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Blank Slate Volume 1

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Blank Slate Volume 1 by Aya Kanno, published by  Shojo Beat Manga / VIZ Media

Blank Slate Volume 1

© Aya Kanno

The Bottom Line

With its focus on a cold-blooded assassin and simmering political unrest, Blank Slate is not your typical shojo manga story. What keeps it 'girl-y' is its sexy pin-up boys, including its androgynous anti-hero, Zen.

Cool and mysterious Zen is a drop-dead gorgeous guy who makes both men and women's hearts flutter. But despite his handsome façade, Zen has no soul, no morals and no memories of his past 20 years.

Kanno goes outside the usual shojo storylines, but almost immediately runs into her own limitations with her stiff, unimaginative action scenes and a story that's dead on arrival.

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  • Stylish, contemporary artwork with lots of bishonen (pretty boy) eye-candy
  • An unconventional shojo story with more suspense, action and violence than romance
  • Kanno charges her stories with a tantalizing undercurrent of erotic tension


  • Zen is an amoral, manipulative cipher who seems more like a robot than a man
  • Cold, detached storytelling that doesn't give readers much reason to care about what happens next
  • Kanno's action and fight scenes seem wooden and unimaginative


  • Original Title: Akusaga (Japan)
  • Author & Artist: Aya Kanno
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-1-4215-1924-1
  • Cover Price: $8.99 US / $10.50 CANADA
  • Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for graphic violence and some mature themes
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: October 2008
    Japan Publication Date: September 2005
  • Book Description: 192 pages, black and white illustrations
  • More Manga by Aya Kanno:
    • Otomen
    • Soul Rescue

Guide Review - Blank Slate Volume 1

If you thought that shojo manga stories were required to have flowers and romance, Aya Kanno is out to blast those preconceptions to bits with her action / suspense bishonen babe fest, Blank Slate. Instead of stolen kisses, dates and love notes, Kanno gives us kidnappings, guns and political intrigue. The only thing that keeps this series in the shojo camp is its focus on relationships and the crackle of erotic tension that radiates from Blank Slate's sexy anti-hero, Zen.

Zen is an amoral assassin who kills almost anyone who's unlucky enough to cross his path. His androgynous beauty attracts and destroys men and women who get too close to his cold flame. As these men and women meet their untimely demises, Zen barely blinks an eye or sheds a tear. When Zen gets shot, it's almost surprising to find out that he can bleed, since he acts more like a killer cyborg than a man.

Zen's tragedy is that his past is a complete mystery to him. Behind his dead, soul-less eyes lies hints of a painful past that he can barely remember. How and why did he become a cold-blooded killer?

Credit is due to Kanno for stretching beyond the usual cliches of shojo manga storytelling. Her artwork is stylish and sleek, with lots of pretty guys with bedroom eyes to keep things spicy. She also adds in a subplot about a corrupt paramilitary society to give Zen an opportunity to find a cause worth killing for.

But Kanno runs into her limits of her abilities as a shojo manga-ka when she tries to draw action scenes. Zen's gunplay and fighting scenes are stiff and unimaginative. Kanno barely conveys the adrenaline-pumping drama and kinetic energy that one would expect from a seinen or shonen manga story with a similar plot. As a result, this story is about as dead and dull as Zen's soul-less eyes.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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