ES: Eternal Sabbath 4

December 27, 2011

Fuyumi Soryo – Del Rey – 2006 – 8 volumes

Reading Mars has put me in the mood for this series again, which is simply Fuyumi Soryo taking her skills with characters and applying them to a sci-fi thriller, with excellent results.

I keep waiting for a romance to happen between Akiba and Dr. Mine. I can’t tell if there’s supposed to be one or not. It’s implied that Akiba is falling for Mine, and his empathy for her is what makes him different from Akiba. But I don’t know that Mine is returning his feelings. Then again, Shuro, the story’s villain and Akiba’s younger twin, seems to have formed a link with his young female classmate, so it’s hard to say that the bond with a regular human really changes things.

Anyway. The story here starts with a mass hallucination for the entirety of Dr. Mine’s department when her examination of Akiba goes wrong. We get to see the events of the day that Akiba’s lab was burned down, and his thoughts about Isaac. Actually, Mine and everyone else also gets to see this, since the experiment turns the lab into the lab from the past via Akiba’s powers.

I liked the aftermath of this, which reveals that Isaac has no empathy because Akiba couldn’t teach it to him, since he gave Isaac all the attention he would have wanted in his position, rather than any sort of actual love or caring. This almost doesn’t make sense (“You spoiled Isaac the way people spoil themselves”), but it sounds good in the context of the story, and does make sense in that Isaac is simply mimicking everything that Akiba does.

Later, Isaac does another terrible thing to a police officer that Akiba and Mine had grown close to. The police officer had been investigating the victims of Isaac’s crimes, and Akiba and Mine had been assisting him. The police officer… experiences a bizarre lapse in judgement, and can no longer investigate. This upsets Mine a great deal, and Akiba decides to confront Isaac. The confrontation… is epic, to say the least, and I’m not even sure who came out on top. I suspect it was Akiba. But the result and aftermath of this confrontation is material for volume five.

As I said before, Soryo’s skill is with character development. I can talk about the plot all day, but it’s the characters that turn this from a generic psychic-powered thriller to something worth reading. Akiba isn’t just a faceless experiment, the one link between humanity and Isaac, a psychopathic killer. Every scene does a good job of fleshing him out, making the reader realize that all his actions have a reason, that everything he does is carefully considered. The conversational pacing in particular is excellent, with great use of pauses and facial expressions to convey more about the characters than words ever could.

I couldn’t tell you which I liked better, this or Mars. I suspect this is far better than Mars in just about every way, and appeals to a larger audience to boot, but I’m a girly shoujo fan at heart, and I love the melodramatic flair that Mars possesses. But there’s something very compelling about this series, and this is coming from someone who normally hates this psychic powers and genetic experiment stuff. The characters bring the story to life, and it’s Soryo’s skill with this that makes me want to read everything she pens.

ES 3

August 7, 2011

Fuyumi Soryo – Del Rey – 2006 – 8 volumes

Now, this one is just plain good. Again, it’s good in spite of being a story about psychics, which is subject matter I normally can’t stomach.

The first half of the volume is about Mine and her friend Kimiko. Kimiko is a friend from school who went on to get married and be a housewife. Mine doesn’t have many friends, so the fact that she can still see and talk her problems through with Kimiko is a rarity for her. But Kimiko doesn’t feel the same way. Kimiko harbors a lot of resentment in the traditional “Mine has everything I want, I’m so unhappy!” sense, and Isaac sees this weakness and decides to take advantage of it to hurt Mine.

The psychological warfare throughout this segment is exquisite. It’s sad, and very tragic. Not only because Kimiko feels that way about what appears to be her only friend, but that Isaac would dare exploit such a thing in order to warn Mine off. When a direct approach doesn’t work, Isaac decides that he will leave a scar for life, and does so in the most twisted way possible. It’s scenes like this, the utterly ruthless stuff, the psychological warfare, that makes ES worth reading for me.

And, of course, the strong characters. I wouldn’t feel so bad for Mine if I didn’t sympathize with her a great deal. Even the supporting characters are fleshed out and feel like real people facing horrible situations. The story is also told in as straightforward a manner as possible, and watching the characters take everything on unflinchingly is a pleasure.

There’s some ugliness between Mine and Shuro towards the end of the volume, when Mine finds out that Shuro kept the terrible truth of what happened to Kimiko a secret from her. She also begins to realize just how terrifying Isaac’s powers are, how defenseless she is in the face of it, and how close she is to someone who is just like Isaac in every way, save he has more of a conscience.

I am utterly fascinated by this series. I am very much looking forward to reading more.

ES: Eternal Sabbath 2

April 30, 2011

Fuyumi Soryo – Del Rey – 2006 – 8 volumes

Wow. I was a little worried that all the good feelings I had for volume one of this series were based on the excellent short story introduction. I tend not to like stories about psychic powers and psychics running amok, so I suspected that when the plot got underway, I would be less interested in everybody hunting Isaac down.

I was wrong, and that’s because Fuyumi Soryo is really great at writing interesting characters. Isaac, Shuro, and Mine are all fascinating, and Soryo leaves enough to the reader’s imagination that seeing what makes them tick and how they react to certain situations never gets old. Shuro and Isaac in particular are wild cards, since they don’t share the same moral values as the rest of society. Isaac is “evil,” and a killer, but a little girl helps Mine see what he’s doing in a different light. And Shuro is supposed to be a good guy, but he doesn’t seem fully aware of what “good” and “bad” is, and why he should help Mine.

I also like that there’s a relationship that’s beginning to develop between Shuro and Mine. Between the two, Mine is the more obtuse one, and I’m curious to see how Shuro will handle the delicate situation.

There’s also plenty of action in this book, which is fitting for a story about psychics running amok. We get detailed death accounts for a couple of Isaac’s victims, including an elementary school student and a teacher. After Mine and one of the former researchers that worked with Isaac track him down and corner him, there’s a rather intense shootout where Isaac turns the police on Mine and the researcher, making them think that they are child murderers. Where I would normally coast through action scenes like this, Soryo is, again, quite skilled at pacing it and putting just enough of her characters at stake to make things interesting. Neither of the protagonists can really fight in a situation like that anyway, so it’s all about the reactions and quick escape.

I’m loving ES so far. I’m actually writing this review simply so that I can finally pick up volume 3 and read it. It’s great stuff.

ES: Eternal Sabbath 1

April 16, 2011

Fuyumi Soryo – Del Rey – 2006 – 8 volumes

The series I want to read by Fuyumi Soryo is Mars. That’s long out of print, and an out-of-print series that’s 15 volumes long is difficult to acquire used on the internet. I’ve been waiting for volumes to come into work, but while I’m waiting to complete my set there, I decided to give another series she’d done a try.

Wow. I don’t even like stories about psychics. If Mars is anything like this, but with topics I like (and I’ll admit that falls into the narrow range of demons and/or high school romance), it will be the best thing ever, and I will kick myself for having not picked it up sooner. For now though, all the volumes of ES are still available, and I have every intention of getting them and reading the whole thing ASAP.

The first chapter reads like a short story. We are introduced to ES, and his unique powers as a “mind hacker.” I almost set the book down for good when that was revealed on the third page, but it’s not nearly as cheesy as it sounds. ES can read people’s thoughts and introduce what he likes there. As a demonstration, we see that he stays for free at hotels and gets free clothes when he simply erases the thoughts of payment out of the minds of the clerks. He can sit down and dine with a group of people and make them think that he’s an old friend. And, more interestingly, he play-acts the part of an absent son and helps a younger son exorcise his demons of guilt and regret. We see some elaborate illusions and symbology at play. The metaphors could be heavy-handed, but the visuals are just so striking, and the art so well-done, that these scenes where ES is getting into the minds of the bullies and murders are… just so amazing and abstract. It’s powerful stuff, they really knocked my socks off.

The first chapter takes up a third of the book. After that, what appears to be the plot of the series starts. ES takes an identity with an older couple, whose memories he reformats to take the place of their dead son. But the story shifts over to a young neuroscientist named Dr. Kujyo. She’s investigating the phantom pains that ES left the bullies with in the first story, who believe their bodies are covered with severe burns despite the fact that they are not. Kujyo’s curiousity is piqued, and her investigations eventually lead her back to ES himself. His mind games don’t work on her, but he tortures her a little bit nonetheless. She’s in a bad position, since she knows what he’s capable of, but nobody will believe her since ES can reformat their memories to make whatever he wants true and make her crazy.

It’s a truly interesting and unique plot so far, and the artwork and characters are so far up to the tasks. This could derail very quickly if what appears to be a secret society of espers comes into the picture, and I have my doubts, but… I know for a fact that Fuyumi Soryo is a really great mangaka, and this first volume really blew me away with its bizarre and twisted mind games. I mostly wrote this review to get it out of the way so that I could read the next volume, and I just ordered two more. I am very, very excited.