May 21, 2017

Blame! (Hiroyuki Seshita, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
Following a highly experimental web-series from 2003 and a two-part CGI OVA from 2007 (which goes even further in obscuring or rather, ignoring the story) is yet another adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei's debut manga. Recently released as a part of 'Netflix originals', Blame! is a nice treat for cyberpunk aficionados and, despite its flaws, a slightly better film than Sanders's gorgeous, yet kitschy (and uncalled-for) rendering of Ghost in the Shell.
Set in the dark, distant, technologically advanced future, it sucks the viewer into the world not unlike the one dominated by Skynet of The Terminator franchise. Years after an 'infection', the humans are on the brink of extinction, since they lost control over automated systems of their own creation. The non-violent 'Builders' expand their city in all directions, turning it into a multi-level labyrinth of colossal structures, whereby the 'Safeguard' system with its hordes of 'Exterminators' makes sure the remaining children of men live in constant alert and fear.

During a food-scavenging mission, a group of youngsters from the small enclave of 'Electro-Fishers' comes upon a silent, enigmatic 'vagabond', Killy, who searches for the 'Net Terminal Genes' which are believed to be the key to reclaiming order by subjecting machines once again. He helps them find a resourceful engineer, Cibo, whose mind now resides inside an android, and not to mention that he possesses a weapon known as 'Gravitational Beam Emitter' which is much more effective than the harpoon-firing guns they use...

Blending dystopian sci-fi, adrenaline-charged action, existential drama and puzzling mystery, Seshita spins a familiar tale of day-to-day survival in which there's no time to reflect on electric sheep, since the 'silicon organisms' prefer killing to dreaming. Also noticeable is the influence of the Western, especially in defining the hero as the cool, brooding, silence-is-golden type who wanders into a small town (or village, as in this case) on his quest for special someone or something and reforms the community he comes in contact with.

Minor pacing issues and underdeveloped characters aside, this peculiar mélange works for the most part, steering our sympathies toward the irresistible archetype that Killy is, as well as toward Cibo who bridges the gap between organic and synthetic organisms with the ability to adjust her 'ghost' to any kind of 'shell'. Another protagonist who attains eternity, albeit in a different way, is the 'tsundere' of the show, Zuru, whose granddaughter serves as the narrator of the modern 'legend' of sorts which emerges before our eyes.
Speaking of eyes, Seshita and his team provide plenty of great visuals on an obviously tight budget, applying Nihei's architectural approach to design the imposing setting. Shrouded in deep shadows or enlivened by various sources of light, from the tiniest lamps to flames of destruction, endless constructions of steel and concrete have a gothic, industrial, claustrophobic feel to them that is in perfect tune with pale faces and slender bodies. The bizarre, spider-like Exterminators add a little bit of creepiness to the proceedings, whereas Cibo's dive into the 'Netsphere' allows for some surreal moments. Complementing the solid artwork are the superb voice-acting and Yuugo Kanno's lush orchestral score.

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