In the distant technological future, civilization has reached its ultimate Net-based form. An ''infection'' in the past caused the automated systems to spiral out of order, resulting in a multi-leveled city structure that replicates itself infinitely in all directions. Now humanity has lost access to the city's controls, and is hunted down and purged by the defense system known as the Safeguard. In a tiny corner of the city, a little enclave known as the Electro-Fishers is facing eventual extinction, trapped between the threat of the Safeguard and dwindling food supplies. A girl named Zuru goes on a journey to find food for her village, only to inadvertently cause doom when an observation tower senses her and summons a Safeguard pack to eliminate the threat. With her companions dead and all escape routes blocked, the only thing that can save her now is the sudden arrival of Kiri the Wanderer, on his quest for the Net Terminal Genes, the key to restoring order to the world.
Directed by: Hiroyuki Seshita
. Starring: Takahiro Sakurai
, Kana Hanazawa
, Sora Amamiya
, Mamoru Miyano
, Aya Suzaki
, Nobunaga Shimazaki
, Yûki Kaji
, Koutarou Nishiyama
, Nanako Mori
, Kazuhiro Yamaji
, Ayane Sakura
, Tasuku Hatanaka
, Daiki Yamashita
. Music by: Yûgo Kanno
First there was "The Creation of the Humanoids", then "Blade Runner", and "Terminator". These helped to spawn "Ghost in the Shell" and "Appleseed". If we built a timeline and placed Masamune Shirow's GITS first and Appleseed second, then Tsutomu Nisei's NOiSE would be #3 with Blame! being the latest entry on the timeline -- taking us to Earth's the far future.
The film starts with the Electro-Fishers. They are descendants of what were known as The Planters. This is likely a name that they received when they used to work for Toha Heavy industries, managing the 'growth' of humanoid exterminator cyborgs that were used as a security force by the city. Hence the armor and the spears that are capable of killing an errant exterminator. In the film, the Electro-Fishers have long since forgotten their role in the city and are concerned because they are both running out of armor and no longer know how to make more armor and weapons. They're also running out of food and are on the brink of extinction. They live on the outer shell of Toha Heavy Industries. However, if they were to enter the core of Toha (as in the manga), they would find new suits of armor in storage.
At the beginning of the film, a group of young Electro-Fishers are looking for food and they're concerned about being spotted by watch towers and being killed by exterminatorssafeguards. This is because the city is autonomous and its programming went haywire some time in the past. Originally, all humans had a special gene that allowed them to connect to the net and (if they had sufficient privileges) control the city. Hence pretty much all humans were registered citizens. In the NOiSE graphic novel, there were police detectives that would investigate cases in which there were people who were not registered. Somewhere along the line, a net-controlled security force was created called The Safeguards. These cyborgs were eventually given complete autonomy and instead of simply investigating cases of non-registered humans, their instructions were warped to instead kill all humans that were not registered citizens. Originally this would have been a very small number of people. However, a virus wiped out almost every instance of the gene that allowed people to connect to the city (destroying their registration statuscitizenship in the process). From that point on, the city and the safeguards began mass-killings of humans. The PlantersElectro-Fishers were some of the few humans with sufficient armor and weaponry to survive. They live in a protected zone; once they step out of that zone, they're a target as well.
The young group of Electro-Fishers get in over their heads and it looks like it's the end for them when a mysterious figure clad in black shows up. He raises a gun and fires -- annihilating the exterminators and cutting a swath of destruction that extends for kilometers. In the film, he introduces himself as Killy (his actual name is Kirii : Pronunciation, "keedy"). He is a cyborg that is using an unregistered prototype high-level safeguard body and is on a quest to find a human with the net terminal gene and connect to the city to set things right again. Along the way, the administrationauthority try to help him out as best they can. Similar to network administrators today, there is an administration in the world of Blame! that would like to help; ever since the decision to make the safeguards autonomous, the administrators have had limited powers and are essentially locked out. The remnants of the administrators exist mainly in the NetSphere (the web or internet of the future). The NetSphere has become so expansive that it is possible to have one's consciousness uploaded into the NetSphere and then downloaded into a cyborg or android body. There is also the option to simply exist in the NetSphere without a body in our (base) reality.
The Electro-Fishers take Kirii to their settlement where he gives them a unit of compressed food. They expand the food and marvel at the technology behind it. He identifies himself as human, although he isn't strictly human. Kirii's memories are foggy and fragmented since he's been revived a number of times over thousands of years. One thing he knows with certainty is his mission and he will stop at nothing to complete it.
Kirii tells the Electro-Fishers his mission objective. In turn they tell him about a place near their settlement where a strange voice emanates from a 'ghost'. Kirii goes with a small group of Electro-Fishers to investigate and finds the remains of an android named Cibo. She is a high-level scientists who has been waiting for someone to come along who could help her. Kirii picks up what is left of her body and sets off on a mission to a factory (with a group of Electro-Fishers in tow). Cibo grants access to the factory and executes commands to both manufacture more units of food as well as generate a new android body for herself. Unfortunately, her use of the console alerts the safeguard exterminators. Kirii, Cibo, and the Electro-Fishers barely make it out of the factory and they board a train back to the settlement.
Back at the settlement, things seem normal. However, one of the Electro-Fishers turns out to be an impostor. Back at the factory, a female high-level safeguard had killed and then copied the form of one of the Electro-Fishers. She is seen dragging a large gun to the edge of a cliff and firing at the perimeter generator that Cibo had created many years ago. The generator is destroyed and the settlement is now accessible to the exterminators. Meanwhile, Cibo was already on her way to try to log in through a terminal that she's brought back from the factory. Kirii was originally slated to protect Cibo's body while she jacked into the terminal. But the distance to the safeguard was too far and he had to move in for a closer shot. Kirii and the female high-level safeguard (Sanakan) duke it out with Sanakan pinning Kirii to the ground. She is confused by Kirii since he appears to be a high-level safeguard as well. In an attempt to salvage him, Sanakan asks him if he will agree to re-join the high-level safeguards. Kirii refuses and their battle continues.
Ultimately, Kirii and the Electro-Fishers end up having to evacuate the settlement and are led by Cibo and Kirii to an elevator that leads to a new location within the city. Kirii waits for them to enter the elevator and then stays behind to fend off the safeguards. The film ends with Kirii raising his gun to fight a massive exterminator as the elevator descends to a lower level of the massive city.
My take on this film is a positive one. It's expertly put together and I was happy to see that the original writerartist was very involved with the production of this movie. The level of care shows in every frame and sound. The Japanese voice-acting is phenomenal with the voices of Kirii, the Electro-Fisher elder, and Cibo stealing the show. Use of camera angles and lighting is excellent. And the sense of scale of the graphic novel is well-represented. The movie successfully takes a slice of the manga series and presents it in a relatively-understandable format. The challenge with a story like Blame! is to take elements that will work in a film and not clutter it too much. Hence it makes sense that they would leave out potentially confusing elements like the silicon life of the manga. having yet another faction added to the film's story line would have been too much for most audiences.
The pacing of the film is good (and actually reminds me of the pacing of the first Terminator movie). It has a nice balance of action and slower periods in which the viewer can relax and take in the extraordinary surroundings offered by the future-city. For those who enjoy sci-fi and cyberpunk, I highly recommend this film (and the manga of the same name). This represents a significant contribution to the genre embedded with an important warning for the future development of artificial intelligence and computer-controlled autonomous systems.
Review by J-bot6 from the Internet Movie Database.