Hiroki Endo’s Eden begins in a future where a pandemic virus has virtually eradicated humanity from the planet. In this volume we meet three survivors who live on an island: Hannah and Enoah (two teens) and their mentor and guardian Layne (who is suffering from late stages of the virus). As the story unfolds we learn the mechanism the virus uses to kill (it is an autoimmune disease that hardens the skin and causes necrosis in the organs). We are also exposed to the backstory of how the island was depopulated.
The island that they are on was originally a populated, hermetically sealed, research facility that was failing to come up with a vaccine or cure for the virus. Years into their mission, one of the officers charged with protecting the island, ultimately decides that the virus was sent to punish humanity. Thus, following that logic, he unleashes a robot, breaks the seal, and kills himself after exposing all the island’s residents to the virus. This original violent end to the idyllic island is paralleled with the end of the teens’ time on the island. They are forced to use the same robot (called Cherubim) to keep them safe. The story then picks up 20 years later with Enoah’s son Elijah. He is traveling with Cherubim through the shell of a pre-virus city before he has an eventful run-in with a group of what appear to be mercenaries.
Endo takes each of the arcs in this volume from introspective and philosophical to action packed. The meditative pieces never feel forced, and he uses his incredibly detailed black and white art, both foreground and backgrounds, to add to the thoughtful mood. He is able to make the somewhat gruesome hollowed out victims of the pandemic bodies seem peaceful in one panel and then horrific in the next.
The action sequences are drawn with a kinetic intensity (indeed, the story and art is somewhat reminiscent of Akira). In one noteworthy scene set in the past of the first story (noted by the black border around the pages – stories in the present have a white border), we see the army officer, overcome with despair at the state of the world, committing suicide. This act is staged with rapid pacing between, and great movement within, the panels.
That is not to say that the entire tone of the manga is somber. Both Elijah, Hannah and Enoah exhibit actions typical of a teenager: playing dress up, getting faux angry as well as getting into mischief. Even so, while there is no nudity, (in this volume), the mature subject matter makes this title most suited for adults and older teens who have had experience with seinen manga such as 20th Century Boys or Monster.
Eden: It’s an Endless World! Volume 1
By Hiroki Endo
Dark Horse, 2005