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Danielle Leigh’s Reading Diary — Biomega volume 1

Tsutomu Nihei’s Biomega is a bleak, nihilistic vision of the future that is also surprisingly entertaining.


In the first pages of the book, a man on a motorcycle enters a town populated by people who’ve been zombified by a disease simply known as “N5S,” which is currently ravaging the planet.  He’s looking for a young woman whose biology may be the key to modifying the disease and fighting off virtual human extinction .  The subsequent pages follow him as he battles not only zombies, but sentient bears as well (yes, you read that right) in his quest to recover the girl and to stop a shadowy organization’s conspiracy to spread the disease to every part of the earth.

Unlike a lot of science-fiction or fantasy manga, there is no sense that Nihei is spending much time world-building, so much as the brutal world that the protagonist encounters just exists.  The art is the real star of the book and it often feels as though we are perched right inside the main character’s brain, making it incredibly easy to follow the action.  David Welsh aptly compared the book to a first person shooter video game in his excellent review, noting “With its fast pace and progressively escalating stakes, Biomega actually does a better job capturing the experience of playing a video game than comics that are actually adaptations of existing franchises.”  Not being a fan of first person shooter games, I found the experience quite novel in comic book form.  It made the book easy to digest, but also a strangely light, airless reading experience in spite of the heavy subject matter (human body parts fly quite a bit in parts of the book).  While there is next to no character development, there is a strong sense of real space and time, as the strange motorcyclist proceeds to fight his way from one fantastically realized humanity-deprived environment to the next.

Oddly, I found reading the book enjoyable but am not entirely sure if I liked the comic.  Post-apocalyptic manga may be a well-worn genre but there is certainly enough weirdness here (once again, the talking bear, who is wielding a rifle, is incredibly memorable) to distinguish this title from other artists’ attempts to destroy the earth as we know it.  What may set Nihei’s vision apart is his ability to tear apart the fabric of human existence so stylishly.


Despite my general loathing of all things zombie related, I really enjoyed this. Not so much for the plot, which is pretty light, but the wonderful art. I could just stare at Nihei’s are all day long. Truly wonderful stuff. The plot isn’t bad though, just kind of basic, and I do like the bare bones approach Nihei seems to take, which I think is just there mostly for all of the crazy stuff Nihei wants to draw or do. I really enjoyed this.

Having seen the panel with the be-rifled bear, I think this might be the manga that gets me reading manga.

Danielle Leigh

March 15, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Eric — yeah, I’m totally not into zombies and yet this comic went over pretty well with me. And I think “bare bones approach” is perfect, exactly what I was trying to convey when I discussed the type of “world building” he does.

Bill — heh. Okay, I can’t wait to hear how this goes.

This is definitely near the top of my list of manga to check out. Well, comparatively near, considering how large my list of manga to check out is. :P

I’m with Bill, when I saw the bear with the rifle it was a must buy.

I’m about halfway through it, and I’m liking it so far.

Now that I think about, I think most of the world building, aside from the stuff needed to explain the plot, is done entirely through the art. It gives you a sense of the world Biomega takes place in but tells you absolutely nothing about that world. You get a feel for it but you don’t know any, or very few, details about that world.

I’ve been wanting to try out some mange for a while now, I’ve never really read any, and a lot of the stuff I’ve flipped through really didn’t look appealing. But when you say this manga is like a post-apocalyptic first person shooter with heavily armed bears, well, I think I’ve found my jumping in point.

Thanks for the link and the kind words, Danielle!

This sounds surprisingly interesting–I’m not sure why, but I feel like checking this out. Maybe it is the “bare-bones” world-building. A lot of times that can degenerate into didactism. World-building is often best when it’s subtle. I suppose the mangaka decided to err that direction, which is a nice change of pace. It’s probably a lot easier to name convoluted examples of world-building than simple ones!

A couple quick bookkeeping questions: Who publishes it? How many volumes is it? Is it completed? Thanks, Danielle!

This is a great review, and assures me even more that I’ll like it. :)

hi Dan — Viz Media Publishes (it is part of its Viz Signature line) and it has just started being released (Viz’s release schedule is very, very regular so you should see a new volume every three or four months) and it looks as though it has been completed in Japan at 6 volumes.

David — always a pleasure. I’m in awe of your ability to find thoughtful ways to describe the reading experience of manga / comcis.

Michelle — thanks, I really hope you do!

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