Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I bought the first volume of the manga Eden on online recommendations and raves. It didn't quite live up to expectations. For one thing, I can't fathom why it was "mature-audience" shrinkwrapped - there's hardly any sexual material whatsoever, and the bits of graphic violence and gore are positively tame in comparison with Dark Horse's other titles - Hellsing, which is intentionally ultra-violent and positively painted in bits of brains and blood and gore, has never been shrink-wrapped. I guess Dark Horse wanted to highlight the "maturity" level of this veddy, veddy serious post-pandemic prestige piece. Well, whoop-de-sodding-doo. Essentially, what you have here is a biohazard variant on the old Appleseed canard, without any of the action, humor, and pulp enthusiasm that the early Shirow brought to that whole pretentious, overwritten project.

Eden's characters are either total sociopaths, nihilistic jackasses, self-consciously "cruel" mass murderers, or basic ciphers. The characters mouth a lot of vaguely biblical profundity which might have appeared interesting or special in the Japanese context, but reads as trite and miserably dull to anyone who actually grew up reading Christian scripture. The ecological nihilism and reflexive anti-American-military bushwalla is equally tedious and trite, and I nearly stopped reading the damnable thing some twenty pages in. But, in the end, I did read it to the end, and... eh. It's not outright obnoxious, despite the politics.

Once all the contemporaries of the pandemic are killed off, the reader is spared all the miserable half-witted pontificating, and it turns into a more comfortably "Japanese" postapocalyptic jaunt. Which means, of course, that we get introduced to a character who has supposedly been raised in a Hobbesian dystopic nightmare, and yet has all of the qualms and misapprehensions of an urban Japanese teen nature-isolate, as if he was just then as we encountered him seeing the world he'd been living in all his life right then, at the age of sixteen or seventeen or something like that.

Augh. This is the sort of book which leaves me hanging angrily on the fence, drawn both towards getting the next volume and tossing it all as a waste of my money and attention.

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