You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Thursday, September 29, 2011


7 Billion Needles, Volume 17 Billion Needles, Volume 1 by Nobuaki Tadano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tadano's manga announces that it is a homage to Hal Clement's Needle, a novel published in the early 1950's. The change is tone is obvious from the titles. Note Clement's title is "Needle," singular. I guess for today's manga market you need to up the ante by 6,999,999,999 extra needles.

Clement's novel was possibly the first to concern an alien living in a symbiotic relationship with an earthling. He's a "good alien" chasing a "bad alien," a motif that has been worked so often in the past sixty years that Tadano's nod to Clement, given how radically transformed the material is, is polite but hardly necessary. Clement's novel is good but a bit Hardy-Boyish. The gelatinous alien enters the boy's body while he sleeps on the beach, and the narrative is an SF detective story where boys out on their bicycles are always careful to be home in time for dinner. In the opening scene of the manga, Hikaru, a disaffected teenage girl who seldom takes off her headphones, is blown to pieces by the alien's crash landing. He knits her back together and explains that he and she must search out and destroy Maelstrom, the bad alien, before it kills all life on earth. Hikaru's response is, "Leave me alone."
She is more willing to pitch in after a massacre in the gym, during which Maelstrom briefly manifests itself as a dinosaur-like monster. "How about this!" he screams. "Humans tend to fear this kind of form."

Tadano's action sequences are as incoherent as any in a Michael Bey film. There's no build-up of tension, just lots of explosions and bloodshed. His best artwork are the cityscapes, schoolyards, and suburban neighborhoods that set up each scene.

Good triumphs, but there are four more books in the series so I assume Maelstrom will be back.

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