Blank Slate Volume 1 by Aya Kanno (amazon)
Blank Slate, released under the Shojo Beat imprint, might be the perfect shojo title for people who hate shojo. The main protagonist is a man. There are no high school students in love and no goofy romantic entanglements or plot devices. Blank Slate collects a series of stories about a master criminal named Zen who woke up one day with no memory and the urge to visit evil on the world.
In the first episode a bounty hunter named Russo with control freak tendencies accepts a hit on Zen. He finds Zen working as a bisexual prostitute in a place called the Meeting Room. But instead of killing Zen, he meekly goes along with Zen’s latest crime spree – shooting up the Meeting Room and checking into an expensive hotel. Russo is captured by Zen’s magnetism and ends up killing a fellow bounty hunter only to be fatally wounded by Zen.
In the second story Zen is robbing a bank when an abrupt change in plans leads him to kidnap the blind daughter of a military official. While Zen is a total misanthrope, he’s interested in people if they amuse him. He’s particularly fascinated if he sees a good person trapped into doing evil deeds. The last couple stories offer hints to Zen’s past as he partners up with a doctor who runs a secret practice treating criminals. Zen becomes involved in an action against the reigning military junta, and it seems that his loss of memory may be related to some sort of government experiment. He experiences a period of lost time where he becomes an unstoppable killing machine.
Blank Slate seemed a little disjointed at times, especially the first chapter which didn’t provide the type of character introduction that I usually see in the starting pages of most manga. An author’s note revealed that the in first story she wrote about Zen she didn’t know that Blank Slate would be selected for serialization, and the first chapter was replaced with a bonus story. Even though the plot might have benefited from some smoother transitions, the characters and action were interesting. The manga had the feel of a gritty action movie. Blank Slate is only a two volume series, so I’ll likely be reading the second book to see how Zen’s story ends. Reading this has made me more curious about Kanno’s other series Otomen, so I’ll be picking that up too.