Cage of Eden, Vol. 21

By Yoshinobu Yamada. Released in Japan as “Eden no Ori” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Mari Morimoto

It’s been six and a half years since I last did a full review of Cage of Eden on this site. The series pretty much was the definition of “this is worthy of a Bookshelf Brief”, featuring a lot of fun action, thrilling adventures, and copious nudity. It’s been over in Japan for a while now, and for a while I wondered if it would ever end here – this final volume comes out a full year after the last one did. But now it’s here, giving us more of what I just said above. There’s huge beasts killing off a few villainous guys whose names I can’t even remember. There’s deadly slime mold that almost, but not quite, manages to kill off our heroes who we do care about. There is an explanation of everything that has been going on, though it is quite rushed. And as for romantic resolution… the hand-holding on the cover is the best you’ll get.

While I did enjoy this last volume, the whole thing screams “your popularity is waning, wrap it up in 4 chapters even though you won’t have time to fit anything in”. As such, much of the back end of this volume is devoted to Akira’s mother, and her POV as her son’s flight is lost with everyone on board presumed dead. The grief and loss she shows is actually some of the best writing in the volume, and helps to make up for the “and therefore I became the heir to a huge scientific conspiracy” that follows. As for the solution to how the class is on the island and why, it’s a reasonable one given the vaguely science-fictional stuff we’ve already seen, and probably a bit more satisfying than Lost, a series that Cage of Eden hes reminded many people of. The ending is wide open, as we never do find out what happens to everyone once they return to Japan… it’s intentionally left as a blank slate.

As for the romance I mentioned earlier, it’s even lampshaded by the author. Despite the occasional overture towards romantic triangles and the obvious attraction and love Akira and Rion feel for each other, the closest we get to a payoff is one last bathing scene, with the peepers helpfully telling us that no one has gotten any, not even Yarai ad his teacher. Honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised. Cage of Eden has always, despite the occasional attempt at depth, been more about surface impressions than anything else. And also, a lot of romance manga these days ends with no resolution to avoid annoying readers. That said, I think even the most hardcore of those fans might have forgiven at least Alira/Rion. Still, we’ll always have that hand-holding.

Cage of Eden was exciting, sometimes horrifying, frequently blatantly sexist, and tried to aim a bit higher than it could really reach, but overall I’m happy I read it. It’s a good example of a typical Shonen Magazine title from about 10 years ago, and I’m glad we got to see it finish up here.

Cage of Eden, Vol. 2

By Yoshinobu Yamada. Released in Japan as “Eden no Ori” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

As we head into the second volume of our survival story, we’re starting to see a few more familiar trappings. The airplane homebase is rendered uninhabitable, they try making a raft, and we get a lot more survivors, some of whom are likeable and some of whom aren’t. We also get to see our hero Akira develop increasing leadership qualities, and Kanako start to prove she is more than just a walking fanservice poster. Things aren’t getting more original, but they’re staying interesting.

As you would expect when you get a bunch of emotional Japanese teenagers and toss them into the middle of an island with prehistoric monsters on it, not everyone is handling it the same way. Akira and company are trying to band together and be a team. One guy with a Jason mask names himself Hades and seems to go off the deep end at the earliest opportunity. Akira’s friend Arita is seemingly doing the same thing, but is in reality barely holding it together because of guilt over a previous impulsive action. And then there’s Yarai, who seems to be leading a third group simply by virtue of being so badass people instinctively want to follow him.

The action here is well-done and exciting. The animals are suitably dangerous, while remaining just realistic enough that our heroes managing to defeat them only feels a little ludicrous. The power politics also feels realistic, though I could do without everyone lampshading how Akira is becoming a great leader. We already see it, no need to hammer it home. Likewise, while the deaths of two classmates was done well, and was suitably gruesome, I think a true test of the series will be to see what happens when likeable people start getting killed.

And then there’s the fanservice. Look, I can take a lot of fanservice with no qualms. I read Negima, after all. But I honestly would not blame anyone who wants to drop the series here, because man, the sheer obsession with panty shots and breasts is over the top even for a Shonen Magazine manga. I realize that this is a magazine for young teens, and they are pubertylicious. Still, after a while I was flicking through them faster, trying to get past it. “Yes, the two girls fall on top of each other. Yes, squoosh. OK, let’s watch them climb down a ladder from the bottom. I GET IT, they’re sexy!” It can be very taxing.

I will admit that the cliffhanger makes me quite eager to see what happens next. I’m fairly certain that Akira and Yarai will disagree, but seeing the groups lock horns should be fun. And we still really have no idea why this island is filled with long-dead creatures. Is it a plot point, or is this just an excuse for carnage? Oh, and no doubt we will meet more female characters, and their breasts as well. Cage of Eden remains good candy, even if you sometimes feel a bit sick after eating too much of it.

Cage of Eden, Vol. 1

By Yoshinobu Yamada. Released in Japan as “Eden no Ori” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

Sometimes, when reading yet another shonen manga, I do wonder why authors keep going to the same bag of tricks. The same character types, the same plot beats, all cliches. Then you read a title like Cage of Eden and it makes sense. It’s because they’re proven winners. People have succeeded with this plot and these types of characters over and over again. So while originality is totally lacking here, no one is reading Cage of Eden for that. You’re reading it to see how the heroes will possibly get out of this one.

And so we meet our cast: our hero and ‘class clown’ Akira, who acts up in order to cover for his feeling inadequate against his smarter, more handsome friends; his childhood friend Rion, who has grown up to be gorgeous and busty, and he is absolutely not in love with nope uh uh no way; our hero’s cool friend (I bet his teeth glint when he smiles); the computer nerd type who doesn’t want to socialize with people not in his intellectual league; the vaguely psychotic punk looking for a fight; and the useless adult figurehead.

After a brief ‘here is a class returning from their summer vacation school trip’ scene, we get into the plot proper, as the plane crashes. Our hero wakes up in the midst of a seemingly deserted island, quickly meets up with the geek kid and the crybaby stewardess, and sets about trying to figure out where they are, where everyone else is, if they can ever get home, and… wait, why are there prehistoric monsters here?

I should mention first off that the fanservice is really out in force here. Cute teenage girls, hot naked stewardesses, panties flashes galore. Of course, it’s not just sex. There’s a heaping helping of gore and violence here as well, and a large number of cool looking extinct or imaginary animals. If you define fanservice as giving the fans what they want, then the whole volume is basically this.

As for the rest, it’s nice seeing Akira take on the hero role that he clearly owns so early on. Given the situation they’re in, a lot of “Eh!… No way!” is here, but when it’s life or death, Akira proves surprisingly competent, while still remaining a realistic ‘normal guy’ trapped in a horrible situation. As for his companions, Shiro may be a nerd, but his smartness isn’t limited just to books; he looks to be a long-term planner as well. And Kanako, the stewardess… well, she’s the type who will either get killed off next volume or suddenly show she’s been badass all this time. I’m not sure which right now.

The title is rated OT by Kodansha, and with good reason. There’s a scene towards the end that shows mob mentality and panic in action, and not only is there a lot of blood, but several graphic rapes are hinted at. This is clearly meant to show that the heroes are completely cut off from civilization, and it works; it’s quite disturbing.

So this is manga candy, a page-turning thriller that you won’t be going back to over and over to get the hidden depth, but which is a lot of fun as you’re reading it. Hopefully in the next volume our heroes will continue to discover other classmates, battle large animals, and try to discover what the heck is going on. Well, assuming our hero wasn’t just killed on the last page of Volume 1…