Tsutomu Nihei returns with his newest manga since Knights of Sidonia (Sidonia No Kishi), a one-shot manga called Country of Dolls (Ningyou no Kuni). Nihei is best known for his manga BLAME! and the well-received anime adaptation of his manga, Knights of Sidonia, produced by Polygon Pictures but syndicated through Netflix exclusively abroad.
Country of Dolls is about the chance meeting of Suou Nichiko and Titania (named after a legendary fairy). Titania is a small mechanical creature whose powers have been restricted to make her less threatening to humans. This affliction makes it difficult for her to complete her journey to the Town of the Constructors, Nichiko’s people, to avert a catastrophe that is being caused by the Constructors tapping into an ancient power device. Nichiko agrees to take Titania to the Town but has reservations because he infected with the “Doll Sickness.” This disease slowly turns a human into a machine, and Nichiko’s sister was reprogrammed and enslaved after turning into a “Doll.” They journey together to the Town but fail to convince the Constructors to stop tapping the power source. Nichiko’s condition becomes known to the Constructors, and they attack him, Titania then unlocks her powers slaying them to save Nichiko and avert the catastrophe through force.
Country of Dolls is a worthy addition to Nihei’s body of work. The art is impressive, full of his excellent architectural drawings, and tells an interesting tale about a far off humanity. Another staple of Nihei’s work is his style of drawing mechanical beings, and this too is maintained. The action sequences at the end of the story, in particular, standout. The only portion of Country of Dolls that was slightly disappointing is that it feels like a small part of a much larger story. It left me wanting more, and since this has been stated to be a one-shot, that is disappointing.
Much oh Nihei’s manga is connected by similar threads in his works, such as the constant presence of the mega-corporation Toha Heavy Industries. Although Toha is not present in Country of Dolls, it is easy to imagine it taking place in the same universe as BLAME! In the BLAME! manga, there are disparate packets of humanity (many of which have undergone different evolutionary paths), as well as various mechanical entities such as the Authority and the Silicon Creatures. Perhaps, Country of Dolls simply tells a story from another portion of the expansive Mega-structure in BLAME!
Country of Dolls is worth a read. It was published in the 23rd issue of Kodansha’s Weekly Young Magazine on May 09, 2016. There are translations floating around on the internet. It tells a compelling story, with characters that I came to care about, in a brief 26 pages, many of which had no dialogue. If you enjoy Nihei’s work, you will certainly enjoy this story as well. The ending is a perfect setup for a follow-up. I hope that sequel comes into existence because I would read it in a heartbeat.
Country of Dolls (Ningyou no Kuni) – 8/10