Towering buildings, grey skies, and endless amounts of stairs blanket the landscape of the manga, Abara: Complete Deluxe Edition by Tsutomu Nihei. In the opening, we see a man enter a building. He walks down a flight of stairs flanked with sickly people on both sides. He seeks medical attention, but is turned away because he doesn’t have an appointment. He begins to turn into a creature and kills the nurse.

In the next scene, a lone guy in a long coat stands atop a roof. His name is Denji Koudou, and he watches as soldiers flood the city below. Thorn-like tentacles begin to sprout from his back and consume his entire body. He transforms into a skeletal creature called the Black Guana. The creature has no face, but jagged teeth. It jumps down to the ground and begins to battle a huge mass known as the White Guana that has claws like a crab. Denji dispatches the creatures and then begins to slowly return to his human form. Another Black Guana shows up named Nayuta and approaches Denji. This creature rips him into half, and walks away with his vertebrae. Nayuta then explodes due to a device that is detonated inside her.

Story-wise the dystopic world set up by Tsutomu Nihei is intriguing. He plants a lot of interesting ideas. There is a mysterious organization named the Ministry of Martial Justice. They have control over the Black Guana, Nayuta. After she explodes, they are able to reassemble her; thus, making her an unstoppable force and useful ally in the battle against the White Guana. It is very unclear about what caused the White Guana to appear, and why it must consume so many people. A group called The Four Aeon Guild are presented in one chapter. We learn this is a group that has battled the White Guana before and created a powerful weapon to defeat it. The two remaining members are a skeleton wearing a trench coat, and a skeletal raven. I would have liked to have seen the Guild subplot developed more. We don’t know what this group is about, or why they formed. Perhaps a prequel series would help flesh out the story and solve some of the unanswered questions that are left.

The illustrations are top notch, the cover alone will pique your interest. Since the two creatures are black and white, the entire manga emphasizes these two colors. Panels are shaded darker or lighter really lending to the desolate atmosphere the artist has created. There is very little nature. We don’t see trees, plants, flowers, or mountainscapes. There is nothing but tall buildings, windy staircases, and a barren wasteland. The Black Guana looks like a fierce killing machine. Its counterpart, the White Guana, per the artist means hermit crab. There are elements where the White Guana looks like a crustacean and other times it looks like a wave of tentacles and is very undefined.

Abara: Complete Deluxe Edition is a worthy addition to any library collection, especially those looking for science-fiction/horror titles. While I feel it is a bit style over substance, the ideas presented and the artwork make it worth it. This manga is suitable for older teens as it does not feature any graphic nudity or violence.

Abara: Complete Deluxe Edition
by Tsutomu Nihei
ISBN: 9781974702640
Viz Media, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: OT for 16+

  • Tanya

    | She/Her

    Tanya work as a librarian at a maximum security prison in Northern California. She runs a weekly book club which changes themes and genres on a quarterly basis. Her favorite book club moment was watching her book club members perform a play in front of an audience and getting a warm ovation. Tanya is a long-time lover of Manga and animes. Her favorites include anything by Clamp, Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf Children, Pandora Hearts and Dawn of the Arcana. In her spare time enjoys trying out new recipes from Pinterest.

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