Journey to the Country of Dolls in Tsutomu Nihei’s Newest Manga

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.

Full Color Page From Country of Dolls Featuring Suou Nishiko

Full-Color page from Country of Dolls featuring Suou Nishiko.

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.

Titania's Restricted Form

Titania’s restricted form.

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.

The Town of the Constuctors in classic Tsutomu Nihei style.

The Town of the Constructors in classic Tsutomu Nihei style.

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!

Titania's True Form

Titania’s true form

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.

Nichiko showing off his Doll Sickness.

Nichiko showing off his Doll Sickness.

Country of Dolls (Ningyou no Kuni) – 8/10

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Veritas is a cyberpunk and writer who enjoys all aspects of the cyberpunk genre and subculture. He also journeys deeply into the recesses of the dissonance exploring his nihilistic existence. If you'd like to contact Isaac L. Wheeler (Veritas), the founder and editor-in-chief of Neon Dystopia, you can do so here:
  1. Almost every full series manga Nihei has ever written had a one-shot before hand that shared similar features so saying this is a dissapointment because it’s a one shot shot isn’t too accurate. He’ll probably make something with the same concept later.

    Reference: Winged Armor Suzumega > Sidonia
    Digimortal > ABARA
    Some zombie manga I forget > Biomega


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