In the panic surrounding a worldwide pandemic which kills 15 percent of the population and cripples many more, a secret organization, the Propater, topples the UN and seizes control of much of the world. A boy and a girl, raised in an abandoned virology research center, immune to the virus, are attacked by the Propater and escape.
Twenty years later, the boy is the most powerful drug lord in South America. He aids his son from behind the scenes as he evades and eventually with the help of mercenaries from Nomad (some of them former Propater operatives) fights the Propater. As the plot develops focus shifts away from the main character and develops many sub-plots dedicated to terrorism, Human-improvement, the struggle of the developing countries and the power battles between the drug cartels and Propater.
Based strongly on Gnostic mythology, all major characters are named after gnostic deities, and have analogous roles.
The first fourteen volumes of Eden: It's an Endless World! were published in English by Dark Horse from November 2, 2005 to April 23, 2014, before the manga was dropped. It has also been published in Brazil by Jbc in a 2-in-1 edition since July 2015; and was published in Polish by Egmont from 2002 to 2009.
Eden is the best completed manga I've read up to date.
Because Hiroki Endo's post-apocalyptic tale has got almost everything that can be considered good in manga in spades: great story, gorgeous art and near perfect characterization. Imagine a well thought-out, mature story clashing seamlessly with art that manages to be both realistic and beautiful and characters that almost seem more real than the people one encounters in their daily lives. If painting a picture in your mind of a manga with such merits proves to be too difficult for you, grab Eden and you'll know what I'm talking about.
Science fiction is a major element in
Eden's story. In Hiroki Endo's hands, though, the act of toying with wild speculations about the future has not gotten out of hand at all. The story is set in a world that has undergone a large disaster, but that disaster wasn't an attack from outer space, a sudden detonation of the world, the work of a mad scientist, or any other pompous crap like that. Rather, Endo has chosen an evolved killer virus as a means that almost lead to the end of the world; something that people living in a world riddled with various epidemics, deadly or not, can surely identify with. The workings of this closure-virus (as well as other scifi-esque stuff that comes up later on) have been explained thoroughly enough that the reader can easily grasp what's going on.
But Eden is much more than just another heap of end-of-the-world-scifi-shit. It has a lot of drama stemming from the interactions between the characters, a touch of romance and happiness even amidst the harsh realities of a world gone from bad to worse, and even an occasional spark of humour.
The tale's maturity comes from the way these different aspects are handled: carefully and with a clear effort regarding good taste. The world in which Eden is set is brutal and cold, but it doesn't preach about bottomless gloom and doom and hopelessness and depression and whatnot. Yes the world is sometimes harsh and uncaring, but in Eden, there is room left for the good things as well.
Just like all the good stories, love and romance and dramatic relationships have their place in Eden. Following along Endo's decision to keep things from flying off the handle, there are some hugs and kisses (...), but not in ridiculous abundance. Love happens, just like hate, friendships, sadness, happiness and other kind of shit happens. It isn't overly highlighted or downplayed, it's simply there with all the other aspects of life.
The less serious side of Eden starts to become more prominent as the story goes on. At some point the readers find themselves seeing sexual jokes, chibi characters and some other silly characteristics of manga art more and more often. Some people have found this upsetting. I liked it. It made me laugh. I also think that paradoxically, a dose of good humour brings more credibility to a story dealing with serious issues rather than a no light in sight-type of tragedy.
A common way of defining whether a story is mature or not is to measure how much it has blood, gore, violence, sex and all that type of jazz. Though I'm not one to promote that way as a measuring stick for how grown up the story is, Eden does show its assets in this regard as well. If Endo wants to give us gore, he gives us showers of blood, shredded limbs and cracked bones instead of some lame stumps a la Claymore. Also, one of the ugliest torture scenes I've seen in manga. And when it's time for sex, we see passionate screwing, kissing, and gropin' in place of the usual cheek smooches and blushes so typical in common "romance" mangas. And just like with all the other faces of Eden, realism is the key word here: in no point does Endo slip into sloppy tastelessness with his more graphic imagery.
Imagery, which is, as I stated early on, simply gorgeous. Endo manages to capture that unique beauty in Japanese style of comic-writing, be that in the characters, sceneries or anything else, without drowning us in saucer-sized eyes or over-groomed scenes. Realistic beauty. Wait, is that even possible? In Eden, it is.
Other aspects adding on the reading pleasure include clean panel arrangements and the author's interesting essays at the end of each volume. Like cherries atop a well creamed cake.
As per everything else, not all is perfect, or even excellent, in Eden. I could go on about some of the manga's minor issues for a paragraph or two, but it'd be a waste of time. The occasional bore of reading long lines of science jargon. A misplaced joke here and there. Some over the top philosophy. Consider it a cow chip next to Mt. Everest.
Eden: It's An Endless World is a very aptly-named manga, in that its definitive feature is how utterly, endlessly sprawling it is. Eden covers several decades (to the degree that it begins a long time before the protagonist was even born), numerous locales, and more characters and plot points than you can possibly hope to keep track of all of.
It begins in a post-apocalyptic society that is being devastated by a pandemic. This new virus known as "Closure" causes people's skin to harden into an outer shell as their internal organs gradually liquify - an agonizing process which often takes years. The series begins with
two children, Enoa Ballard and Hana Mayer, who currently live separated from society alongside their heavily-religious guardian who is slowly dying of Closure. In of itself, their story is excellent, but this is merely the one-volume prologue.
Many years later, the story moves to their son, Elijah Ballard. Initially he is making his way in the post-apocalyptic society, alongside his father's robot, Cherubim. However, he rapidly gets involved with a band of guerrillas. From here, the story begins properly, but this barely scratches the surface of it.
To call Eden "ambitious" would be an understatement - think of any major, lofty theme found in fiction and Eden probably has it. This can be something of a double-edged sword; some people complain about Eden being "unfocused". This is understandable, as Eden is so utterly dense with plot threads and characters that it sometimes collapses under its own weight. However, it's a necessary evil - if it restrained itself even a little, Eden would most likely lack the sheer scale it has.
This definitely isn't a manga for the faint of heart - it's incredibly explicit, in terms of both sex and violence. It's unflinchingly brutal, and absolutely no character has plot immunity; anyone can die at almost any time. Similarly, it has no reservations when it comes to sex - as the post-apocalyptic society has caused sexual trafficking and prostitution to become all the more common, it's only logical. Hell, a reasonable chunk of the story is set in a brothel and revolves around prostitutes, amongst whom one of the best characters in the whole series can count herself. Unsurprisingly for something as thematically heavy as Eden, "good" and "bad" are near-meaningless. Don't expect morality to play any big part in it.
Unfortunately, around the halfway mark, Eden dilutes itself with comedic elements that are uncharacteristic of it (and also aren't very funny). This also happens around the same time as a rather ill-advised timeskip that happened to ruin a great character who was soon after killed off unceremoniously. There is a stretch of a couple volumes that were littered with mistakes that unfortunately drags it down - which is a shame, because outside of that Eden is my absolute gold standard for manga.
Of course, there's only so much damage that can do to something otherwise so very strong. Eden definitely sits among the best manga I've read.
Final Words: Though it occasionally stumbles under its own weight, Eden is a manga so overwhelming that few can hope to compare to it.
For fans of: Akira, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
The story starts off really well. Up until a certain point, everything is really perfect.
At the very beginning, our main cast, some kind of Adam and Eve of a new world, are introduced. Then we have a timeskip. Suddenly we follow the son of the first main character for almost the entirety of the story. We learn that the child from the first chapters grew up to become a Mafioso.
The naiveté of the main character slowly crumbles away as he faces harsh reality. We see some really well executed death, despair, hopelessness. Eliah starts to learn to fight for himself and others. As
he starts to gain control over his life, he becomes the same kind of person he had to combat up until now. Drugs, violence, revenge are what lead him to destroy the happiness of the very same people he fights for.
But then, the story starts to saturate with fight scenes. Deaths no longer matter. Along the way, so do the characters. The MC becomes a guy with a gun fighting because... who knows? No-one explains his motives.
His only driving force is the wish to save his sister. In the end, this arc was utterly useless and contributed absolutely nothing to both the story and the characters. The grand finale itself erased almost everything that happened.
The acton is full of asspulls. The ideological talk is full of some simplistic ethnic division of the world. The fights start to follow a pattern: almost all freshly introduced minor characters die immediately, sliced like ham by evil drones.
I would have liked to see the story continue in the direction it took in the beginning.
It isn't often that something can present a chaotic world filled with cruelty, yet still inspire a belief in humanity, but if anything Eden manages to do just that. This isn't to say the story rallies us behind a hero, but rather disregards the notion that mankind needs a hero. The people in Eden have to cling to something vaguer, and more desperate; they have to believe that even if they hate and kill, there's still meaning to be found in protecting those who are important.
Eden's story is framed around the world hitting its reset button. Plague(s), natural disasters, climate shifts, universal contractions, universal assimilation,
black holes, and more threaten everyone. The characters are understandably bitter about all that, but most spend only a moment pitying global issues. Much more focus is put on the human drama that stems from bleak circumstances.
Nearly every person has a believable background that lends itself well to the story/situation, but the most interesting ones are revealed in the first half of the manga. The second half does continue introducing cast members, but some of the new additions – police officers and scientists – leave a lot to be desired. The scientists are noteworthy since the manga throws them an entire arc dedicated to pure exposition, only relieved by flashes to unrelated plots with different characters.
Arcs rarely get boring though, because the cast is so huge that multiple stories happen at once, so the pacing can be balanced between them without sacrificing quality. That said, not all of the stories are equal. While reading the first few dozens chapters, I was very impressed by the depth and subtlety, but that feeling gradually faded.
The biggest and easily worst change Eden undergoes is a slide into raw, explicit territory. By no means was it innocent ever, but at some point the humor became crude and the sex more prominent. One of the volumes could loosely be described as an orgy designed to help the main character 'become a man.' Very unfunny sex jokes get spread around for the rest of the manga, but the worst it gets is when those things infiltrate the core parts of the story. One of the final metaphors, during the otherwise poignant finale, has the ending state of the titular “garden” as an erect tower that shoots life into the moon's chamber.
If there was something that held my interest through it all, it would be Enoa Ballard's life. Elijah may be the protagonist, and a good one for some time, but that status weighs him and the manga down as his plot-relevance diminishes. In Enoa we a man chosen by random genetics to survive Armageddon, and through him we see what kind of man a new Adam would have to (or did) become. He has the kind of life that shows a kind people grow up, removed from conflict, only to be senselessly dragged into feuds he started to maintain that removal. These kind people, who the readers also come to know, are repeatedly maimed and murdered just to demonstrate that such chaos exists. Enoa is left believing tomorrow will be a better day.
Eden isn't easy, emotionally or intellectually, and I like it that way.