I’m pretty picky about what sorts of sci-fi I like, so it can be hard for me to find manga I enjoy in the genre. Enter Tsutomu Nihei’s APOSIMZ, published by Vertical Comics. The series’s first two installments were very impressive thanks to their unique aesthetic and well-thought-out world and concepts. Vol. 3 is out now, and it follows Etherow and co. as they take on new enemies, encounter previously unseen automatons, and more. Is it good?
Visually, this manga continues to be a treat. Nihei’s soft aesthetic stands in stark contrast to the sheer brutality of the subject matter, and it works. They almost exclusively use gray and white, with very little solid black. The shading throughout is particularly good as it primarily utilizes the gray tones for shadows, while the white space denotes illumination and degrees of physical distance. It’s all very easy on the eyes while also maintaing a fantastic sense of depth and perspective. The book as a whole has an airy atmosphere that effectively matches the fluidity of characters’ movements as well as the sparseness of the world. It’s also a unique change of pace to see armor and technology rendered in such a soft, non-harsh manner.
There’s a lot to appreciate about the writing here too. Nihei does a great job conveying a lot about characters and lore without having to resort to exposition dumps. Most new information is brought up naturally via dialogue or via scenes showing elements of the villains’ plans and society that we’ve never seen before. A brief tournament scene early on is one such example. We also get to see a settlement of people hiding out from the Rebedoan Empire, giving our protagonists the opportunity to interact with characters besides each other for a change. A new villain, Jate, gets a great introduction as she manipulates ground levelers– a variety of automatons that also make their debut here. All in all, this volume successfully picks up where the last two left off and deepens our understanding of the manga’s world.
With that said, there are still some cons here. The first is the speech bubbles. Different characters’ speech bubbles are often conjoined in the middle without any dividing lines between them. Though the dialogue itself usually provides enough context to parse out who’s speaking when, there’s still some needless confusion. Ditto with the action scenes. There are some neat fights involving characters hashing it out in enclosed spaces, but the degree of readability varies significantly. Some parts of these scenes flow smoothly and effectively, but others are difficult to follow and don’t seem to depict the intended plot points clearly.
All in all, APOSIMZ Vol. 3 is yet another great volume from my favorite ongoing sci-fi series. Nihei does a great job moving the plot along and adding to the series’s lore naturally without ever bogging the story down with narration. The artwork also continues to impress with a unique aesthetic and fantastic shading and depth. There are some clarity issues, but nothing major enough to hold the book back too much.