Anyone’s anxieties over the all-seeing eye of the Internet of Things are justified in BLAME!, a future in which the AI has assumed control, deems humans poisonous life forms and becomes the epitome of our worst mistakes. Humans had begun to construct cavernous cities, presumably after the surface world became overpopulated or unliveable, and once held genetic control over the Builders of our invention. But a glitch in the system, an incurable contagion, severed that link and caused the machines to see their makers as a virus. Nonetheless, the Builders’ orders remained, and so the city continues to grow, becoming a new wilderness.

As heavy-handed and awkwardly pious as this man/machine conflict can be, BLAME! has it’s saving grace in the details. The black expanses under red light in this never-ending city under the earth is symbolic of the dulling of humanity’s bloodline. They themselves are reduced to organisms in some dormant colossus spawning waves of Safeguards, the equivalent of white blood cells in mecha-spider form, to eliminate the disease.

In an inversion of the creeping calamity of overpopulation, the expansion of the city is diluting humanity’s power. No longer the dominant species, they have reverted to a hunter-gatherer way of life, plumbing the city’s pipes for their fast depleting sources of artificial food. It’s on such a hunt, their village close to starving, that Zuru, Sutezo, Tae, Fusata and Atsuji of the Electro-Fisher clan meet Killy. The stranger claims to have come from 6000 levels below their village, himself hunting for someone with the residual genetic strain to bring the machines to heel. And so, Zuru and her fellow ambassadors delve into the endless city to unearth the secret to regaining humanity’s power.

Killy, with his super strength and impenetrable visage, is the personification of the champions humans imagine themselves to be. He is also an avatar for what the human race could become – mournful, troubled, obsessed – if we persist in the folly of amassing power. The cast each bear this same metallic cool, blending in with their aesthetic surroundings at the cost of emotion. BLAME! rode the morose sci-fi wave onto Netflix, and morose is the majority of the mood that comes through, to the point where the whole adventure feels hopeless.

Too much seriousness leaves a film like this to rely on cool factor, and here it’s too repetitive to supplement the numbness of its characters. There is the odd rare moment where a tenderness shines through, when the city seems illuminated by the fire glow of our evolution. When all seems darkened by the impossibility of their mission, the adventurers sit by a campfire and talk of the tradition of being calmed by its light after a hard day. This tradition is no different now than it was when we began, warming and assuring that all is nature, and nature will have its way. We are not all-powerful, then; merely a glitch in the grand system, striving for survival.


Extras:

English dub; making of

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