Black Magic

Originally published back in 1983 over several issues of the Japanese fanzine Atlas Magazine as a "first and last volume," this was Shirow's first published work, and the start of his hallmark career. While the artistic skills are lacking(even embarassing to Shirow himself), and the story isn't quite coherent, it is still a must have for Shirow fans as we begin to see his artistic style develop. "This book introduced most of my favorite elements - bioroids, armored combat robots, magic, aliens - and they haven't changed to date." Of course, he neglected to mention the cute girl heroines in this tidbit from Intron Depot 1, but we all know those are rather commonplace with him too. Artistically, a good chunk of the character design reminds me of the works of Leiji Matsumoto, creator of Captain Harlock, Queen Emeraldas, and Galaxy Express 999, among other projects.

While it happens millions of years in our past(dinosaurs roaming the Earth, anyone?), Black Magic is set on Venus in an age of technology and magic where computers handle/control government functions while the people go about their lives. Duna Typhon, a specially designed bioroid, was designed to make sure the government never became too powerful. Loosely following her trail, Black Magic gives us the story on 3 different incidents in Duna's time, in addition to little bit of introduction to her at the start of the series.

The first of the tales, while rather brief, details the theft of a newly completed sub and it's role in the development of Earth, not much to be seen of Duna here. Comprising close to half of BM, the second tale follows the hunt of some M-66 combat robots that went rouge due to Duna's meddling, a bit more exciting in print than the OVA adapted from this chapter. Again, there's little showtime for Duna here. Finally, we get a tale about a plan for space colonization, with hundreds of millions of civilians headed for parts unknown, and we finally get to see Duna take a major part in the story, fighting for her life and helping save one of the colony ships. After it was originally published as a collected work, a reissue came out with an added appendix detailing the M-66 combat robots and Shirow's theory/technology behind them.

Prologue Excerpt

When it began, and when it ended, is something known only to those who were there. What is known is that the human civilization on Venus eventually completed the mammoth supercomputer, Nemesis. The Nemesis system was designed to take in hand all the government functions of the Venusian Federation. Its mission: Bring about Utopia. Upon completion of Nemesis, the entire planet surrendered itself to the control of the ultimate benevolent dictator. But Nemesis needed agents to defend its computerized administration and execute its orders. The agents were called, somewhat ominously, Executors. Thus each region was assigned its own Executors- bioroids generated through genetic manipulation, recipients of special education and training from birth. And Nemesis built a great city where the Executors might live. And so the world was divided among the bioroids who practiced the art of governance in the city of Nemesis and the society of Venusians subject to the supercomputer's rule.

Nemesis created another self-aware computer, Tantalos, entrusting it with the training of the bioroids, and it constructed its own mobile robot terminal, Uranus. In time, Chronos- the most successful of the bioroids built by the perfectionist Uranus- took over the reins of power from Nemesis, and true government began. About the time legal restrictions were tightened on the size of the bioroid population, Zeus was created and defeated Chronos in a fiercely contested election. Eventually, the generation of new bioroids was prohibited, but Nemesis remained wary lest the government become too strong. In greatest secrecy, it worked with Tantalos to create Typhon. Zues learned of Typhon just after her birth, and destroyed her in a savage battle in the Etona mountains. But Nemesis once again generated the Typhon program and, concealing her from the eyes of Zeus, raised her in the world of man.

US Issue Cover Art

US Release Issue 1 Cover US Release Issue 2 Cover US Release Issue 3 Cover US Release Issue 4 Cover

Other Cover Art

Original Atlas Cover Rejected Atlas Reprint Cover Textless Version of Original Seishinsha Edition Cover