Blank Slate

Genre: Action/Mystery
Length: 2 Volumes
Allegiance: Hakusensha/Viz
Mangaka: Kanno Aya
Vintage: 2005
Intelligence Agency Report by: dheu
Zen is the most notorious criminal in history. With no memory of his past, he goes through the world doing whatever he wants: killing, stealing, and leaving destruction in his wake. However, his life of absolute freedom is not so free after all – someone has been controlling his actions from the shadows, driving him into criminal behavior. Determined to find out who it is, he and an unlicensed doctor named Hakka follow the trail of his past, while the army hunts Zen down in an effort to stop his heinous crimes.

Research Agent Report by: dheu 
Overall 9.50

This is one of the best two-volume manga series I’ve ever read. Typically, when a series is constrained to only two volumes to get through a story, something suffers. Either the characters aren’t developed enough or the plotline ties up too neatly through deus ex machina. Even worse, sometimes the story doesn’t conclude at all, either because the plug was pulled before the mangaka could create an ending, or because they chose to take the cop-out non-ending path instead, leaving the reader frustrated that their time has been wasted. 

Thankfully, Blank Slate suffers none of these flaws. The characters are well-developed and are interesting to watch. The plot concludes in a very satisfying way, resolving almost every question I had, which is something that not even many long series can boast. Yet it is far from a simplistic story; in fact, it is quite complex, with many hidden layers beneath the straight-forward summary I posted above. As Zen goes deeper into discovering his past, more dark secrets are revealed about the gritty world of Blank Slate, and the violence (which can be fairly graphic, by the way) becomes more intense. 

One of the things I like most about this story is how gray all the characters are. Characters that seem to be good often have a darker side to them, driving their actions in unexpected ways. Even Zen, who is clearly an evil character, does have some lingering bits of humanity in him. This is definitely not your usual “bad guy as hero” character, though, which in most series like this would unequivocally be a purely good guy who has been misunderstood, or else a bad guy who has some pure motive driving his evil actions. No, Zen is a bad guy through and through, causing destruction wherever he goes with amoral carelessness. And yet it is this that makes this series so interesting to follow, because you certainly don’t see main characters like him very often. 

The artwork only enhances the strong plot and characters, which really come to life through the artist’s realistic style that pops from the page. Zen in particular is pretty stunning for a two-dimensional drawing. By spending so much effort on Zen, the mangaka makes it easy for the reader to understand the mysterious pull that Zen exerts on all the people he comes in contact with. To be honest, it was also seeing the artwork on the cover that inspired me to buy the first volume, and I’m extremely glad now that I did. I highly recommend this short but unique and excellent series.