Friday, June 12, 2009
Blank Slate, vol. 1
The story: The first chapter tells the tale of a bounty hunter in search of a man named Zen, the series' anti-hero. Zen has no memory of his prior 20 years of existence, and death and destruction are left in his wake. After kidnapping the sheltered and blind daughter of a powerful general in the Galay army, Zen finds himself paired up with Dr. Hakka and in pursuit of the truth about Zen's past.
Reaction: Wow -- this manga is unlike any other shojo story I've ever read. While most shojo features magical girls, comedy or romance, Blank Slate has none of the above. This is Devil-may-care, destruction-sowing action, violence and thriller all wrapped into one. It's disjointed feel, especially at the beginning, is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.
Deep thoughts: Rian, the blind daughter of the Galayan general, seemed all-too-eager to escape her overly protective parents. Even though kidnapping would be a frightening experience for anyone, she seemed to quietly relish the opportunity to live a spontaneous moment or two. Rian's character also seems to play to the "disabled hottie" trope so often explored in other pop culture mediums. She's a fragile beauty, if you will, who only wants to live an independent life.
Artwork: Aya Kanno's artwork is fairly stylized and distinct. Her characters are all lifelike, while still maintaining an alluring beauty, especially Zen. Even the old fortune teller at the beginning of this volume is attractive in a very bohemian/gypsy way. I also found it interesting that Kanno is also the artist/author of the recently popular Otomen, which is more of a traditional shojo manga.
The verdict: Meh. Although this isn't your everyday shojo story, it reminds me of many other books I've read and films I've seen. It sets up a mysterious anti-hero whose past is a secret even to him. The only problem is, we're never given a reason to be interested in Zen's plight. The reader knows early on that Zen only cares for his basest instincts -- killing and destruction. When he's given moments to show his humanity, he never takes the opportunity for character growth. Blank Slate is available in the U.S. from Viz.