Blame is an interesting case in the anime world. While the original source – the manga is both known and respected as a cult classic by many, it has been seemingly plagued with a handful of weird anime adaptations that don’t even try to be faithful to the manga, including the recent ‘Netflix original’ film of the same name. Because of this, the entire franchise is basically a fucking mess, and has been a complete disaster when attempted to be adapted to anime so far, with not one single adaptation being able to replicate the visual spectacle and atmosphere that made the manga so famous. But this ONA version stands out from the rest, because when it comes to Blame’s anime adaptations, this one has to be the worst one by far, and quite possibly the worst anime adaptation of a manga I have ever witnessed. You don’t believe me? Read on and find out just what kind of horseshit you’re in for.
Blame, the ONA version was made in 2003 by Group TAC, a studio known for their consistent low-budget animation style. While they have made some quality shows like Touch and Texhnolyze, they are also responsible for horrendous shows with the likes of Baki the Grappler and Gilgamesh, and this ONA fits right along with the latter. When you hear that a show is comprised of only 6 episodes, each running for approximately 6 minutes, red flags probably go off in your head. With only 36 minutes to work with overall, you can only do so much. But in the case of Blame, it’s as if they did not even try to put anything of substance into this ONA. For a franchise that prides itself off on being so “atmospheric” with its setting, it falls into the worst case possible for an “atmospheric” show: awful pacing, muddled tension and coming off as unintelligible and dull.
The story of Blame is set far into this dense dystopian future, where humanity has created machines to take over maintenance of overall cities, only for these machines to defy humanity’s desire and take over these cities whilst also exterminating any human they come by. The result is a seemingly never-ending cyberpunk wasteland where humans have resorted back to living tribal lives, searching for any remaining resources in order to survive. The reason why I am telling you this here is because when watching the actual show, it is impossible to come away with any understanding of the plot, and that is because in this show, there is no plot. Any sense of a storyline here is non-existent and trying to find one is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The first episode has no dialogue whatsoever and only shows still shots and error screens for the entire runtime. The only thing that means anything in the entire episode are the error screens – completely unintended – because they indicate just how fundamentally broken this show is! I don’t even know if those error screens were meant to come up or if there was a legitimate problem on the production side. Regardless, the first episode does nothing to engage viewers into what exactly this show is about, and neither does the rest of the episode. Anyone who thinks that this show is all about symbolism with its unique choice of shots, I dare you to try and explain it, as I could only imagine that explaining it would be just as hard as explaining why this show even exists. If you are looking for anything “deep” in this show, the most you will find is a metaphorical middle finger aimed right at you, and I don’t think that needs any explanation to understand. The show is shit right from the start and moves on at a snail’s pace, whilst throwing all sorts of random events at the viewer like it’s fucking Oprah Winfrey giving out free stuff on her show. Except in this case, all you get is shit!
A non-existent plot does not always imply non-existent character development, but Blame is the kind of terrible treat that gives us both these empty qualities. In the lifeless world and show that is the Blame ONA, there are… protagonists. I refrain from using the word ‘characters’ as these protagonists are about as artificial and empty as the overall show is. Hell, even calling them caricatures is too much praise. The show follows two protagonists, Killy and Cibo, and the most distinct feature about each of them is their hair colour. As for who they are, their backgrounds, their lifestyle, their goals, why they are here and why they fight, all of this is unanswered throughout the show. So while the show technically has characters, there is nothing to really say about them as they have no depth to them at all. Also, their chemistry in this version is absent, it’s as if either one of them could die and the other protagonist wouldn’t bat an eye to it. They care about each other about as much as the staff cared about quality in this entire show.
Without a proper sense of a story or characters, this show ends up looking more like an animated artbook than anything with an actual plot, and it even fails when it comes to this. Blame is almost completely devoid of animation; most shots being still pictures arranged in a poor attempt to simulate movement that only further hinders any enjoyment one could get from watching this. The landscapes, while interesting at first glance, ultimately serve no purpose and adds to the bleakness viewers have when watching the show. The cinematography here is also laughable, with the oddest use of panoramic shots, motion blur and camera angles I have ever seen in an anime. The show goes so far as to put a 360-camera rotation for no reason whatsoever, causing me to believe that the staff do not know what they are even doing nor why. The staff also seem to be unable to used colour correctly. Numerous times in fight scenes, the backgrounds change colour in what I assume is an attempt at censorship, but it looks so god-awful that it takes away from any action or excitement these scenes had in the first place. The show will also go so far as to hit viewers with a barrage of bright lights flashing on the screen to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if they caused epileptic fits to viewers. If a toddler was splattering paint all over the screen, it would probably be more visually appealing than what we got from Blame.
Regarding sound, this show should have had no sound at all. If it would have been just silent, then maybe it could have been appreciated better as a purely visual piece of storytelling. But alas, that is not the case, as most of the sound that you’re going to get from this are muffles that are hard to interpret and music that, while somewhat futuristic and fitting the setting of Blame, is just downright terrible. The voice acting is just ridiculous, having the voices manipulated to sound different, with the result being voices that don’t fit the protagonists at all or the world in general. The high-pitched buzzing was enough for me to believe that this was an assault to my eardrums, and it sums up my thoughts on the overall show: it seems to do more to harm the viewer than to entertain.
And that is Blame, the ONA version. If you wanted to know more about the show, good luck because as I said before, this show makes no sense. There is nothing here worth salvaging as the staff tried to just pass off random clips and pictures from a manga as an actual story. The staff that worked on it even said that it is meant to be a bonus to the manga and should only be taken as such. But that raises the question: Why even bother making this? The answer, unfortunately, is because they wanted money. Money off of a lousy piece of trash that is supposed to be impervious against flaws as it’s only an addition to the original source. Well I say no. This should never be considered acceptable for a staff to put next to no effort into making anything of substance and then put it off as an extension to the original. The anime and the manga are two separate entities and should be treated as such. Making a show where you have to go to the original source to find out what happens is just lazy and greedy, and it should be called out. And the fact that this crap came out in 2003, the same year as Texhnolyze, is even more depressing. While Texhnolyze is considered by many as the pinnacle of atmospheric anime, Blame is more like the equivalent of rock-bottom.
This “experimental work” turned out to be an epic failure that rides on the coat-tails of the successful manga it claims to have adapted from, but rather than get more people interested in the franchise, it drives them away. An incredibly bad piece of experimental cinema and one of the worst anime adaptations I have ever witnessed. It does everything an adaptation could do wrong, all while coming off as incoherent, pretentious and practically unwatchable