-Post contains spoilers-
It’s finally time for Sengoku and his fellow survivors to uncover the hidden truths about Raika Island and face their final obstacles. In the previous volume, threats such as the mold, a paraceratherium, and Nishikiori’s escape were all promised as parts of a grand finale. While all three do actually occur, they are presented with varying degrees of effectiveness.
The slime mold is the most threatening, but ultimately its use still seems fairly random, as there is still little explanation for why it existed in the first place beyond it being used as a tool to murder the island’s inhabitants. (We still don’t find out why that happened.) The mold seems to exist only as a contrived explanation for the state of the residential facility, and I guess the island as a whole.
Then there’s the behemoth paraceratherium’s attack which Nishikiori uses as a way to make his escape. Nishikiori has been an intimidating and clever antagonist since his debut, but here he just acts illogically and foolishly off of dubious reasoning he concocts to save himself. Seriously, he had the chance last volume to escape, and he could have probably taken Miina too as a good luck charm even then. Instead of escaping when no one is watching, he chooses to try and escape when an enormous creature is attacking. Get with it, Nishikiori.
The paraceratherium, while definitely a threatening beast, is little more than a distraction from Sengoku’s group, merely giving the outdoor group something to do and setting up the vague reveal regarding the boundaries of the residential facility. Its scenes are rushed and uninspired, comprised of little more than panels of people screaming and running away from it, making it an ineffective final obstacle. There is one cool scene where the beast stomps down to derail Nishikiori’s plan, but beyond that it is mostly a waste of time. (You’d think the people inside the building could hear the outdoor group screaming and try to help them, though…) And speaking of Nishikiori, he just kinda vanishes after a certain point. Oh well. Nothing lost, I guess.
Inside the facility, Sengoku, Mariya, Yarai, and the others work to piece together the final pieces of the puzzle. Ultimately they reach an answer, but that answer opens the door for several more questions that our heroes unfortunately never get to explore. Instead, we’re given an aside, focusing on characters we barely know as they work to develop Raika Island. That’s right – Sengoku’s group only scratches the surface of the big reveal. Instead, a side narrative is interjected, breaking up present day and a three-year timeskip for the main cast. It’s a shame we never get to see Rei’s reaction to a certain tragic incident last volume and that we never get to see Sengoku learn just how Raika Island came to exist. In fact, it’s a shame we don’t get to see a number of things that get glossed over because of the narrative interruption. That’s a good way to describe this ending: a darn shame.
While this is in fact a fairly unsatisfying ending, it cannot necessarily be helped. Cage of Eden was cancelled before it could reach its proper conclusion, leaving the author scrambling to piece together an ending with limited chapters remaining. Hence why the story suddenly shifted from our survivors to the actions of people back in regular society. The motives for the founders of Raika Island were probably intended to be laid out more methodically instead of being dumped completely into a messy side narrative, but with only so many chapters left, the mangaka likely had little choice but to reveal everything as quickly as possible. Of course, that’s speculation on my part. This could very well have been a condensed version of the story’s intended ending. We’ll never know. One has to wonder, though, if Sengoku’s group ever truly learned the history (or perhaps I should say future) of Raika Island since readers learned everything through the side narrative. They had the clues, but unless they came upon some old documents in the facility (which would not be a hard sell), they could hardly piece every aspect of the truth together.
Dialogue works a bit better in this final volume. Characters still are mostly present to provide noise as the main people solve the riddles of the island. However, certain actions taken by characters such as Yamaguchi (with his devotion to the VP) and Fake Miina (with his [her?] scolding) help provide differentiation among characters lacking in the previous volume. (Reminding us of his intelligence, Yarai also provides scientific answers that somehow escaped Mariya. I knew the guy was smart, but his sudden shift to using scientific terms over his normal speech was still kind of jarring.)
This is a series that anyone following it for a while should have realized was going to come to a train-wreck ending. Even it had resolved properly, Cage of Eden would likely have still left more questions than answers. Mystery stories of survival often introduce more story elements than they can juggle to maintain interest, and Cage of Eden definitely proves that by leaving multiple mysteries unsolved. (RIP Hades.) The series did perform decently in keeping past clues relevant, no matter how ridiculous the answers ending up being once they all fit together. That’s not to say the ending itself is bad; the execution is what leaves much to be desired.
Cage of Eden was a fun ride with mostly likable characters (if one ignores the mass of lusting adults). It’s disappointing that the series did not deliver on any of its romantic pairings, but romance was never its strong suit in the first place, as the author always seemed to opt for ogling and disgusting locker room talk over actual romantic developments, save for Zaji. I digress. This volume doesn’t wrap up the series neatly by any stretch of the imagination, but it does conclude the major events surrounding Sengoku’s group on Raika Island in what was for most of its run an exciting, if sexist, survival story.
Cage of Eden Vol. 21
- Mystery is somewhat solved, regardless of how ridiculously
- Consistently decent art and backgrounds
- Loli trio never being too disgusting
- First portion of side narrative
- Almost everything else about the side narrative
- Rushed ending with fairly large plot holes and unresolved mysteries
- Life-threatening situation used as an excuse for fanservice
- Paraceratherium is little more than a distraction
- Post-island story is left up to the imagination
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