Thursday, August 03, 2006

EDEN

I'm too heat-drunk for proper posting, nevermind working. I really should have bought another air conditioner.

Eden Vol. 1 By Hiroki Endo

Ah, that's the stuff. I can't find Planetes Vol. 2 anywhere, so I took a Jogamendation to read Eden (I picked up FLCL and Q-Ko-Chan as well but... brrrrr... wow. You know those kids trying to sell really expensive minis at shows full of awful, incomprehensible manga ripoff art? Yeah. That's them.)

Eden is quite lovely. I find I'm more attracted to the more representational side of manga art than the more expressionistic side. Maybe I just haven't found the right expressionists, but those books seem lazier than artistic. So, it's Death Note, Monster, Planetes, Golgo 13, Tatsumi and Hino's works and, now, Eden. The fourth volume's come out, but I've only got the first. And it's a neat first.

The story begins with a lovely, very pastoral scene of gardening. And takes a few pages before the hovercycle shows up. It's a nice little switch into a post-apocalyptic world where the human population has been all but wiped out by a skin-hardening disease. It's a strange disease, but it provides the apocalyptic scenes with a great visual of drying, cracked skins, liquified interiors and one twisted moment involving centipedes.

But it's to the book's credit that this is not a story about the horor of the disease, but the disease impacts the characters in the book's opening with an existential horror. One character is forced to deal with the guilt of the means he employed to acheive a particular end, while wondering whether that end was justifiable in the first place. The other two characters in the books opening are forced to deal with even scarier questions. For young Hannah, she must grapple with the questions of what is sin in a world with only two people. If there are only two people in the world, what is love? What does it mean to have children in those circumstances?

Of course, Hannah and Enoah aren't the only two people in the world, and the characters are vaguely aware that there have to be other people out there if the race is meant to continue, but their first encounter with the outside world is catastophic as they find themselves in the crossfire between warring factions.

The first half of the book is as much full of sadness as it is full of characters who exist outside of the story's plot even though they are the main players in that story. The friendships in the pre-apocalypse flashbacks feel real, and the small, tender moments feel less like forced characterization than they do of the all-too-brief perfect moments we remember about the people we love. Some of the action scenes are a little dificult to decipher, but they are brief and need to be a bit chaotic from the main protagonists' point of view. Their perfect world has just been shattered.

The second half of the book follows the South American travels of Elijah, identified as Enoah's son. Presumably Hannah's as well, but I don't want to guess too far into the book's future. It's twenty years after Hannah and Enoah's Eden was destroyed, but the knowledge the outsiders brought with them was never properly disemenated. Elijah is making his way towards the Andes mountains with his father's giant robot in tow while he learns how to be a man without his parents when he encounters a militia group.

There are some interesting suggestions made by these people. Why do they say the things they say? How do they know Elijah's father? What has Enoah been doing these past twenty years? Why are they trying to destroy Elijah's grandfather's organization? A cyborg woman, Sophia, proves to be the most interesting of these new characters. Existing as an intermediaty state between an Elijah who wants a girlfriend as much as he'd like to alieve himself of the problems with being human and his robot friend who desires to be more human, but can't understand certain spititual needs, she should provide an interesting counter-balance in future volumes.

Already, she and Elijah have been shown faking an emotional hardening of the skin, while melting somewhat on the inside. The difference right now is that Sophia embraces and cherishes the things that make her soft inside, while Elijah sees his emotions as a weakness.

It's a promising start to the series, and I look forward to more.

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