I like science fiction, I really do, but I have limited tolerance for certain tropes: futures in which all the women dress like strippers — or worse, fascist strippers — futures in which giant bugs menace Earth, and futures in which magic and technology freely commingle. Small wonder, then, that Kia Asamiya’s Silent Möbius has never been on my short list of must-read manga — it’s a festival of cheesecake, gooey monsters, and pistol-packing soldiers who, in a pinch, must decide whether to cast a spell or fire a rocket launcher at the enemy. Imagine my surprise when I discovered just how entertaining Silent Möbius turned out to be, gratuitous panty shots, bugs, and all.
When shorn of its mystical mumbo-jumbo and elaborate character histories, Silent Möbius is, at heart, a classic “They came from outer space!” tale. The story begins in 2026, when the Earth is under siege from interdimensional beings known as Lucifer Hawks, fierce, shape-shifting beasties that can assume a variety of forms: dragons, humans, oversize millipedes. Only a small team of elite agents — the so-called Attacked Mystification Police Force (AMP) — are capable of killing the Hawks with a mixture of up-to-the-minute technology and good old-fashioned sorcery. Where the Hawks are coming from and why remains mysterious — at least in the very early stages of the story — though we learn that one agent’s father may be responsible for opening the floodgate between Earth and the Hawks’ home world.
If the plot is pedestrian, Asamiya’s towering cityscapes and appealing character designs aren’t. To be sure, there are plenty of other sci-fi manga from the 1980s and 1990s peddling similar visions of a dysfunctional future paved in concrete and lit by neon, but Asamiya and his helpers pull off even the busiest compositions, bringing the urban scenes to energetic life; I dare you not to compare Silent Möbius with Blade Runner. (Someone else must have thought so, too, as Asamiya was tapped to do the manga adaptation of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, yet another work that pilfered visuals from Scott’s ground-breaking film.) Then there are the character designs: each member of the AMP seems to be taking her grooming cues from the golden age of MTV, when video vixens came in two flavors: those with enormous feathered hair, and those with short, heavily lacquered locks. Better still, their uniforms consist of jackets with epaulets, neckties, and stirrup leggings. Who knew that 2026 would look suspiciously like 1986?
The other thing that won me over was the characters. I wouldn’t construe Asamiya’s decision to make the AMP a strictly female force as a nod to feminism; there are enough costume failures and half-clad characters to suggest Asamiya was as interested in satisfying the male gaze as he was in promoting the idea that women can kick ass just as well as men. At the same time, however, the ladies of AMP are tough and decisive, and don’t take guff from their male peers; in one of the series’ few nods to realism, the largely male police force resents the AMP for their ability to assume control of any investigation, grumbling about jurisdiction and occasionally baiting the women into fights.
Not that Silent Möbius doesn’t have moments of eyeball-rolling stupidity. Asamiya saddled his characters with borderline stripper names, for example: who but an adult entertainer would choose a name like “Rally Cheyenne” or “Katsumi Liqueur”? (Worse still: Katsumi’s father was Gilgelf Liqueuer, a name best suited for a drunken Hobbit.) Then, too, the series’ rather complicated mythology isn’t well explained; it’s the kind of universe where some characters kill aliens by drawing pentagrams on the ground while others use bazookas. And the cheesecake… sigh. I often had the sinking feeling that Asamiya was secretly auditioning to do a Pirelli Tire calendar with his frequent images of semi-naked women in provocative poses.
Costume failures and panty shots aside, I enjoyed the first volume of Silent Möbius well enough to continue with the series. It’s a fun, escapist romp that occasionally takes itself a little too seriously, but never bogs down in its own ridiculous mythology.
SILENT MÖBIUS: COMPLETE EDITION, VOL. 1 • BY KIA ASAMIYA • UDON ENTERTAINMENT • 200 pp. • RATING: OLDER TEEN (16+)