Two police officers arrive in a Spanish countryside town to begin their nightly patrol. But something sinister stirs in the dead of night. As they follow the once familiar streets, they come across scenes of carnage and destruction. At the centre of it all – a mysterious man who stands upon a pile of burning corpses. The man, Teze Yoo, is far from the villain he first appears to be. As the story unfolds you learn that a zombie-like virus threatens humanity, and Teze Yoo is all that stands between us and complete destruction. King of Eden is a horror manga, written by Takashi Nagasaki and art by Ignito. The following review is for the series’ first omnibus volume.
Right from the first scene, King of Eden draws you into its sprawling tale of global health, religion and history. I usually try my best not to compare things on this blog, but the manga really reminded me of everything I adored about Dan Brown’s Inferno. There’s the political globe-trotting, pandemic fears (rather timely) and historical mysteries that all culminate in a story about saving humanity. Each piece, no matter how small is part of some great puzzle, and you can’t help but follow along as the characters, whether they be MI5 or from the W.H.O, work together to solve it. The many levels of the story are so interesting to uncover, just when you think you have a handle on it – new, exciting questions pop up. I loved the interlaced background of history and religion within the virus’s origin, and found these segments not only engaging, but particularly well written and researched.
It would be remiss for me to talk about this manga and not mention the art. Each and every panel is so detailed, no matter how small the panel is relative to the whole page. Reading through it, you can really tell that nothing was overlooked in crafting this series. Perhaps my favourite part, was the design of the ‘wolves’ that infected people turn into. The contortions of their bodies and mouths as they slowly transform was hair raising. The artist, Ignito truly made characters change before our eyes through still images. What I appreciated most was the expet use of shading to create scenes filled with depth, from the creature’s deep snarls to burning villages in the night, it was just incredible. Having a quick look on Google, I couldn’t find any other works by Ignito (or under their name SangCheol Lee). But I sincerely would love to see what incredible worlds and characters they works on next!
As expansive and intriguing as the manga is, I did have one key criticism. That is, I found the story had a few too many threads, leading them to became tangled or go nowhere. For example, a doctor named Rua Itsuki visits a hospital to speak to a patient about the virus. During Itsuki’s talk, the patient becomes restless and violently scratches himself. A nurse comes in and says something like “aren’t you a doctor? Why didn’t you press the help button when he was clearly distressed?” to which Itsuki just smiles (which struck me as very odd). Later on, another colleague brings the patient up to which Itsuki says that the patient was testing how trustworthy she was as it’s clear he’s under surveillance and there’s some larger conspiracy happening. But, the story doesn’t introduce any particular reason for his being under surveillance – there’s no government conspiracy (so far) and the only group with a vested interest in the virus is some Russian gang. The Russian gang, as terrifying as they are, don’t seem powerful enough to completely takeover surveillance of a UK hospital. The patient is never mentioned again after this scene. Of course, he may come back in another volume, but reading just the first volume, this whole segment felt like an unfinished thought.
On a much smaller note, the manga can also be quite jumpy. For example, when Itsuki visits the patient in the hospital, for a few pages you have no idea how she got where is or why she’s there. In the previous chapter she was in Korea and now she’s suddenly in the UK. Also, new characters often appear briefly before showing up again later in a much more important capacity. But, as mentioned above, on the other hand some characters appear only to never be seen again, for example, the patient and also two men discussing the virus in Germany. The manga really relies on your ability to remember everyone but with the number of characters and how transient they are, it’s really difficult to determine who is actually worth remembering.
Overall, King of Eden is a fantastic read for fans of horror or even just fans of rich, multi-faceted tales. The story very quickly hooks you in, and from there you travel along with the characters, unravelling ancient secrets and global mysteries. As I mentioned, the art is incredible and only pulls you further into the manga with its detail. The manga isn’t all perfect, and some bits fizzle out into nothing or become tangled. But, volume 1 has got me excited to follow along with Teze’s quest to save humanity.
Thank you to Yen Press for providing me with a copy of King of Eden vol.1 to review!