Most creators would dread the day that someone would come in and reboot their masterpiece for a new audience, but not noted cyberpunk-influenced manga artist Tsutomu Nihei.
In fact, when the chance came to create a movie based on his manga hit, Blame!, Nihei-san decided that he wanted the opportunity to reboot the whole premise of the series, and recommended the only person in the world who could achieve those high standards – himself.
But as talented as Nihei-san is, he also realised that could not forge this dream alone. So he went and approached the two men that he trusted – the talented Tadahiro Yoshihira and Hiroyuki Seshita. Seshita-san had previously brought another of Nihei-san’s work to life, with Knights of Sidonia.
Throughout the production of Blame! (read our review), the directors highlighted, with great emphasis, that Nihei-san spent much time fostering a collaborative culture, in ensuring that his 19 year-old 10 volume manga broke new ground at their hands. In a phone interview with Geek Culture, Seishita-san pointed out that instead of a top down approach, working with the original creator was very much like working with a peer throughout the production process.
“Myself included, we are all huge fans of Nihei’s work, we took it very positively and wanted to further enhance what we started in Knights of Sidonia. The work that Nihei creates is meticulous and has a detailed aesthetic. We had even more fun creating the world, even more so compared to Knights of Sidonia,” explained Seshita-san with a chuckle as he passed on the intricate technical aspects of production to Yoshihira-san.
“Everyone knew what they needed to do with little explanation. So we were confident that we were able to put together such high quality visuals that usually one couldn’t do in a TV series,” noted Yoshihira-san.
Continuing the vision
As most of the team who worked on Blame! started off with Knights of Sidonia, this meant that the experienced staff were able to push storytelling boundaries further, as the standards for visual storytelling were already established.
For the directors, this was particularly critical considering that most of the work was focused in the visual creation of Megastructure and the world that revolves around it. The directors pointed out that that the pipes of the Megastructure was one of the more visually challenging aspects of the show to animate.
To an average person, a pipe might come across as utilitarian, and serve no further purpose apart from its mechanical function. On a metaphorical level in Blame!, these pipes are visual representations of blood vessels, or the nerve network one finds in the human body.
The ‘human body’ here is actually the Megastructure. At the centre of it all is where we find our our hero of the story, Killy, in search of a human who possesses the Net Terminal Gene, to restore man as the rightful masters of this futuristic world. To extend the metaphor even further, Killy can be seen as the cure who’s fighting hard to fend off the Safeguards, who can be viewed as the virus plaguing the Megastructure.
Right place at the right time
Eagle eyed fans of Blame! would have remembered or noticed that within Knights of Sidonia Season 2 Episode 8, there was a small reference made towards Blame! via a teaser. Within that teaser, Takahiro Sakurai, who was then voicing Norio Kunato in Knights of Sidonia, also voiced Killy.
And it was that short performance that won Sakurai-san the actual role of Killy in this movie.
Sakurai-san possessed an ability to channel a wide range of emotions and a uniquely low voice, which Seshita-san felt was a perfect fit for this role. Thus an offer was made during the production of Knights of Sidonia, and the rest is history.
As if he had read our review, Yoshihira-san admitted, with slight embassement, that while Sakurai-san plays the lead character in Blame!, there wasn’t many spoken lines that he utters in the movie.
Something for everyone
As noted in the review, the new movie is not simply a rehash of the manga, or an update of the earlier short webisodes. Instead, the movie fleshes out existing characters, incorporates new design elements, and focuses on an extended narrative, but only covers the early bits of the manga.
So are there plans for a sequel? The duo didn’t say, but as they approach the release date of the anime, the directors found themselves pretty relaxed and confident about their work.
Once again, having cited the collaborative culture between them and the creator, both directors agreed that the anime would be an accurate depiction of what they set out to achieve without regrets.
“We’ve feeling really happy the anime is coming out, there isn’t much regret in terms of ‘we should have done that’ or ‘we should have done this’. For us, the movie has a great balance and we’re excited that people will be able to finally see this piece,” Seshita-san uttered in a way that made it seem as if a great weight was lifted off his shoulders.
Both directors also expressed interest at how both hardcore fans of the original work would react to the show and also how new entrants to the world would embrace it.
“There was always a huge following from the manga all over the world. With the topic of singularity coming up, we see it as the world now was caught up with what Mr Nihei depicted all those years ago,” explained Seshita-san. He added, “While the style of the manga has became a classic, but the theme itself has remained relevant more than ever and would resonate with present day viewers.”
Considering that this has been twenty years in the making, we hope that Blame! would be able to reach greater heights with this depiction.
BLAME! is a Netflix Original slated for release on May 20th.