By Hiroki Endo (Titan Books)
Despite the truly monumental breadth and variety of manga, I suspect that to western eyes Japanese comics are inextricably linked to science fiction in general and cataclysm in particular. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good, merely saddled with a few unfair presuppositions. With that stated and in mind any fair reader should sit down to Eden: It’s An Endless World! and be prepared for a treat.
Elijah Ballard is one of a small group of immunes who have survived the global pandemic named the ‘Closure Virus’. Most of humanity has been eradicated, and those infected who have survived their initial exposure are doomed to a slow deterioration that compels them to augment their failing bodies with cybernetics simply to survive. They barely qualify as human by most standards.
Pockets of survivors immune to the plague are dotted about the planet and as the years pass various factions form to take control of the world. Through a series of flashbacks we see the immediate aftermath of the plague before jumping twenty years to follow this young man’s picaresque ramblings through a devastated South America. Accompanied by a robotic bodyguard he is eking out a precarious existence when he is captured – or perhaps adopted – by a rag-tag band of soldiers.
When the world died political society divided into two camps. The fragmented remnants of the United Nations tried to retain some degree of control but found themselves under attack by Propater, a revolutionary paramilitary organisation that had been planning a world coup even before the virus hit. Global war has raged among the survivors ever since.
Now caught up in this conflict Elijah begins to realise that his long missing parents are major players in the new world order and day to day survival is no longer his only concern…
Despite the cyberpunk appurtenances and high octane pace of the narrative, this is in many senses a very English approach to the End of the World. There are echoes of that other Ballard (J. G., an author, not a comic strip scripter), Aldous Huxley, and even Chapman Pincher. The adult themes present here aren’t simply nudity and violence – although they are here in an abundance that will satisfy any action manga fan – but also a lyrical philosophy and moral questioning of political doctrine that underpins the text in the manner of much Cold War era science fiction.
This Titan Books edition is translated into English but printed in Japanese format – that is read from back to front and right-to-left, but don’t let that deter you. You will adjust in minutes at most and the slight effort is really worth it. Subtly engaging, beautifully illustrated and balancing swift action with introspective mystery, this series looks set to appeal to that literate sector that needs their brains tickled as well as their pulse rates raised.
© 2007 Hiroki Endo. All Rights Reserved.