I’ve been on a huge anime and manga kick lately and as fun as the mainstream stuff is, I’m at my heart always going to go for the indie stuff. Enter Gen Manga, a company that’s bringing over underground manga to the states. So far I’ve enjoyed a few of their titles (Aliens Vs., Alive and a few others I haven’t reviewed) and with each new story I check out, I just want more. Such is the case with Eden Vol. 1. The world that Eden creates is very dense. In fact I was a bit confused by the opening until reading it a second time. It starts off with a man walking alone in the woods. Soon enough though a man on a cart pulled by a donkey arrives. He asks the lone man if he’d like a ride and he declines. At first the man in the cart continues on, but it’s clear that he’s lonely and so he slows down and begins talking to the man. After a moment he turns around to find the young man holding the arm of strange creature.
The creature has a red cross on its face and it’s trying to kill the man for talking to the walking traveler named Touru. A fight breaks out as Touru attempts to protect the man, but the damage he inflicts on the red cross faced creature is given back to him. The man on the cart flees not knowing what is going on. Suddenly a Vanguard angel appears and stabs Touru with a knife in the shoulder. This seems random, but I promise you it is not. Touru is now poisoned by the angel blood on the blade and falls over.
He’s rescued by a woman and a wolf. Touru’s unnamed companion is found by the wolf while the woman begins nursing him. The companion takes over helping her, but asks if there’s a nearby village. She informs him that there is, but it’s the Village of Jinrou. During his brief conversation with the Vanguard Touru was warned not to go to the village for it would mean their end, but now passed out… how can he warn them?
The story gets weirder and weirder and also more complex. It’s a really difficult story to sum up, but basically Touru is being punished for something he’s done. He doesn’t know what it is and more than likely he volunteered to protect the very village he’s not allowed to go to.
Again the story is complex, it’s dense, there’s a lot of characters and moving parts to take in and pay attention to. The reason it all works out though, is that creator Bash clearly knows where the story is going. The backstory is intricate, but mapped out in as much detail as the plot and future of the story.
While it shares some similarities to the long running style of a lot of shonen’s, it’s clear from the set up and structure that Eden isn’t meant to go on forever. There’s an ending we’re working towards. I like that because it solves my problem with most shonen style stories which is the fact that they continue past the logical ending point in the story.
The art is fantastic. It looks like it was all illustrated digitally, at least from what I can tell from the grey scale and the line work. It doesn’t have that typical style of intense details and then lack of details. I know that doesn’t help so just picture the most basic manga you can think of. Now picture it with more details, full looking backgrounds and the same level of quality throughout. In a typical manga the page would be cluttered and dark, but Bash manages to keep the details separated giving the art a different look.
It works incredibly well for this story because it brings the world to life. It also matches the density of the story quite well at the same time. In particular the lighting effects were really on point. Since the story takes place in the woods, there’s always beams of sunlight breaking through the canopy of trees. It really adds to the presentation of visuals.
What I really like about Eden and subsequently Gen Manga as well, is that I have no problem recommending this book to non-manga readers. It highlights the abilities of the comic medium more than anything, but it also shows that manga doesn’t have to be stuck in the corporate genres that they’ve been in. Much like the American comic market only being known for superheroes, the Japanese market only has a handful of genres that have become the “safe answer” when producing new properties. Thankfully Gen Manga is looking for alternatives and they’ve definitely found one in Eden.