We might never get a second season of Netflix’s Cyberpunk: Edgerunners anime, but its creator is keeping us fed with a cool new manga series with a fresh premise.
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NoName, written by Edgerunners creator Rafal Jaki and manga artist Machine Gamu (Gachiakuta), is a supernatural manga series where the meaning behind people’s names gifts them powers associated with their meaning. For example, its main characters, two detectives named Ralf and Ursula, have the power to control wolves and transform into giant bear, respectively.
Pretty sweet, right? Well, not exactly, because the world of the dark manga series is governed by the Nordic Name Bureau—a kind of police state that maintains order by assigning names to newborn babies. In doing so, the NNB takes agency away from its citizens, deciding what powers they’ll grow up to have and, effectively, what socio-economic class a person is destined to exist within for the rest of their lives. The first chapter of NoName is available to read for free on Manga Plus Creators.
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NoName’s first chapter follows Ralf and Ursula—employees of the NNB—as they accept a job from a charismatic politician named Bodil to look into the whereabouts of his wife and son, who shares his name. After a bit of sleuthing, they discover that the situation isn’t what it initially appeared to be; Bodil’s wife, Kara, left to free herself and her child from Bodil’s abuse.
Bodil, whose name translates to human commander, forcibly used his powers on Kara, whose more common name gave her weaker powers. In addition to some truly awful physical and sexual abuse, he also used his powers of mental influence to convince her that she wanted to keep their child. (Basically, his powers work like Zebediah Killgrave’s from Jessica Jones.) It’s also revealed that Bodil used his political influence with the NNB to have his son inherit his name, and with it, his terrible power.
While most manga series center their power systems on arbitrary scales that vary depending on things like the power of friendship, training, or birthright, NoName’s unique premise of placing power in a person’s name, having that process strictly policed, and having it all depend on a child acknowledging their name for the powers to manifest, has my mind racing with the narrative avenues and thematic possibilities the series could explore in future chapters.
I won’t spoil how NoName’s first chapter ends, but I will tell you that its original power systems, coupled with its enthralling political overtones, make it one of the more intriguing manga reads of the year.