On eden* and the Beauty of Impermanence

ss (2014-08-05 at 12.30.25)いつか、全ての物は終わりに向かう
All things will meet their end someday.

A scholar named Motoori Norinaga gave the name mono no aware (物の哀れ) to the feeling of beauty evoked by the impermanence of things. No term better describes the feeling that eden*there were only two, on the planet – or eden – evokes from the reader. eden is the story of people seeking paradise – the Garden of Eden promised to mankind – to avoid the inevitable end about to befall the planet.

eden takes place far into the future, when an ominous red star appears in the sky to signal the destruction of the Earth. Within a century of the star’s appearance, human technology efforts were poured into the survival of humanity past the Earth’s destruction. A race of genetically-engineered humans with superior intellectual capability – the Felix – were created to manage the Earth Escape Project – the research and development of emigration space ships that will allow humanity to escape Earth.

ss (2014-08-10 at 02.29.11)At the center of the Earth Escape Project is Shion, the main researcher of Research Institute 703, said to be the pinnacle of Felix intelligence. Shion’s personality and appearance does not exactly match up to her reputation, but despite her frail appearance, she carries a huge burden of responsibility for the salvation of humanity. Because of her importance to the future of the human race, she has never been outside the research institute, always in front of her computer conducting research on space ship engines for the emigration ships.

Her ever-smiling maid, Erika, is always by Shion’s side. Erika’s loyalty to Shion is second-to-none; it is exactly because of her loyalty that the plot of eden sets off. For a hundred years – thanks to the long life span and eternal youth of the Felix – Shion has been conducting research inside the institute. But despite their long life span, the Felix are not immortal, and thus it is Erika’s wish to let Shion taste freedom before she passes away from old age.

ss (2014-08-10 at 02.37.07)Erika’s wish comes true when Ryou Haruna gets assigned to the research facility. Cold and calculating, Ryou is the pinnacle of a hardened soldier, having accomplished several missions against the anti-emigration terrorists under an elite unit. After serving many missions under the army, Ryou reached his goal: being stationed under the man who took away his beloved older sister seven years ago.

With the pieces in place, eden‘s story unfolds with Ryou being influenced by Erika’s kindness and his own hesitation with his actions, leading up to Shion’s escape from the research facility. Despite what it may seem, eden is not about the research facility, or about military tactics, or about underground missions where Ryou assassinates traitors to the facility. The first half of eden that takes place in Research Institute 703 is merely setup for the second half, where Ryou and Shion begin living far from the remnants of humanity, awaiting the destruction of the Earth.

In many ways, eden is a story about escaping. Having lost sight of his goal long ago, Ryou clings to the sight of Shion to atone for – or perhaps escape – the sin of failing to save his older sister from being trapped in Research Institute 703. On the other hand, Shion longs for freedom after having finished all that she can do to save humanity from destruction. The rest of eden is the story of Ryou’s and Shion’s relationship after escaping the research institute; with both of them not knowing what to do with their freedom, they begin living together far away from the rest of humanity, quietly awaiting the Earth’s destruction.

ss (2014-08-10 at 02.21.35)eden‘s atmosphere – or at least the second half’s – is reminiscent of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Both works evoke the feeling of mono no aware as the protagonists spend their time in a world where everything – or nearly everything – has disappeared. While eden is confined to one mountain and the surrounding area, the environment around Ryou and Shion changes subtly with their influence.

Where I think eden fails where works like Aria and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou succeed is how they approach the setup of their setting. eden – unlike the latter two works – opts to dump its setup all at once at the beginning of the game instead of interspersing the setting details into the daily lives of the characters. I feel that this weakens eden significantly because of the tone shift between the first and second halves of the story – for most readers I think it will create a false expectation of what eden is supposed to be like, leading to complaints like “the second half is just slice-of-life shit!”, without realizing that it’s exactly what eden is trying to go for.

In addition, I felt that eden’s protagonist was too weak for the setting it was trying to establish. I wouldn’t say that Ryou is a bad protagonist; the idea behind his character and his growth is actually interesting – it’s just that he has the personality of a brick. While to some degree it’s an intentional move on the part of the creators, I don’t think it sat well with me, when both Aria and YKK had protagonists with very strong personalities. This is mostly a personal thing, though; it doesn’t seem to bother the other people who played eden* too much.

ss (2014-08-09 at 07.48.56)Overall, while I wasn’t really that impressed with eden*, it’s a short work that I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy. Fans of Key Visual Arts’s Planetarian, especially, will appreciate the beautiful post-apocalyptic setting that eden has to offer. Once MangaGamer releases eden, please do support it so that more eroge can make it to the West.

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2 thoughts on “On eden* and the Beauty of Impermanence

  1. I was going to give this a skip due to the thematic similarity to the badly received Soshite Ashita no Sekai yori (both titles deal with characters quietly awaiting their world’s end), but your review changed my mind. When given the opportunity, works that deal with the mono no aware concept can really nail it.

    But it is a shame to hear about the protagonist and infodumping. From what I’ve read of Yokohama, Alpha’s sense of wonder with how she approached the world was infinitely charming. We experienced the world as she did, piecing it together ourselves with each new submerged telephone pole, each new crumbling building instead of being told ‘okay, so this happened and that is why the world looks like crap: enjoy your stay!’.

    • eden’s protagonist is one of those characters where I went “I don’t like this character, but I like what he represents and how he develops”. I wouldn’t say he’s a bad protagonist, but when I think of the other works that deal with similar themes, I can’t help but think that he could have a lot more personality than this. I think it’s partly his seiyuu’s fault; his delivery is just so emotionless, even near the end of the game.

      The first half isn’t exactly an infodump, but the atmosphere between the two halves of the game just differs a lot that I wish they just stuck with what the second half had to offer. I ended up preferring the second half over the first, but I think more people will appreciate the ~stuff~ happens in the first half.

      Anyway, eden is definitely worth a try; it’s short and linear so there’s not a lot of time investment involved.

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