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Since the death of her father, Hikaru has been withdrawing from the world, hiding being her headphones drown out everything around her. While on a school trip, she sees a shooting star that seems to turn right for her! What seems like a dream becomes a horrible reality as she learns that she died, and is only alive now because of an alien entity called Horizon, who needs Hikaru’s help to find Maelstrom, another alien intent on destroying all life on Earth. But the only way to help Horizon and get her life back is to reach back out to the world she’s been trying to escape from.

By Nobuaki Tadano
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Sci-fi
Price: $10.95

7 Billion Needles is a sci-fi story that was inspired by a classic sci-fi story, Needle by Hal clemet. It uses Needle‘s basic premise of a human and alien having to work together to stop a different alien threat, but then branches off in its own direction. while having plenty of action and suspense, this story really examines what it means to be human through Hikaru and Horizon’s interactions.

When we first meet Hikaru, she is pretty much alone. She has recently lost her parents, and is now living with her Aunt and Uncle. She has transferred to a new school, and doesn’t have any friends. Nor does she seem to want any. She has withdrawn from the world, and doesn’t try to interact with anyone or make friends. She always wears headphones, and uses them to try and drown out the world around her. Then Horizon arrives.

Horizon is a being of pure energy and can only exist on Earth inside a human’s blood stream. He is chasing another alien known as Maelstom. Maelstom wants to destroy all living beings, while Horizon wants to protect them. During his pursuit,he accidentally kills Hikaru, He regenerates her, but with him in her blood stream, as a part of her. In the subsequent hunt for Maelstrom, first at Hikaru’s school, and then on the island where her father died, Hikaru is forced to come out of her shell, and re-engage with the world around her.

I really enjoyed these first two volumes of 7 Billion Needles. It has science fiction and horror elements, but the heart of the story sits with Hikaru and her attempt to isolate herself from other people. At first, she helps Horizon just to get rid of him, but along the way ends up making friends with two girls at her school, Saya and Nao. Their first meeting is simple but amusing, and the girls turn out to be very good friends to Hikaru. Even though Hikaru thinks she wants to be left alone, when Saya is in danger from Maelstrom, she runs to her rescue, and merges with Horizon to save her. Then, when she must face the deep pain that drives her further into her fear, it is her connections with Saya and Nao that free her from Maelstom and bring her back. It is these connections, the bonds she thought she wanted to break in the world that save her, connections she made thanks to an alien, Horizon.

The action is well paced in these two volumes. It augments it instead of overwhelming it. The horror elements mostly involve Maelstrom, as he eliminates Hikaru’s classmates searching for her, usually by removing limbs and spewing a lot of blood. It’s also got some great suspenseful moments, that really build up the tension, such as in Hikaru’s confrontation with a transformed Maelstrom in volume 1 and her near defeat against him in volume 2. These are truly heart pounding moments.

The art is realisticall rendered, with none of the conventions you usually see in manga. Maelstrom’s various forms are drawn with a great attention to detail, making his monsterous forms all the more scary. The humans are drawn well for the most part, though at times characters can seem a little squat, or smooshed. The designs tend to be similar, with hair or clothes being the way to tell characters apart, but it’s not annoying.

7 Billion Needles is shaping up to be a great sci-fi story, filled with human drama and alien action. Even if sci-fi isn’t necessarily your thing, still check this title out for some thrilling drama and twists that will leave you wanting more.

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