Hiroki Endo – Dark Horse – 2006 – 18 volumes
I’m using my Christmas vacation to read a few random volumes that have accumulated. This is among the oldest of my to-read stack. I didn’t really enjoy the first two volumes, so I’ve been putting this one off.
I still didn’t really enjoy it, but that’s mostly because war and battle stories aren’t really for me. Reading this volume, I do like the highly detailed art, and I can appreciate the strategy that was put into the battles and the way the character development was tied to the events as they unfolded. I also can’t fault the artwork, which is incredibly detailed and probably harkens back to Masamune Shirow or Katsuhiro Otomo (who you’ll notice are also more or less absent from this site).
But I just didn’t enjoy reading about the battle as it unfolded. It just read like a war to me. I can’t help it. I’m sure there are guys that feel the same way when they try and read shoujo and it all seems like the same romance story. They just don’t read romance stories, and I don’t read war books. I’m not going to trash Eden because I don’t like it, since there really wasn’t anything wrong with this book (I’ll stand by my criticisms of the BS happening in volume one, though). I just can’t enjoy it for what it is. I need for there to be something other than the war going on, and it doesn’t look like I’ll get my wish in the near future. Maybe I’ll burn myself out on samurai series and I’ll come back to this. But it’s not likely.
I’m sorry, Eden. At least it looks like you’re no longer in danger of not finishing your run. That’s good news.
This was better than the first volume in that my least favorite part, the obvious and heavy-handed religious themes, were toned way down. Unfortunately, some of them are still there, and the messages still aren’t all that subtle or even very worthwhile. Prepare yourself for a conversation about what God’s role is in the present day and what he means to both the Muslim and Judeo-Christian religions that sits rather awkwardly when it is told. Perhaps there are layers I’m just not getting, but I’m going to give myself a little more credit than that, because… yeah, these discussions really aren’t handled well. But they are improving.
This still leans heavily on politics to drive the story, and I’m just not feeling it. We find out that Elijah’s father is a South American drug lord, or perhaps the South American drug lord, and the reason he’s wandering around with guerrillas/mercenaries is that he escaped from a kidnapping attempt by Propater when his mom and sister did not. The general consensus seems to be that his father is a monster (as you might imagine of someone who is the main South American drug lord), and the atrocities committed by/for his family do come up, but this is the type of thing that could get more interesting as the story goes on.
Much emphasis is put on each character’s personal story. The mercenaries/guerrillas wind up rescuing two prostitutes from an attack on a base at the beginning of the volume. Elijah is actually the one that spares their lives, as the rest of the mercenaries think it best to kill the two of them (and they actually mercilessly slaughter everyone at the base, including two other women that were brought in as prostitutes). One of them is a professional that enlightens us to Elijah’s family situation as well as her own (she comes from a family of prostitutes), whereas the other is a girl of Incan descent whose village was subject to an “ethnic cleansing.” This segues nicely into the background of the leader of the mercenaries, whose village in former USSR Georgia was also ethnically cleansed of Muslims, including his family. I liked these parts too, but again, it seemed a bit like the story was reaching for themes that it isn’t quite prepared to discuss.
Aside from the slaughter at the base in the beginning of the volume, there is also surprisingly little violence, something I thought was this title’s selling point. We do get to see Cherubim, the gigantic robot, unload into a crowd of people, which will never get old. I’m actually a little disappointed that Cherubim and Elijah are still hanging out with the mercenaries, because… well, it seems like if he could gain control of Cherubim, he could just leave. Elijah seems like he’s starting to like being with the mercenaries, though.
Also, there is promise in Kenji, one of the guerillas/mercenaries. He seems to be a psychopath, and that could go places. I’m not sure I’m going to continue this series after the third volume, though.
I bought the first three volumes of this for my roommate, who likes anything with a post-apocalyptic setting. Honestly, it really didn’t sound like the type of thing I would enjoy. I just can’t bring myself to get excited about seinen series set in the future where the characters wage war with cyborgs and robots and stuff, no matter how awesome they are. At least this series has a virus that turns people into crystals rather than, say, psychic powers.
The prologue, which takes up the first half of the volume, was kind of discouraging. It makes sure to let you know that the themes of the series will be “Do humans deserve to be the dominant race” and “What makes someone human and superior to animals and robots?” Now, these are pretty heavy-handed themes, and really, you have to have a really good, long story going in order to pull these messages off well. But to introduce them within the first hundred pages and have the characters debate the issues over and over again… it’s really too much. Kikaider was more subtle than this, and that’s saying something.
The story is interesting so far, though. A virus has wiped most of humanity off the face of the Earth. In the prologue, we find a partially infected scientist living with two children that he seems to think will repopulate the area with their offspring when they grow up. To make sure you get the gist of what’s going on, the children comment on Biblical passages and bring up Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Their lives are interrupted one day when soldiers from the UN storm their camp looking for the scientist. Through a series of flashbacks, we find out that the scientist and the boy’s father worked together to try and eradicate the virus, and eventually the scientist betrayed the father with a leaked phony cure because he thought humans deserved to die, that the virus was God’s way of hitting the reset button. After we learn most of the intricacies of the plot and character relationships, a robot kills everybody. The end.
After the prologue, the story jumps ahead 20 years to a boy that lives alone with the killer robot and among the overgrown ruins of an abandoned city. After a chapter or two showing how he lives, the boy is abducted by guerrilla soldiers that are accompanied by a female cyborg. Apparently they are headed over the Andes.
Yeah, I wasn’t exactly impressed with the first volume, but again, this type of series really isn’t my thing. The political intrigue was pretty bland, and the themes are heavy-handed and lack any subtlety whatsoever. The action parts are good, and I have to admit to liking the killer robot. I’m also pretty curious to find out what life is like after the apocalypse, though I have a feeling everything’s going to be under military/guerilla rule and it won’t be all that interesting. I’ve got two more volumes here, so let’s see what direction the plot takes.