Biomega Volume 2 by Tsutomu Nihei
Biomega continues to be one of the most stylish action manga I’ve read. There might not be a whole lot of substance there, but the style is dialed up so high that I find myself not caring so much that Nihei’s vision of a dystopian future seems like it has been cobbled together from a variety of sources. Zoichi is determined to rescue the captured Eon Green. We get a little more background about Zoichi and his world in this volume – Zoichi seems to be a rogue synthetic human developed by Toa Heavy industries, and now we see that he isn’t the only person with those unique abilities as Nishu Mizunoe is shown to be pursing the talking bear Kozlov Grebnev. There’s plenty of zombie splattering action, but my favorite part of this book came relatively early when Nihei displays a spectacular example of manga physics.
Zoichi is on the run from a group of fighter planes. From his motorcycle, he shoots one down with his handgun. He dodges missiles on the highway, then jumps the motorcycle into the air while holding an axe. He then proceeds to pilot the plane, anchored by the axe, as he sends his always helpful computer program into the cockpit to take over the plane. Honestly, I was so happy with the handful of panels in that action sequence the rest of the book could have been a 188 page instruction booklet on mumblety-peg and I still would have found it a satisfying reading experience.
Biomega Volume 3 by Tsutomu Nihei
The third volume doesn’t feature an action sequence as iconic as riding on a plane with an axe, but there’s plenty of action as the synthetic humans from Towa Heavy Industries confront the Data Research Foundation and their plans for transforming the earth. There’s a synthetic compound that dramatically reacts with the infected zombie/drones, giving the DF foundation a chance to remake the earth and ensure their own immortality. There’s mecha fights, fleshy monsters, motorcycles with handy claw tools, and Zoichi finally manages to get to Eon Green.
Part of the reason why I like this manga so much is that it is the only seinen science fiction title I’m actively collecting. So it functions as a nice palate cleanser when I’ve read too much shoujo. I can certainly see why some people might find not very compelling due to the somewhat erratic nature of Nihei’s storytelling. Biomega sometimes seems like a pastiche of many similar manga and anime. I find though that the artwork in Biomega compensates for the storytelling. Nihei’s character designs are sometimes really unsettling, as many of the characters are hidden behind creepy-looking masks to prevent infection. The synthetic humans are the perfect action heroes, the sometimes display some unsettling powers as their bodies react to injuries or extrude biomechanical parts to make climbing up giant mecha that much easier. For all the non-stop action in Biomega, the most memorable images I found in the third volume were a few panels of Zoichi’s dream after he’s been poisoned. He’s standing in an alien landscape in outer space, looking out at the stars when a man with his skull half caved in comments that there are no humans left. Nihei is great at juxtaposing moments of stillness with his inventive action sequences, and that’s why I’m going to be looking for the next few volumes in this series.