Manga Worth Reading: Silent Mobius

Silent Mobius (サイレントメビウス) is a 12-volume cyberpunk manga series by Kia Asamiya 1 starting in 1988 and released in the US by Viz from 1999-2004 (note: the exact release dates for this series are a little wonky to find complicated by the US volumes not matching 1:1 with the Japanese ones and complicated again by an attempted rerelease by Udon Entertainment which stalled partway through. For sanity’s sake I’ll be referring to everything by the original Viz volume numbers).

Synopsis

In 2027 a specialized unit of the Tokyo Police, the AMP (Attacked Mystification Police) is a group of all women who deal with various attacks by ‘Lucifer Hawks’, demon lifeforms from a parallel world trying to invade earth. With a wide variety of cyberpunk classes (hacker, esper, cyborg) and mystics (magician, shinto priestess) they attempt to protect Tokyo while also unraveling what drives the Lucifer Hawks who seem really bitter about a mistake from 30 years prior and particularly interested in several of the AMP members connections to the past.

Appeal

Were back to manga so fast because its kinda hard not to talk about this right after Bubblegum Crisis considering they are really similar to each other in a lot of ways (and Id be shocked if BGC didn’t influence Silent Mobius). Both are all-female teams kicking ass in a cyberpunk world, the biggest differences being Silent Mobius is perhaps a bit closer to something like Shadowrun with the magic that gets used as well as this having a far greater emphasis on its story. Indeed SM is split into 3 “parts” in its run, with the second and especially third parts being very story heavy with its tale of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Literally in this case, as the original portal to Nemesis was opened in 1999 by a sorcerer trying to help humanity only to unwittingly cause the invasion when he was betrayed. With a plot thats spread out over some 3 years things keep moving too in a way that makes sense, you dont get the usual “and everything went to hell and was fixed in a week” sorta story that sometimes pops up in manga.

Character-wise we have some good lead characters for this. Katsumi, the ostensible lead, is a fun mix of someone who doesn’t want to be too serious with her friends while also being very serious when it comes to her job to the point she has a long crisis about whether she should marry her boyfriend when he proposes since shes afraid what that means; Rally Cheyenne, the AMP leader, is all boss woman and also pseudo-mother to the team giving a very believable sense of why everyones camerderie is so strong under her; and the main villain Maximilian Ganosa, aside from having one of the most super-villain names ever, is perfectly over the top in his madness and rage completely willing to hurt even his own allies when they step out of line while being calculated enough to engender some really devious tortures upon the AMP.

The strength of the art boosts the world building, there’s some great city shots straight out of Blade Runner and vehicles which ooze cyberpunk cool plus its characters look like actual adults with much ‘thicker’ bodies and limbs than most manga which is a welcome change of pace. A lot of thought went into the background of everything, which is probably for the best as Asamiya continues to write spin-offs and mini-sequels to this day.

Asamiya loves to dress up the girls in some really over the top 80s outfits when theyre not in uniform. Not just for cover art either, they wear shit like this with all seriousness in story too.

Downside

The artwork is heavy on toner and thick lines, sometimes TOO heavy. The action scenes frequently descend into chaotic messes of explosions made worse by the individual character designs not being the most unique. Generally if someone has a similar hairstyle to someone else it can be really hard to tell them apart, especially the guys who all seem to have one face2 so following whats happening can be rough at times.

Of the three parts which the story is split into, the first (covering volumes 1-3) is by far the weakest, the first volume in particular is just a smattering of random stories that dont even seem to connect particularly well, which isn’t the best foot to start on. Things pick up by volume 3, you just need to put in a bit of effort to get there, yet alone the really good stuff in volume 7+. Other story problems are connected to there being at least one prequel spin-off (Mobius Klein) which explains a lot of stuff the main story hints at but MK was never released in the US. You can get through without knowing the backstories, its just obviously a bigger story you cant get.

A “cleaner” action scene and you can even see how Rally and Rosa look pretty similar in designs.

So… anime?

Yes, a couple times over. There were a pair of movies released in 1991/1992 (in the US on LASERDISC no less so you know they were awesome3 and a TV series from 1998 which has a decent reputation albeit one that notes its fairly different from the manga.

Conclusion

Weeb Level: Fairly small, its far more interested in its Cyberpunk tropes and the art style leans more toward the general graphic novel side of things over anything super Japanese.

Content: There is a lot of nudity. Like, I remembered there was a fair amount but when I was rereading it I was surprised that every volume has at least one very clear shot of someones bare breasts if not multiple, not to mention a (surprisingly plot relevant) sex scene in volume 7. There is a lot of violence too although much of that happens just off pade and with how muddy the art gets at times its not nearly as bad as it could be considering the demons they are fighting.

Worth reading: Read it if you like cyberpunk, especially Bubblegum Crisis or Shadowrun, and want something more in that vein. Check it out if you want a strong female lead series with some decent plot twists to it. Skip it if you wont want to look at boobies every 4 chapters.

Where to read it: This is a roller coaster. The original series was released entirely by Viz in left to right format, albeit an otherwise fairly strong release considering its timing in the US manga market, which is now out of print. Udon Entertainment attempted to release a new version with improved translation and had plans on Mobius Klein in 2009-2011 but only got through about 4 volumes before cancelling the project. Just last July Manga Planet announced they had picked up the license and plan to re-release the series again digitally but that hasn’t happened yet. For now the best choice is to find the old Viz translations second-hand or wait a few months and see what MP does (while hoping its not cancel the series again).