If you’re looking for a zombie story that’s much less straightforward and much more not about the actual zombies, then look no further than Tsutomu Nihei’s Biomega.
As we continue to dive deeper through Nihei’s catalogue of manga, we begin to see how his style has developed and changed since BLAME!, his first series. The art is the biggest element. Nihei’s character designs are now much more detailed and it’s easier to tell the difference between characters. This aspect first became apparent in his previous series, ABARA.
The other big aspect of his style that has developed is his story telling. Part of BLAME!’s brilliance and everlasting appeal is the obtuseness of its storytelling. There is very little dialogue and almost nothing in the way of exposition, so you never get a grasp of the world.
This may be seen as a negative to some readers, but for me, it keeps the mystery alive and encourages multiple reads of the series as I try to gain more clues and catch more things that maybe I had missed during previous reads.
In Biomega, the story is still rather hard to grasp, but there is way more talking and way more exposition that explains the world and the players involved, even if it doesn’t exactly elucidate the details of what is going on.
Basically, the story goes something like this: a deadly strain of virus has been unleashed on the world that is turning everyone into
zombies drones. However, there are some people who possess certain genes that are immune to the virus.
Main character Zoichi Kanoe and his AI partner Fuyu Kanoe (no relation, maybe) have orders to track down people who are resistant to the virus. Their orders run counter to a shadowy organization that wishes to turn the entire population into these shambling zomb… err, drones.
This, however, is only the first half of the story. Things take a pretty strange turn along the way that I won’t spoil.
Needless to say, the emphasis in Biomega is on action. While Nihei’s other works have also had a healthy dose of action to them–BLAME! had a lot of atmosphere punctuated by violence, NOiSE was much the same, ABARA featured a lot of grotesque scenes–Biomega plays it more straight up. There’s a scene where Zoichi destroys buildings while carrying his motorcycle on his back for goodness sake!
Of course, Nihei’s obsession with architecture is still on full display. The story takes place mostly in a large megalopolis, so there are plenty of dilapidated buildings and byzantine structures.
One other trope that gets introduced here is having a bear as one of the side characters of the story (More on this weird little detail when we get to Knights of Sidonia). So we know two things for certain about Nihei: he likes complex cityscapes and he likes bears. Seems perfectly reasonable.
Biomega is a fast-paced, action-packed read. If you’re not exactly a fan of the more obtuse storytelling on display in Nihei’s previous works, give this one a spin. It may not make any more sense, but it definitely has a more conventional structure. The artwork and action scenes are also something to behold.
The entire series makes up six volumes and they are available in both print and digital versions, so it’s easy to get your hands on and start reading. This is easily his second best series next to BLAME!