I have the sneaking suspicion that Moriyama reads Stephen King. First, we have the alien space devils of Chrono Crusade, who at a glance could be taken to be Tommyknockers. Second, we have the Kanshu monsters that spread via cell phones. (Okay, the devils only vaguely resemble Tommyknockers due to certain back story implications and the ship is under water–my meta dumps it at the bottom of Hudson Canyon, because I am a Diane Duane fan, and loved Deep Wizardry–instead of buried somewhere in Maine so the connection is very tenuous and also probably exists only in my mind. And the only thing the Kanshu really have in common with Cell is that cell phones are the vector through which they infect people.)
Though World Embryo is a work completely separate from its predecessor Chrono Crusade comparisons are almost unavoidable. Similar themes are at work here, and many of the characters have faint resemblances to the characters of Chrono Crusade, either in physical appearance or general outlook. The theme that echoes most strongly from the earlier work are the conflict between two different ideologies, and the competition/rivalry between friends who become enemies/rivals. There is also the same sense that there is a timeline or schedule that the putative villain is attempting to follow, while the putative hero of the piece is left to play catch up and figure out what the villain might be up to. New themes include whether or not it’s right to lie in order to protect someone, and a variation of the “lost time” theme of Chrono Crusade; Neene, one of the characters is aging very rapidly.
The story begins when a boy named Riku Amami receives a phone call from his dead step-aunt Amane. Specifically, he receives a picture of her standing in front of the hospital where she died. When he goes to the hospital (which has been abandoned after a fire) he’s attacked by Kanshu, and finds a cocoon. He also discovers that the only thing standing between humans being annihilated by the Kanshu is a cell phone company that decided to create a black ops team of “Jinki Users” to combat the menace. (Why not the government? 1) Kanshu make people forget they exist, and eat their memories. The only thing that will prevent this is if someone sees a Jinki User’s weapon–which has its own attendant problem; remembering that you forgot someone will make you into a “Loss Rebound” and crazy. 2) The cell phone company obviously doesn’t want to be shut down. It’s entirely pragmatic altruism.)
“Jinki-weapons” are the only thing that will kill a Kanshu. They’re also the only thing that will keep a Jinki-user from becoming a Kanshu (all Jinki users have been infected and are in danger of becoming Kanshu if their “jinki core” is destroyed.) No explanation as yet has been given for the creation of the weapons, they seem to have appeared at the same time as the Kanshu.
After having a very busy afternoon avoiding being eaten, and accidentally becoming a Jinki-user, Riku returns home with the cocoon, which hatches into a little girl with a very strong resemblance to the dead Amane. (No real explanation is given for this either yet.) The little girl is insanely adorable and definitely not human. Riku and his step-mother decide to keep the child, and call her Neene. (A name I cannot for the life of me figure out how to pronounce. Obviously, I will have to wait for the anime to come out.)
Confused yet? You’re beginning to get a glimmering of why I can’t decide whether or not I like the manga or not. The basic concepts are interesting, but the story is convoluted and somewhat confusing, with very little explanation of key concepts. The manga has a very slow start, and the reader is left with a definite feeling of having more questions than answers, because the writer is very, very tight with his information/info-dumping. You could of course argue that the writer is attempting to give the reader the same sense of confusion as the main character–but the story could do with a little more info-dumping in my opinion.
Despite these difficulties, the manga is interesting, and an enjoyable read. I recommend it if you’re all ready a fan of Moriyama’s work, or if you are new to his writing.
A Short List of Characters:
Riku Amami : Our main protagonist. Not necessarily a heroic figure, but willing to defend the people he cares for. Riku is a chronic liar, a problem that has caused him trouble at school and at home. He was extremely attached to his step mother’s younger sister Amane, and was devastated when she died under mysterious circumstances.
Shizuru Amami : Shizuru is Riku’s step mother. Their relationship however follows a more older sister/younger brother format as she is in her twenties. She works as a veterinarian.
Neene : A mysterious, obviously non human child (she has a second pair of ears which seem to be some kind of radar) with a strange resemblance to Shizuru’s younger sister. It turns out that Neene is the “queen” of the Kanshu–she’s a repository of all the memories stolen by the Kanshu, which are drones. (Moriyama seems to have a fascination with Bee People.) She is maturing at a very rapid rate. Neene refers to Riku as “Papa” and Rena Arisugawa as “Momma” (and Shizuru as “Gramma” much to the chagrin of Shizuru).
Rena Arisugawa : One of the first Jinki-users that Riku encounters. She is a very strong minded, forthright person who hates liars. She ends up becoming Riku’s partner after the death of her previous partner. This is not an agreeable situation for her.
Youhei Takebe : Rena’s former partner, and someone Riku knew previously. (Though not that he was a Jinki-user.) He dies some time during volume two, and gives Riku his Jinki-core.
Takao : Takao is a Jinki-user not affiliated with the cell-phone company. This would be because he is killing other Jinki-users in order to become more powerful in order to defeat “The Source of Infection.”
Source of Infection : A Mysterious Figure in a business suit and kitsune mask. He has strange powers that involve controlling the Kanshu. He has also given Riku information related to Neene, and seems to want Riku on his side. Riku on the other hand, has refused to work with the Source.
More information that I’m too lazy to summarize can be found here