Tsutomu Nihei is one of the visionaries within the sci-fi manga genre. BLAME!, his first major work, went on to inspire prequels, an OVA, and a Netflix Original CG movie. With its success, Nihei has gone on to create other sci-fi stories, notably Knights of Sidonia and his most recent manga: APOSIMZ.
BLAME! Is a story that conveys itself through minimal dialogue. Pushing the medium towards its visual side, Nihei has created a set of vast proportions, a landscape of buildings reaching farther than the eye can see. This labyrinth of steel highlights stylistic components of his work. Readers are dropped into an alien, dangerous, and unfamiliar setting--their knowledge of the what’s going on is kept minimal, invoking a sense of wonder and a feeling of being lost.
By intention, the narrative is driven by the setting, and the minimal text requires readers to experience this work, piecing things together by themselves. The setting contributes to the manga’s sense of time. By design, the passage of time is difficult to determine, adding to the mystery and appeal of this futuristic apocalypse.
If the setting is not to your interest, Nihei’s characters have appealing designs. From the many depictions of the safeguard, the Silicon Creatures (cyborgs), or the heroes themselves, the vying factions are defined with characters that fill the BLAME! world.
BLAME! is a stylistic work, and the following recommendations will not entirely be in the same genre. Instead, the focus will be to focus on parts that make up the whole. If you enjoyed certain aspects of BLAME! like its focus on minimal dialogue, intriguing characters designs, amazing setting-driven story, or its fast-paced action, these recommendations are for you.
Similar Manga to BLAME!
- Authors: Nihei, Tsutomu
- Genres: Action, Horror, Sci-fi, Seinen
- Volumes: 6
- Published: Jun. 2004 - Jul. 2009
Biomega takes place in the future where mankind has attempted to colonize Mars. It soon fails, however, and the expedition unleashes a virus that’s carried back to Earth. Now, the majority of humans have been turned into drones, zombie-like beings that attack the living. Zouichi Kanoe, an employee at Toha Heavy Industries (a reference to BLAME!), and his AI partner must search for a possible solution to the N5S infection: Ion Green, the only person to have adapted to the virus.
At the top of the list, Biomega is another work made by Tsutomu Nihei. A lot of similarities are apparent--similar art style, an emphasis on vast architecture, and a focus on action scenes. Even character similarities are there with both BLAME! And Biomega having gun-wielding protagonists who speak better by pulling a trigger. While this work focuses more on horror, a lot of the sci-fi elements remain, making it an easy recommendation for BLAME! fans.
- Authors: Hayashida, Q
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Fantasy, Horror, Seinen
- Volumes: Ongoing
- Published: Dec. 2000 - Ongoing
Hayashida is the former assistant of Nihei, and her most known work is Dorohedoro. In this story, the protagonist is Kaiman, a man with a lizard head. Seeking revenge for the magic user who transformed him, he hunts after a fuzzy memory in a desperate attempt to find a cure. Together with his friend, Nikaidou, they hunt after dangerous magic users.
Dorohedoro is an interesting contrast from Tsutomu Nihei’s works. Choosing to focus more on a pencil sketch style rather than Nihei’s strong ink tones, the illustrations blossom through Hayashida’s unique take on fantasy. The immersive setting of the “Hole,” a lawless city where citizens are victims of magic users, helps illustrate a common thread between BLAME! And Dorohedoro: autonomous characters with their own specific goals. Lively and hilarious, both antagonists and protagonists weave an interesting fabric of grisly action and comedy. If you enjoyed BLAME! for its action, impressive background design, or character variety, Dorohedoro is worth a read.
- Authors: Oku, Hiroya
- Genres: Action, Drama, Sci-fi, Horror, Psychological, Seinen, Ecchi
- Volumes: 37
- Published: Jul. 2000 - Jun. 2013
Gantz is about a mysterious black sphere that gathers people after death. Using foreign, futuristic technology, these people are now forced to fight against aliens and monsters in a deathmatch with no foreseeable end. Instead of an afterlife awaiting the characters or a god, difficult trials face the characters, making characters question their own worth or existence.
Gantz is another big title amongst sci-fi manga. Gantz, similarly to BLAME!, takes some of its appeal from its mystery. The story starts off without any explanation about why Gantz, the black ball, summons the dead. Focusing less on plot and more on characters, the amount of missions characters go through leave many dying--this time permanently. Gorey action sequences permeate the series with a rich variety of new protagonists and villains. Those who found BLAME!’s action, character variety, or sci-fi technology interesting might want to invest in another sci-fi hit.
Any Manga Like BLAME!?
- Authors: Tanaka, Masashi
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Seinen
- Volumes: 7
- Published: 1992 - 2002
Gon’s story is simple and episodic. Each chapter, Gon, a tiny dinosaur, encounters different animals in the wilderness, and he either befriends them or competes against them. Survival of the fittest is law of the jungle, but even so, the mightiest animals are flustered by the whimsical, arrogant tiny Gon. Gon becomes notorious through his ridiculous interactions with the animal kingdom in this strikingly simple but well-executed story.
Taking manga to its visual extreme, Masashi Tanaka has constructed a story built purely through images. Throughout the entire series, not a single word is spoken. Instead, carrying Tanaka’s belief, the images are their own form of communication. Each panel is rich with environmental detail. Animals also have rich expressions, surprising readers on how far the manga can communicate purely through visuals. While this choice is a peculiar one if you were fascinated by how BLAME! conveyed its story through its environment and limited text, Gon is a stunning example when manga focuses heavily on its visual elements.
5. Gunnm (Battle Angel Alita)
- Authors: Kishiro, Yukito
- Genres: Action, Sci-fi, Seinen
- Volumes: 9
- Published: Nov. 1990 - Mar. 1995
Beneath the floating city of Tiphares rests the scraps of civilization. Aptly named, the Scrapyard, both humans and cyborgs live in this city. One day, a bounty hunter and former doctor finds the remainders of a cyborg. Taking an interest in it, he rebuilds it and raises it back from the dead. Henceforth, the mysterious Alita is reborn.
Battle Angel Alita is the second sci-fi classic to make the list. It’s a story about finding identity despite limitations. The Scrapyard where metal parts (and people) are left behind is contrasted with the floating city, Tiphares, an overwatching sitting where the social and economic differences are as far as the distance.
One of the major hallmarks of the story is the distinct segments in the story. These sections help give better insight into character backstories or develop Alita’s identity in new ways, pushing the story in a new direction while maintaining its tone. Similarities to BLAME! are the illustrious and immersive settings, the talented execution of the action, and the array of interesting characters. If you’re interested in sci-fi, there’s a lot of reason to check out this classic!
6. No Guns Life
- Authors: Karasuma, Tasuku
- Genres: Action, Sci-fi, Seinen
- Volumes: Ongoing
- Published: Sep. 2014 - Ongoing
Taking place after a war, people have begun to modify their bodies. These people are called Extends, living human weapons. Inui Juuzou is one such Extend, but unlike the others, he cannot recall his life before his body transformed. Juuzou works as a detective, taking on cases that slowly move him further to understanding his identity.
No Guns Life is an interesting mix of sci-fi and noir. Its art style is gorgeous, and borrowing from noir ideas, the mystery of Juuzou’s past creates an interesting paradox. It helps keep him unknown and drives the plot forward, but it roots him in familiar conventions, harking back to film noir.
BLAME! And No Guns Life both have intriguing settings, especially if you’re curious about a cyber-noir setting. The action is also a highlight within the manga--a pretty obvious focus, especially when the main character’s head is a literal gun. Lastly, the plot is something that takes the second stage to the previous two, allowing for the unique characters and setting to drive reader interest. No Guns Life is a good example of how settings can both influence story and bring out appealing characters.
Sci-fi is a genre that I’ve only recently started to explore. Usually, my interest in it is thematic--the revelations of humanity and how it persists even in the future. However, BLAME! had me fascinated by two new ideas: settings driving the narrative, the imaginative settings in sci-fi being a large appeal, and panel analysis. Reading through unfamiliar stories has made me greatly appreciate the genre and Tsutomu Nihei’s works. I hope this list will also get you into the genre and exploring the deep space within sci-fi’s imaginative settings.