This is shit, guys. I got 7 Billion Needles in 2012. Junji Ito was in one of his periodic 2-3 year “releasing fucking nothing” dry spells, and this looked vaguely similar. What I got managed to be not what I expected via the contradictory path of being EXACTLY what I expected: cliche after cliche after cliche, hammered down with the repetition of a judge’s gavel.
This is the swill that passes for horror manga? Even a novice to the form like myself could pick up on all copy-of-a-copy ideas. “Main character fuses with a symbiote and fights monsters”? Off the top of my head: Parasyte, Variante, Tokko, and Genocyber…and I read LESS THAN ZERO manga. Main character’s an alienated high school girl? Be careful, I’m not sure Western markets are capable of handling this much originality.
The story is better recapped by someone who cares more than me (ie, anybody). The character design is workmanlike and boring. The art is full of computer-assisted gradient shading and all the other parlour tricks of a bored pen monkey cranking out a generic serial to an editor’s cracking whip. The plot has a lot of…events, you could call them. Things happen. Then they stop happening. Repeat for a few hundred pages. Launch franchise.
7 Billion Needles is apparently inspired by Needle, by Hal Clement. The storytelling is not reminiscent of any era of Western science fiction, just a very standard manga formula that’s executed neither better or worse than average, and doesn’t stand out even by being a train wreck. Cripples inspire pity: bores inspire no reaction at all.
When I think of horror manga, I think of Kazuo Umezu’s doomed worlds, Shintaro Kago’s gross-outs, Suehiro Maruo’s nihilism and aesthetics, Jun Hayami’s brutality, Junji Ito’s fetishistic HR Gigerisms…even Hideshi Hino’s primitive efforts have more panache and charm than 7 Billion Needles.
The title comes from a metaphor: the difficulty of finding a particular needle amongst seven billion other needles. This also describes the experience of anyone trying to find decent manga in this day and age.