Tsutomu Nihei’s BLAME! was a mysterious far-future adventure that left a lot of questions unanswered. While not all (or even many) of these questions are answered in the prequel series, NOiSE, it’s still an intriguing read that is well worth diving into.
Taking place in the same large megastructure as the original series, NOiSE focuses on Susono Musubi, a police officer who is investigating a string of child kidnappings. At the beginning of the story, she and her partner, Klowser, stumble on the occult headquarters where the children are being experimented on. During their investigation, Klowser is knocked out and carried away by one of the cult members.
This event ends up leading Musubi into a deeper conspiracy that involves some very shady and high level organizations in the city and the eventual creation of the strange creatures known as Silicon Life. These were one of the main antagonists in the original series.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the series actually comes toward the very end of the story when we learn about the radical expansion of the megastructure. In BLAME! there are only a few hints as to the actual size of the city–elevator shafts that take thousands of hours to descend, rooms that span roughly the same size as Jupiter–but in NOiSE we learn that the structure began on Earth and consumed the moon.
It’s also mentioned in almost the same breath that the integration of the moon into the structure happened over three thousand years ago.
This story doesn’t have a particularly happy ending, but it does set up the beginnings of BLAME! perfectly. In that regard, NOiSE is an excellent prequel series. If you aren’t a fan of abstract storytelling though, you’re still not going to find it all that interesting. It goes without saying, but NOiSE is much better enjoyed if you’ve already read BLAME!
Thanks to this volume being produced after the end of BLAME!, the art is much more consistent. The details in the characters and the architecture of the city are also given a lot more weight. There’s a thickness to the lines that make everything feel especially oppressive, which meshes well with the mood the story evokes.
Unfortunately, the original volume of NOiSE that was translated and released in English has long been out of print. However, it is still available digitally, so it’s relatively easy to get your hands on a translated copy.
This would be the last major work that Nihei produced for the BLAME! Universe (aside from a one-off sequel chapter and a comedy spinoff called BLAME! Academy). Even though he’s left this world behind, many of the concepts that originated here continue to endure in his later work. We’ll be taking a closer look at those in the coming weeks.