Blank Slate 1 by Aya Kanno: B-

Zen has no memory of the last twenty years, and doesn’t much care. The back cover, with its line “he can’t remember if he’s a killer or a hero,” erroneously leads one to anticipate a story of an amnesiac’s quest for identity. In reality, Blank Slate is all about the action.

The story takes place in the country of Amata, which was invaded and conquered in a war two decades earlier. The occupying government honors justice and order and employs a fleet of bounty hunters to eradicate all manner of undesirables. Zen is a notorious criminal and has committed every kind of crime imaginable. His philosophy is, “I do whatever I want. If it gets in my way, I smash it.”

I had a really tough time getting into the first chapter. It’s the stand-alone tale of a bounty hunter sent to kill Zen who instead joins him on a murderous spree of destruction and ruin. It wasn’t the best introduction to the setting or characters, and I found it very dull. The real serialization of the story commences in chapter two, and the improvement is immediate. From this point, there is a continuous plot focusing on the tensions between the native Amatans and the occupying Galayans and featuring kidnappings, prison breaks, and lots of guns. It’s pretty interesting, and I was surprised by several twists in the story.

Aside from the abundant bishonen, there’s nothing stereotypically shojo about Blank Slate. Zen is as heartless as they come and kills casually. Most of his victims are aggressors or authority figures, but he’s not above threatening the life of a child who could expose his hiding place. His companions are more sympathetic, particularly Hakka, a righteous doctor who has fallen into evil to protect something important to him.

The art style is visually clean, a necessity in a title like this where the story is enough to be puzzling over. Most of the character designs aren’t anything special, but Zen is really quite spectacularly pretty. This isn’t achieved through any gimmick of flowing hair or sparkly eye but simply with a beautifully drawn facial structure that’s quite stunning. I’ve reviewed a lot of manga, and never before have I devoted three full sentences to how pretty some guy is. Trust me on this.

Blank Slate certainly isn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but the story it’s spinning is entertaining enough that I will surely be returning for the second and final volume due out in December.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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