The first chapter of Blank Slate has no connection to the rest of the story, and instead details how a bounty hunter, Russo, came to work with Zen in hopes of killing him. Kanno writes in the sidebar that this chapter replaces the original serialized first chapter, the contents of which I've been unable to find online. Despite that, I find Russo's story an effective way to open the manga. We are introduced to Zen through his eyes, allowing Kanno to illustrate the scope of Zen's crimes from a detached perspective.

Russo: (Murder, robbery, assault and battery... he's committed every crime imaginable. More crimes than even the government knows.) He'll be my biggest hit so far. Killing him will be worthwhile...

What makes Russo's tale interesting is that, like Zen, he seeks absolute control. While Zen is primarily focused on controlling his own life, Russo is driven to control the fates of others, and considers killing the epitome of it. With a plan established, he goes to find Zen in order to get close to him. Because Russo is focused on control, rather than simply killing Zen for the money and glory, he joins Zen on his path of senseless destruction. To Russo, control is an essential part of his role: even working alongside Zen, he tries to do all he can to control the situation and protect them from the authorities. Zen, however, is unconcerned, interested only in doing what he wants.

Russo: ...Now we won't have any money. (There's no need to get a room in a five-star hotel just to sleep...)
Zen: Anything gets in our way, we'll destroy it... whether it's people or things.
Russo: (He's out of control. He's completely erratic, unpredictable...)

What Russo fails to understand is that while it looks like Zen is exactly the madman he's perceived to be, this is Zen in control. Given the choice between Russo's reasonable plans to lay low and avoid the authorities and mindless destruction with no respect for others, Zen chooses the latter.

And before long, Russo finds himself caught up in Zen's game. He finds himself attracted to the chaos Zen seeks and follows down his path, losing sight of the goal he started out with. There's a certain subtext to their relationship, but I see it more along the lines of Russo being drawn to the one thing he's never had: being controlled by a superior person. Despite what he tries to convince himself, he doesn't take the opportunity to kill Zen, and ends up at the end of Zen's gun instead.

What really makes Russo's story interesting to me is what it says about Zen. We get to see how Russo's thoughts on control and his motivations develop as he gets closer to Zen, as well as his realizations upon death, but Zen has no interest. While Russo naturally thinks Zen knew his plan was to betray him, Zen had neither any idea nor any real care. He took Russo along purely for his own amusement, and killed him when the time came. At heart, that is all the reader really needs to know about Zen.

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Blank Slate © Aya Kanno. No infringement intended.
uncontrol © Larissa, 2011-2021.