– Post contains spoilers –
I won’t lie. It’s been quite some time since I last sat down with this series. When I finished volume 19 and saw that it was going to be over a year until volume 21’s release, I decided to just put volume 20 on hold until the last one came out. When I picked up this volume to finally finish this series, I realized I had forgotten the finer details of what previously happened in the series. To be frank, this isn’t a series I would be thrilled to re-read just for the sake of this review. So here it is in all its glory – my limited knowledge review of volume 20 of Cade of Eden that is totally not a year late!
If I recall, this volume picks up after Team Sengoku’s victory over the twisted Nishikiori. Following some farfetched logic from Mariya regarding the purposes of the island’s various structures, the group decides to head toward the final structure, one they believe to be the residential area for the island’s former workers. Upon arriving, the group splits up, with one team scoping out the interior of the decrepit building while other teams are on standby or scout out the surrounding area.
Cage of Eden has begun to suffer a problem that plagues series with bloated casts such as itself. Many characters blend into the whole group and lose their individual identities. It’s a shame considering how unique, or at least quirky, most of these characters were during the early stages of this series. But in this volume, most everyone who isn’t Sengoku, Mariya, Miina, Tokiwa, or Yarai just pops their head out every now and again to say something that could literally be said by any other cast member. The times characters do say something more unique it is usually only because of their specialized knowledge. Yashiro will mention something he knows because he’s an author or Eiken will say something about the footage on his camera, but the dialogue is robotic and rarely reflects any specific character traits. There’s little in-fighting or debate within the group. It’s just the group as a whole working to solve a problem with random characters supplying tidbits of information so they can both remain relevant and move the plot forward at the same time. To be fair to the author, there’s not an easy solution to this problem when plot points need to be covered rapidly, but I feel there could have been some more substance to the conversations regardless. In the end, it is less of the characters becoming bland and more so there not being anything plot-wise to spur differences in opinions or actions. At this point the characters, regardless how unique they are, are just present to put the pieces of the puzzle together and little beyond that.
Speaking of dialogue, wow do these people get bad feelings in the pits of their stomachs a lot. You almost can’t go ten pages without someone saying how they are suspicious of something, might know the answer to a mystery, or have an ominous reaction to a clue. Rarely is there any delivery on these dialogue points, though. People will voice these concerns or thoughts and never really explain them, leaving the audience frustrated and annoyed and the repetitive, cliche, and ultimately useless use of valuable panels here in the penultimate volume. Please, for the love of everything, elaborate on these bad feelings instead of poorly using them for mood building.
A majority of this volume is dedicated to the interior group (AKA the group with everyone that matters besides the two Miinas) exploring the final structure. They wander from room to room, discussing various clues about the island’s past that they come across. It’s pretty much a pattern: enter room, find clue, discuss clue, move to next room, repeat. It’s a fairly boring structure, but it is nice to actually learn some things about the island, even if they are ridiculous revelations. It’s been twenty volumes. I’ll take anything. I just wish there could have been some sort of antagonist more actively present to mix up the happenings in this volume. There’s a promise of one final showdown with the beasts before the end and foreshadowing of another threat, so hopefully the final volume won’t be as mundane.
There’s also a scene that was likely intended to be a lot more emotional than it came across where a certain character meets their end. And it probably would have been an effective scene had there not been a huge neon arrow pointing at the character right before the scene. I mean this metaphorically of course. But any time characters get unusual amounts of focus, it raises red flags.
Cage of Eden has had its fair share of problems over its run. That’s to be expected, though. It is the Lost of manga, after all. Even if the mysteries aren’t all unraveling in a satisfying manner, it’s still been fun seeing this group of survivors overcome all the obstacles placed in their way. We’ll learn their ultimate fate next volume, and hopefully it will be a rewarding end to the series, giving most of the characters a time to shine in their own right and not through bland dialogue snippets. I’m looking forward to it, half because I’m interested and half because I’ve already come this far. So why not, right?