Direction: Right to Left
by: Tsutomu Nihei
Publisher: Viz Signature
Genre: Seinen, Horror
Zoichi Kanoe plunges into the depths of 9JO–an island city in the middle of the Pacific Ocean–in search of Eon Green, a girl with the power to transmute the N5S virus. He’s not the only one looking for her, though… Agents of the Public Health Service’s Compulsory Execution Unit are also in hot pursuit. Zoichi and his transhuman allies have no time to waste; the countdown to the zombie apocalypse has begun!
I found this in my local comic shop, and after reading the synopsis on volume one; and giving it a quick flick through I decided to take a gamble.
Admittedly this is not my usual type of manga, while I like the genre, I do find them a bit to repetitive and uninteresting. However Biomega actually appealed to me with it’s story synopsis. The art I saw when I flicked through also had something that appealed to me.So off I trot but didn’t make it home, instead I went to Starbucks, but a venti hot chocolate and sat reading the first volume.
I got hints of issues in the first volume, however it also showed a lot of potential. The story isn’t really played out in the first volume, just hints and snippets. Though over the course of the volume we do garner enough to get a feel for what is to come.
After reading the first volume I decided to take a risk and ordered the remaining five volumes, which I have to say I do now regret a great deal. The problem lies in two areas, the way story is handled, and the way the art is done, so lets look at the two areas.
The story has a lot of potential, however it’s not given time to really unfold. Rather there’s pages and pages of nothing, just art. I’m all for letting art drive the story, but Nihei took it to extremes.
The other problem with the story is the way it’s written. By the end of the series I was still as clueless as to what was going on as when I started, if not more so. The story starts off as one guy’s journey to recover a girl, namely Eon Green. The first volume does a good job of establishing that, and setting what should have been the story for the series. However it kept changing focus as the volumes progressed.
One of the worst points came towards the end when the entire story seems to change completely. We get a huge time slip of some two-thousand years with no explanation, we’re just told. I can understand this to a certain extent, after all for the characters it was supposed to have been instantaneous. However the reader’s should have been given some sort of explanation. The story gets interesting once again, then suddenly stops and jumps forward another couple of hundred years, with no explanation again.
There are also elements that frankly made no sense at all, and really felt more like filler chapters more that actual story pages. However these filler chapters only vaguely attached to the story. In fact the only thing I found was the setting, beyond that they were unrelated.
The art is just as haphazard as the story sadly. Most manga, while being black and white, use different grey scales and hatching to show shadows, light and darkness. So while being black and white they convey a sense of light and colours. Nihei seems to have gone for a far extreme. He uses purely black and white throughout the series.
I found this hard on the eyes, in that at times we get art that resembles nothing more than black blots on the pages. One of the side effects of this is a fatal flaw in this genre, it’s not scary. This is a horror story, so it should scare the reader, make them jump, or scared to read it in the dark. Much like horror movies in the past have done, and other horror manga do. This title sadly doesn’t have that, though it did have a couple of bits that made me want to puke.
The other side effect of this is that the two tone art fails to drive the story because at times it’s impossible to understand what’s happening. However when he uses colour it’s a different story all together and what we get is an amazing set of art. Though I have to admit that even if the series was done all in art it still would have suffered badly.
Viz released this series under their Signature line up, so it’s not usual manga size. Rather it’s the over sized manhwa size, and it works really well. The other aspect I like was the cover design, it worked really well and did look rather nice, and fitting for the volumes. I was also rather happy to see they left the colour pages intact rather than bleaching them. Overall I was rather impressed with the way they handled the series, though I regret the series wasn’t able to live upto Viz’s handling of it. Like a lot of the other Signature line this series carries a “M” for Mature rating, and it does warrant it.
This series was badly received in the UK and is on the Libraries “do not buy list” for many libraries. Officially this has been stated as being to expensive a series to buy in a time when library budgets are being cut. However unofficially it’s been stated that it’s banned due to it’s content which does include (apparently) rape, and necrophilia. Sadly the way the art is is what caused the issues surrounding the series. Waterstones, one of the UK’s largest book chains refuse to carry certain volumes of the series and will only order them on request. Again this is due to the perceived rape and necrophilia in the series. Granted, it’s literally three panels in two volumes where this is, however libraries and book stores have apparently decided to avoid the problems that comes from carry such titles, such as what happened with Berserk.