Abara means rib in Japanese. It is drawn from the fact that the characters with special powers, Gaunas, can shape bone like armour and weaponry through altering their physical structure at will, creating layers and shapes to a partially chitinous exoskeleton like so.
It is never explained how but that’s just how Tsutomu Nihei rolls. Like the first volume of Biomega, he doesn’t go to great lengths to tell you what happens, who everybody is and what they do. All we know is that war has ravaged earth and left one population centre which is about to come under an apocalyptic assault from biomorphous creatures known as White Gaunas and the government of the city is at odds with a techno-religious group known as Kegen hall who use Black Gaunas to battle these creatures. That’s it.
Any message, much like in Ridley Scott’s work, is in the visual aesthetic.
The world is rotten. People do not so much as live in urban sprawl, rather they rot in urban choke. The city of the story is a post-modern gothic dystopian nightmare of cramped spaces and cyclopean structures veined with sinuous wire and punctured by vents bleeding waste.
People work in hellish factories and live in hovels just off streets that are crumbling, surrounded by alleys that stretch into darkness and walkways spiral off into what? Nothing.
Outside the land is vast and barren and man is truly insignificant. The world is an empty landscape of odd shapes that resemble something biomechanical.
At least public transport still works.
Such art is compelling because it is detailed and the details relate a world that is slightly alien but still familiar. It revolts and attracts us. We know that filth and can see present-day humanity drifting towards it. Alien and Blade Runner’s aesthetics chime a similar note. Such details give something that is missing from so many other comics, character. Tsutomu Nihei lets his art do the talking and drive the story.
His characters and creatures are equally resplendent in their otherness and weirdness and sheer horror.
Our hero, Kudou Denji much like Zoichi in Biomega is pretty much an unstoppable superman with the fate of the human race resting on his shoulders. He is a Black Gauna who can leap over tall buildings, run at super speeds and punch through brick walls like they were cardboard. He is awesome.
Tsutomu Nihei’s art captures his strength and speed with clever placement of frames and his heavy details.
Just look at the way speed is indicated by the smoke and twisting bodies.
The towering monster is truly terrifying when one considers its size next to that bridge. Let us not forget the fact that Kudou is skidding on the side of a wall!
It’s detailed and weird. The characters are brutal, violent, inhuman but also beautiful.
If nothing else, Gaunas look so damn awesome!
But Kudou is burned out and angry. Just because he’s the hero is no guarantee he will be effective in the role. Nothing says he’ll be able to outrun the coming apocalypse. What of those who surround him? The chief of police? An ex-lover? An old woman settling down to eat soup? Heroes, villains and civilians alike are at the mercy of wider events and safety is not guaranteed as they all get sucked in.
Fans of Tsutomu Nihei will know that onomatopoeia. It signals a sticky and gooey and very ugly human transformation and body horror into the monstrous. That usually forms a part of Nihei’s apocalyptic tales. The third volume of Biomega is one huge apocalypse with a messy end. But humanity has always had moments of monstrousness as this story’s art shows. Characters warp their physical bodies willingly much like the metal fetishist in Tetsuo, their environments have affected them, the evil of humanity lead to this horrendous ending but, much like Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s film Pulse, as long as there is life at the end there is hope. Just don’t expect life to resemble anything you’re familiar with.
God, if you can’t make me pretty, please make me superhuman like a Gauna.
I Just Want to Start Over.