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BLAME! (2017)

In the far-flung future, Artifical Intelligence has taken over the world. Sprawling cities have taken over almost every available space, and the city's defence system The Safeguard has identified humanity as an infection that must be destroyed. Only a few pockets of humanity have survived by hiding out in hidden corners of the city.

One such group is on a supply mission when they are attacked by forces from The Safeguard. They are saved by a mysterious stranger, Killy.  But who is he, how has he survived, and could he be the key to humanity's survival?

BLAME! is an adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei's original manga of the same name, which was originally serialised between 1997 and 2003. It was animated by Polygon Pictures, and was originally released internationally as a Netflix Original in 2017. Now, luckily for Netflix sceptics, the film is also available on Blu-Ray via Manga UK (and Viz Media in the US) complete with a Blu-Ray exclusive making-of feature.

One of the film's strengths is definitely its world-building. The vast, imposing city stretching seemingly into infinity is impressive to behold. Without too much in the way of info-dumps (there's not much more than the occasional voice-over) the film manages to create a coherent and absorbing world that feels pretty distinctive. For the most part, the city speaks for itself- it's a good example of the old maxim "show don't tell".

Every release from Polygon Pictures must include something of a disclaimer or a warning of sorts. Unlike most anime producers, this studio specialises in 3D CGI animation. Their films and series have a very specific look, which aims to combine the visual style of more traditional anime with 3D CG. For some anime fans, this is an instant turn-off. If you are one of those fans, BLAME! is not going to change your mind.

Their style works best when it is paired with the right material. And BLAME! is pretty well matched in this regard. The artificiality of the world, and the fact that is (in the story itself) built by machines and computers makes it a natural fit for CG. The slightly unnatural look of the movement works really well for the robotic characters, making them extra creepy and unsettling. Many of the humans spend most of the time wearing armour (which is also a good fit for the CG). The animation style works well for the action sequences. Unfortunately, it doesn't work nearly so well for the quieter moments or more naturalistic human movement.

Luckily, the movie doesn't spend much time focused on any of these problem areas. Most of the film's running time is dedicated to some well-choreographed action and some pretty intense setpieces.

This doesn't leave too much room for characterisation, and the cast largely fall into archetypes. The unfortunately named Killy is given a particularly raw deal in this regard- he's virtually a non-character. He's supposed to be a largely-silent badass type, but he comes across as a charisma vacuum. The other characters don't exactly make up for it either. Our point of audience identification is a young girl named Zuru,  but there's not much to her either.

BLAME! is also a pretty dour experience. It might be appropriate, given the gravity of the situation the characters find themselves in, but it feels a little overly grim at times. The tone of the film, combined with the dark, metallic world of the city make for a film that is lacking in colour and levity.

There was a time when cyberpunk was one of the most popular genres in anime. Nowadays, it's much rarer- so BLAME! will at least go some way to scratching that particular itch. Overall though, the thrilling action and the richly-realised world are just enough to make up for the film's shortcomings.

FORMATSBlu-Ray, DVD and Streaming
FROM Manga UK/Viz Media/Netflix
1hr 47m 

IN A NUTSHELL: An entertaining ride for fans of cyberpunk and dystopian future sci-fi.