Reviewby Carlo Santos, Feb 28th 2006
Eden - It's an Endless World!
In the near future, a deadly virus throws the world into crisis, causing countless deaths and drastic political changes. Among the survivors are a boy and a girl, Enoah and Hannah, who are somehow immune to the virus. With the rest of the world wiped out or gone into hiding, they might as well have been the last people on earth... Fast-forward twenty years to a world in ruins. A teenager named Elijah tries to survive in what was once South America. Accompanied by a battle robot, Elijah joins a renegade group of freedom fighters trying to cross the Andes. Standing in their way is Propater, an organization that gained world dominance during the virus outbreak. Propater's military presence seems overwhelming, but Elijah's notorious parentage might just come in useful...
If Eden can be faulted for one thing, it's that it tries to be all genres at once—a military action thriller, a science fiction lament, a philosophical sounding board. It does most of these things decently, but none of them impressively—an unfortunate result of trying to spread your talents too thin. However, Hiroki Endo still has enough ambition and skill to give us an entertaining story of the future, even if it's not as deep as it claims to be. This desolate vision of Earth has a strong grounding in our current world, leaving some to wonder: What if this really is our future?
Eden starts with a prologue so vast that it could stand as a work in itself; this 116-page chapter is a gripping chronicle of civilization's downfall. With extensive flashbacks and world-building, the story almost trips over itself with plot development, but closes out with a dramatic flourish as Enoah and Hannah watch their world fall apart.
And that's just halfway through Volume 1. After such a powerful start, the rest of the volume is anticlimactic. The 20-year jump to Elijah lacks any of the excitement of the first chapter; he's just ruminating on life among the ruins of South America. However, the action picks up in the second volume as Elijah gets involved with the freedom fighters. A tense duel between military computer hackers, a flashback to the kidnapping of Elijah's mother and sister—it's action scenes like these that present the world of Eden at its best.
However, Endo also feels the need to give his work intellectual weight, and does so in the most ham-fisted way possible: mechanical dialogues on religion and philosophy throughout the story. There's nothing inherently wrong with expressing one's personal views, but Endo's material sounds like a teenager who's just discovered that ranting about organized religion is trendy. Better to let the characters' personal lives generate an emotional and intellectual response, rather than forcing it out of the reader with provocative statements.
Although the story is a mixed bag, the artwork is beyond reproach: whether in the heat of battle or deep in thought, each scene is drawn in convincing detail. The characters are varied enough to tell apart, although the military types often look alike under their heavy gear. Endo's linework is often stately and precise, matching the gloomy, detached mood of this future world, but it comes to life magnificently in action scenes. Dense speedlines and flying debris energize these moments, whether it be Enoah and Hannah challenging Propater's soliders, the capture of Elijah's family, or hacker Sophia taking on Propater's weapons systems. Textured backgrounds add to the realism—cracks, bullet holes, and dirt are the reason why this is such a believable vision of the future.
Dark Horse's presentation of both volumes matches their high standards; the sharp print quality is ideal for showcasing Endo's detailed art. Even though the colored pages have been altered to grayscale, they don't fall victim to blurring like in other publishers' releases. Sound effects have been left in Japanese but small translations are provided next to each. The dialogue flows well, and even uses certain mannerisms to capture the characters' personalities. Scientific and political footnotes also accompany the story; a translation/cultural appendix might have been nice but would be largely useless in a story that has little to do with Japan.
Although it tries too hard at times, Eden is still a fine entry in the crowded field of futuristic, dystopian-world manga. An ambitious first chapter sets up a complex yet realistic geopolitical situation, and the first two volumes build on that to tell a gripping survival story. The philosophical arguments aren't as clever as they seem, but the personal battles among characters—whether physical or emotional—make this series worth it. If this is our future, we can only hope that we'll all be as stalwart as Elijah.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : A-
+ A well-built, believable world and terrific action scenes.
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