APOSIMZ Chapters 1-12 – Review
Synopsis: With APOSIMZ, science-fiction manga master Tsutomu Nihei (Knights of Sidonia, BLAME!) takes us into at-once familiar and disorienting territory: a towering “City” built upon the ruins of a mysterious device from the distant past, a “Country of Dolls” of people afflicted with a disease that slowly turns them into machines. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
APOSIMZ originates from the mind of the same mangaka who wrote Knights of Sidonia and it shows. From the art style to the post apocalyptic-like setting, those familiar with Sidonia are going to streaks of similarity ever so often. It’s a great feature if you really dug/dig Nihei’s brand of fiction but if you might end up a bit frustrated if you weren’t a huge fan or were hoping for something more fresh. The synopsis given by Crunchyroll in its manga library for the series is a little vague, and 12 chapters in, this disease mentioned in the synopsis is little more than a minor part of the story that appears randomly and so far plays a less major role than one would assume. APOSIMZ so far, is about the story of a man named Etherow seeking revenge and freedom for his slain and captured friends after agreeing to be turned into a ‘frame’, a being that one could roughly describe as a combination of combat robot/creature and human in a combat suit. This immediately points out one of APOSIMZ’s more divisive feature, that its world is both defined and undefined at the same time. You’re given explanations about a lot of things and yet because of the art style and literal lack of explanation about certain other story elements, there is still a lot that remain undefined and unexplained. The mangaka purposely leaves certain things unexplained in what appears to be an attempt to then be able to be say, do or create anything without being limited by any prior defined in-universe rules.APOSIMZ is the more fantastical kind of sci-fi where there is little to no actual science, and the mangaka makes up objects and rules as and when to enable his creation of a highly fictitious and different world.
Focusing on what’s good about the manga, it’d likely to be a sure hit among devoted Nihei fans who enjoy his brand of high fantasy sci-fi as he continues to deliver imaginative worlds combined with eye catching combat and armor designs. Everything just screams ‘cool’ and unique visually. Even those unfamiliar with Nihei’s work and just looking to get lost in a world completely unlike anything else they’ve ever seen are going to love flipping through the pages of APOSIMZ. Also, our hero, Etherow is given some handicaps as a newly made ‘Frame’ but we are also shown that he did possess some handy combat skills before his conversion, namely being a good shot which is particularly useful given that his new form of combat as a Frame is weapons/artillery based. It combines the trope of newcomer suffering from disadvantages with protagonist that possesses some impressive skill to make for a less common protagonist. It makes it believable when our hero is able to pull off impressive shots during combat while adding some tension from the fact that he isn’t as skilled or experienced as the opponents he is facing.
Also, as shallow and flashy as some of the villains are, there’s a few of them that manage to make their lot feel less than generic bad guys as you read on. We are shown that there’s a strong belief that what they’re doing is for the greater good of mankind, seeking to free mankind from a life under threat from all kinds of creatures and mechanisms. It’s not a unique twist but it also prevents all the ‘bad’ guys popping up from feeling like caricatures. Of course, this too has its limits as some of the villains do ultimately sink into ‘pure evil’ territory as they seem to show no care for the suffering of others and seem to delight in torturing and using their victims.
The aforementioned ‘Frames’ are a crucial/main part of the story yet little is really known about them other than the fact that the transformation process is extremely lethal and high risk and that they derive their strength and abilities to fight from ‘placenta’ and ‘Haigh particles’. There’s so many made up or repurposed terms/components about these Frames that it’s possible for the mangaka to get extremely creative about the combat skills and actual combat between Frames. This is great for those who like ‘cool’ showdowns and over the top abilities as it gives the mangaka complete freedom to craft ridiculous and impressive looking fights as he introduces new types of Frames with all sorts of abilities. But there’s also a downside to this for other types of readers, perhaps those who want more logic and structure in their sci-fi, bringing us to the negatives about the series. What’s frustrating about the mangaka’s freedom to create new villains with no restrictions is that the mangaka also proceeds to make our hero able to mimic or defeat the new villain/s within his very first time fighting against them even though the manga will often build up his opponents as extremely skilled, making them ultimately feel like chumps. It undoes a bit of the ‘wow’ factor of the villains if they are dispatched off by a complete newbie. Heck, in chapter 12, we’re given the life story of some guy-turned-Frame and his past only to have him immediately killed off in the Chapter itself. It feels pointless and a strange decision to give us his back story only so we can watch him immediately be defeated by someone much better. Maybe the manga has pulled the wool over our eyes and this disposed-of character will return but for now, it seems like a cliche and tired choice of storytelling.
Maybe Nihei is fond of a harem setting because APOSIMZ is 12 chapters in and has our hero traveling with two female companions and zero males which reminded me of Knights of Sidonia where he had his lead male character be friends with/surrounded by solely female characters. One could say that this gives the story some ‘girl power’ as we see these female characters engaging in impressive combat but a lot of times, the ‘glory’ of the victory ultimately goes to the male protagonist. Also, Etherow has TWICE seen a female in a state of undress, something that also occurred in..you guessed it..Knights of Sidonia. Now these aren’t unique to his works but fans of Sidonia are likely to notice these and other similarities popping up ever so often. It’s not necessarily a negative by any means and Nihei has of course other works that do not share similarities like these but it mainly speaks to how in the case of these two stories, readers should be able to detect the author’s proclivities.
If my review seems vague, it’s partly a mix of my attempt not to spoil too much and the fact that this series so far, is mainly Etherow taking on one enemy after the other. There’s a story behind it all, one that for now hints to a possibly tainted government seeking immense power for a reason beyond what they publicly claim, and a futuristic/post apocalyptic world that hides just as much as it reveals but most of the pages so far are devoted to Etherow traveling to take on Government owned Frames. For now if I were to recommend it to anyone, it would be based on that person’s need/desire to see superficially impressive combat and designs because that’s the main appeal of the series so far. Yes, there are mysteries galore but given how open ended some of Nihei’s other works have been, I wouldn’t be surprised if APOSIMZ too turns out to be more about the sights, emotions and action rather than logic and a well crafted narrative. If you’ve loved everything that Nihei has created so far and crave more in a very similar vein, then APOSIMZ is a must read for you. Or if you have never heard of Nihei but like manga and stories with visually creative designs and showdowns. However, if you are someone who likes a more grounded sci-fi tale with heavy emphasis on its science and rules, this isn’t the sci-fi series for you.