Tsutomu Nihei’s Abara – Moody, violent and atmospheric science fiction

In a dilapidated dystopian hell hole, gruesome mutants stalk the shadows of a hulking city, jumping from building to building, murdering and feeding on humans by the dozen. Amidst the hopeless terror of life in Abara, one man dares to avenge the weak.

Abara is one of Tsutomu Nihei’s newest stories; famed for his downcast, vast science fiction series Blame!, Nihei is a manga-ka with exceptional drawing talent. Although his gothic style won’t be for everyone, I don’t think I’ve ever read a manga series that even comes close to replicating his eye for vast, sky scrapping architecture and nightmarish science fiction. Nihei’s work isn’t particularly notable for its empathic characters or moving drama, but he clearly and enthusiastically expresses himself though the endless, gigantic artificial landscapes, in which his characters live, breathe and murder. The reader is soon immersed and gasping for breath in a claustrophobic world over flowing with terrifying monsters and endless levels of metallic, soulless rooms.

Of the three chapters I’ve read so far, Abara is shaping up nicely but perhaps retredding old ground for Nihei. Humans and technology have again collided in Abara, and again this gives rise to some gruesome, blood-thirsty villains. Between your cliche warring government factions (police versus the “special ops”) and uncensored human slaughter, the hero of Abara is a silent assassin, uttering no more than a few grunts before violently driving his ugly adversaries through high buildings and rooftops.

The artwork is, as you would expect from Nihei, the real selling point. Abara is not set in a sky less complex like Blame!, but its world is just as dirty, sprawling and artificial. The character designs are all unique and often capture a gruesome blend of twisted flesh and dark, bone-crunching technology.

The first three chapters of Abara are moody, violent and atmospheric, leaving little room for those weak of heart.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

14 thoughts on “Tsutomu Nihei’s Abara – Moody, violent and atmospheric science fiction”

  1. This manga is one that Nihei actually wants to work on, right? If it turns out to be another Biomega, I’m going to have to start labeling Nihei a one-work wonder.

  2. I think so Michael, though with the way his art always seems reminiscent of Blame!, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got bored with Abara eventually too.

    Either way, I’ll keep my eyes on this…

  3. As you would expect from the art of an architect, (so I heard, the manga-ka is one by profession, or at least he was)

  4. Don’t really have much info abt his biog but i know he studied architecture at some point. I love his art, nothing more to add ^^

  5. I don’t think that Nihei will lose interest in this one. There’s the occasional comedic point of light comedy like the detective hitting his head on the door frame, and the story focuses on genetics and biomechanics rather than pure technology unlike in BLAME! (though in BLAME!, I guess the special safeguards are an exception).

    Finally, what did michael mean by a one work wonder? Tsutomu Nihei has also done things like: Noise, Digimortal and Netsphere Engineer which is said to be the sequel of BLAME!

    P.S. I have not finished reading BLAME! – no spoilers please

  6. And if any of you know why Tsutomu Nihei stopped working on Biomega (apart from boredom) could you tell me?

    I thought it was going really well until the second installment.

    For one thing, Zouichi looked 26 in the first part and now looks about 18… (?)

    And the art style is only about half as gothic and adrenaline pulsing as the original which was one of the things that made it hard for me to read the second part.

    *Spoiler warning*

    It was also a shame that those four HQ cyborgs died without the readers finding out their names.

  7. I’m trying remember if I’ve actually read "Netsphere Engineer" or not. The problem with Nihei is that he isn’t especially consistent so we’re often waiting months or even years to see perhaps a few chapters or one volume. BLAME! seems to be the only series that he’s actually consistently produced and released. With his level of skill though, I suppose it must sometimes take days to finish even one panel.

    The thing I love about BLAME! is the obsessive attention to architecture and intense feeling of grandiosity combined with claustrophobia. I love that it’s set in a "mega structure" that keeps growing, the idea fascinates my imagination. His work outside of the Blame universe is kind of hard to judge because it doesn’t immediately grab me in the same way. I’ve read some of Biomega and it seemed alright, but you just can’t beat BLAME!’s unique style.

  8. @A BLAME! Fan: At this point Tsutomu Nihei is definitely a one-work-wonder. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve adored Blame! since I clapped eyes on it, but since then he has done little to inspire much interest.

    The majority of his work is either short and baffling one shots like "Zeb-Noid" or failed attempts at longer stories like "Biomega". I remember reading on a forum that he was unwillingly forced to work on Biomega by some manga publisher looking to replicate the success of Blame! but Nihei’s heart was never in it.

    Abara looks promising, though I just read on Wikipedia that its already finished with just two volumes. I have to say his best work outside of "Blame!" is "NOiSE" (which just so happens to be a prequel of Blame!). I don’t mind about any of this though because Blame! is an amazing work of art. If that all Tsutomu Nihei can do, then that’s fine with me.

  9. That’s a very good point, bateszi. I think that BLAME! is a masterpiece. It’s far better for a manga artist to produce at least one thing like this than many mediocre works (the latter scenario I have seen many many times).

    But this still leaves my question about Biomega unanswered.

    I haven’t read NOiSE but do you really think that the first 10 chapters of Biomega do not even compare to it and BLAME! ?

  10. A part of my before post will probably make sense because I had not fully read the post from bateszi so my Biomega question actually had been answered.

    So, neither Netsphere Engineer could compare with BLAME! ?

  11. Can some 0ne clue me in how niheis gets his images? Does he just paint? or is there a computer program involved.. I’m just an artist who is wondering.. I just found he uses paint “gouache”.

    1. For the manga itself, I assume he uses ink washes and screentone. As for his colour images, a combination of gauche and ink seems like a reasonable assumption. Can’t tell you for sure, though :)

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