killy!) and what sound his "emetteur positronique" makes.*
Some of the French editions are really nice by the way. They're flipped, and slightly smaller than most manga is put out here, but apart from that they're beautiful packages. Dustflaps, colour pages at the begining, translated sound effects, really nicely put together in general. The only real downside being that they've taken the ! off of the title, and don't match the others on my shelf.
A few years later in 2004 I was Montreal again and bought another couple of volumes from the same CD/comic store (I think it's called C'Dment, but I can't find it online). And came incredibly close to buying Nihei's art book at the Beguiling in Toronto (I sort of wish I had, but at the time I had not very much money).
Something I did buy around this time was the incredibly oddity of Snikt, Nihei's Wolverine comic. I think it came out before the manga boom really hit, and the graphic novel was in print for about a day and has never come back into print. I've been confused about this ever since, as you'd think that a comic by an actual Japanese artist with a following would be something Marvel would want to put out in digest format. When Blame! starting coming out in English I figured Marvel would rerelease it, but they didn't. When the Halo graphic novel, featuring a story by Nihei that I totally couldn't understand as I've never really played Halo, came out from Marvel I figured Marvel would rerelease Snikt, but no, never. Sigh, I just don't understand.
Anyway, finally, Blame! did start coming out in English. About a month (or less?) before I left the country for over two years. I managed to buy volume one, but left it...somewhere... (Korea?) I did come close to buying a full run of Blame in Korean for dirt cheap at a comic library store in Korea that was closing, but I decided if I was going to buy the rest of the series I was going to get it in English. One of my students did buy it, but he didn't like it that much. The fool!
After living and traveling in Asia for a while, I decided to go back to Canada, but not before stopping in Japan. I spent a lot of time looking at comics there, but because I didn't have much room to carry stuff I limited myself to just a few volumes of comics I couldn't read. Two volumes each of Abara and Biomega, both by Nihei and found in a Book Off (oh Book Off!).
I also picked up the anime while in Malaysia (?) and when I watched it found it to be incredibly bizarre. I found out it was original a series of animations on the internet. And it's...disjointed. It seems to just take the animators favourite bits and animate them, so there's not real plot there (as much as there is a plot). It's just Killy fighting things. The weird music and sound effects, nonsensical plot, but beautiful art work made me think of it more as an art film than anything else.
When I got finally got back to Canada I worked in a comic shop for a while, where I got volumes 8-10 of Blame, but discovered that 1 and 4 were unavailable for some reason. I eventually found volume 1, and then 4, for sale (cheap!) in a couple of comic shops here, but after almost seven years, three languages and I don't even remember how many countries visited it's kind of bizarre to have the final volume I read by number 4.
Does it solve any long standing plot points? Does it throw light onto the world Killy inhabits? Well, not really. I even started rereading the series at volume one last week, and when I started reading volume four a few days ago I didn't even remember what had happened at the end of volume three (well, I was reading it in French).
Still, it hardly even matters to me. Killy wanders around a world made up entirely of crazy architecture, megastructures, killer robots, and humans who are oddly disproportionate to each other, and that's all you need to know. I could probably read this series in any order and it wouldn't matter to me. I could read this stuff all day.
*Supposedly the comic was supposed to be named the sound a gun firing. Blam! But Nihei's (or someone's) English skills ended up making it the much cooler sounding Blame!