Ne0;lation 004-006 – Manga Review

Synopsis: A manga about tough guys and hackers? The classic combo! Let’s see how this unlikely team came together! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

Ne0;lation continues to be a hot mess. Even as we dive into a lengthier narrative, giving our characters a chance to shine and the writing to flesh itself out, Ne0;lation continues to feel underdeveloped, often crafting laughably inept twists and reveals that feel amateurish, with wildly simplistic understanding of the elements it’s toying with.

Right away Ne0;lation lacks thought. With the introduction of the Lemmings game, a video game that kills people, I thought maybe we had an interesting avenue. I never thought Ne0;lation would suddenly turn into a deep series, but I was hoping for campy fun. But Ne0;lation’s author hasn’t thought much through, so much to the point there isn’t even an absurd internal logic driving the story. This is apparent early in Chapter 4 as it’s revealed that the Lemmings game is a phone app. As in, on the app store. Couple this with the concepts  in universe sordid past (Supposedly there’s been real life versions of the Lemmings game, though best I could find when looking it up was unsubstantiated rumors and misreporting.) It really stretches credibility that either Apple, Google or Microsoft would allow such a game on their stores. I could’ve believed that it was a custom download people were going crazy about, but the manga literally mentions the game being on the app store. It doesn’t even try to excuse this with a “the evil mastermind hacked the store and got it on there!” which would’ve be fine enough justification as far as I’m concerned.

From there Chapter 4 mostly falls down the exposition rabbit hole, having our cast of characters stand around talking and talking and talking about what they’re going to do, rather than getting them on the move. It’s a lot of wasted page space, save for a cool bit of deductive logic surrounding the server firewall, and how access to the college’s server means the bad guy must be physically nearby.

Another issue crops up in Chapter 5. As our heroes rush to save the day there’s no sense of urgency. Supposedly we’ve got a girl on the cusp of suicide, but no one really acts like it, nor are we constantly reminded that life is at stake during their hunt for the villain. It all feels low energy.

It doesn’t help that our villain feels like the same baddie we dealt with in both Chapters 1 and 2: The self-assured idiot that thinks he’s too big to topple. It’s a bit worse here seeing as he’s supposed to be some kind of brilliant hacker, yet he’s done in by Neo without our hero breaking a sweat even once. The introduction to our big baddie is painfully written too. In a nut shell, our baddie is trying to make an A.I. program that can ‘control’ people, whatever that means. The manga doesn’t really expand on the idea, but it can be assumed that Motoko might control people by learning how people’s brain works and then leading them around by surreptitious manipulation. The idea is fine, but it extols that to us via the most on the nose dialogue imaginable, which feels entirely lazy.

By chapter 6 this Lemmings game story has been built all kinds of wrong. We’ve got a weak villain, blotted exposition, a lack of urgency, etc. Chapter 6 isn’t done yet however. Topping it all off we’re introduced to Saki finally, the girl this has all been about, who’ll commit suicide if the Lemmings game isn’t stopped (You might think that the game was stopped when Neo forced the server to shut down, but you’d be wrong!) With Saki on the cusp of jumping to her death you’d think she’d need a real talking to to convince her that her life still has meaning. Frustratingly Neo doesn’t take its suicide plotline seriously, and Saki is talked off the ledge with just a few kind words, and assurances that the evil baddie is going to get his (Nevermind the fact that Saki wouldn’t know who this guy is, or what he has to do with anything she’s going through. If Saki is going to off herself because a game told her to, this is a way, way deeper mental issue than a few panels of friendship are going to fix.) Ne0 doesn’t need to get all grim about suicide, it’s not even close to that kind of series, but it does need to lend a little more weight to the idea. People don’t just kill themselves because they’ve been told to do so, not without greater mental issues.

To cap this whole thing off, Neo somehow hacks Motoko, the evil A.I., uses her algorithms to predict what the evil scientists hacker will do and then announces… that he’s now controlling him? It’s here it becomes obvious to me that the author has no interest in proper research, or deeper ideas, any of that. This is purely sensationalist and a series that’s so schlocky it hurts to try and apply any logic to it. It’d be one thing if Ne0;lation was a campy mess like Real Account, but the series lacks charm. Its characters are comparatively dull, and its ideas not even ludicrously enjoyable.

Six chapters in and I’ve lost whatever minor amount of faith I had that the series might improve. Right now I think Ne0;lation is likely a title headed for the scrap heap and won’t live more than a year, if anywhere near that. Next time I’ll be reviewing chapters 7-10, as I think 10 chapters tends to give a good idea of whether a series is ultimately headed in the right direction. But it’ll likely be my last review for Ne0;lation.

 

That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Ne0;lation in the comments below!

Ne0;lation is published as part of Shonen Jump.

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