Compare and contrast

Did you like Fuyumi Soryo’s ES: Eternal Sabbath (Del Rey)? I sure did. I was drawn in by its guarded, complex characters, philosophical digressions, astute science fiction, and Soryo’s attractive, versatile work as an illustrator.

If you liked it, and if you’re game for a somewhat dumber version with hotter guys, may I recommend Night Head Genesis (Del Rey)? It’s based on a story by George Iida that has apparently seen a lot of adaptations and has been translated into a comic by the prolific You Higuri. Here’s the breakdown:

In ES, a pair of powerful clones is created in a secret facility to explore human psychic potential. They escape via horrific violence. In Night Head Genesis (which I’ll call NHG from this point forward), a pair of powerfully psychic brothers have been locked away to keep them from inadvertently hurting the people around them. When they reach maximum early-adult hotness, they escape from captivity and try and blend into the crowd.

In ES, the clones have a tense, pseudo-brother/rival relationship. In NHG, the hot brothers are suspiciously close in that way that siblings or male best friends in Higuri manga often are.

In ES, the clones cross paths with a brilliant researcher with some emotional issues that she buries under professional detachment. In NHG, the clones run across a brilliant researcher who is not inclined to bury her emotional issues even a little.

The ES scientist is the heroine of the piece and adapts well to mysterious circumstances or is at least inclined to examine them carefully. The NHG scientist is just kind of a supporting cougar who, extensive scientific training aside, kind of freaks out a lot.

In ES, the clones are tracked by one of the few people to survive their escape who suspects they’ll cause some big disaster. In NHG, the brothers are dogged by a shifty psychic who has a vision that they’ll be either directly or indirectly responsible for some big disaster.

In ES, one of the clones makes average people do awful things and the other is willing to use his abilities in self-serving though not malicious ways. In NHG, the shifty psychic manipulates and provokes, and the brothers are entirely benign unless the older one loses his temper.

ES was serialized in Kodansha’s Weekly Morning, which publishes a wide variety of great stories in different styles. NHG was published in Kodansha’s defunct Magazine Z, which was apparently very otaku-friendly and trafficked in popular franchises like, one presumes, NHG.

Both ES and NHG are seinen titles done by creators probably better known for their shôjo work. That sort of category crossover is always worth a look. Both creators have done series about the Borgia family. Higuri’s, Cantarella, is ongoing in Akita Shoten’s Princess Gold and being published in English by Go! Comi. Soryo’s, Cesare, is ongoing in Morning and has yet to be licensed. (Someone should rectify that.)

Now, if you asked me which one you should read, I would heartily favor ES, because it’s just plain better on almost every level save for eye candy. But if there’s room in your life for two series like this, and if you have a fondness for Higuri’s brand of sleek shamelessness, then you could do worse than to give NHG a look. I’ve read at least a bit of everything of Higuri’s that has been published in English, and she always adds at least some value to the experience. I can’t say I’m particularly fond of her full-on shônen-ai and yaoi, but when those elements are peripheral, even a tease, they usually make me smile.

(This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher. And okay, it isn’t even so much a review as a compare-and-contrast of the ways that a very similar story can be repurposed for different demographics. And I might just be writing it to remind you that ES is pretty great. Sue me.)

6 Responses to Compare and contrast

  1. Katherine Farmar says:

    I love You Higuri’s art so much, but I despair of her stories (which often aren’t actually hers). Did you read Gakuen Heaven? I don’t recommend it, but it was an interesting read, if only because of the vast gulf between the quality of the art (so pretty I wanted to lick it off the page) and the quality of the story (so stupid I could feel it killing my brain cells).

    I only read the first volume of ES (insert rant about patchy distribution of manga in Ireland here) but I was very thoroughly impressed by it. It was so clever!

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    It’s probably telling that my favorite Higuri title is Crown, which is written by Shinji Wada of Delinquent Girl Detective fame. The story seems to totally suit her sensibilities and favorite things to draw, so there’s the pretty without the hostile assault on brain cells. They may still die, but it won’t happen by accident, you know what I mean?

  3. [...] you liked ES: Eternal Sabbath (I did!) then David Welsh thinks you may like Night Head Genesis as [...]

  4. JennyN says:

    Having read this version of NIGHT HEAD: GENESIS, I can only say it’s a pity Higuri didn’t (re)-illustrate the text of the original 8-volume manga, also written by Iida but drawn by Tateno Makoto (creator of the yaoi manga YELLOW). This first version, published in the late 1990s, is less pretty but offers much more substance on the brothers’ characters and relationship, as well as showing – via a number of charged encounters with the normal world – why they’ll never fit into it. (The closest English-language equivalent is probably the American TV series SUPERNATURAL). This new iteration seems much more streamlined, which probably makes for a more coherent plot but a less involving experience.

  5. [...] a more cerebral note, I’m a big fan of the series ES: Eternal Sabbath, so when David Welsh compared it to Night Head Genesis, I moved that book to the top of my stack. OK, ES has a lot more [...]

  6. [...] Head Genesis are similar to another Del Rey title. Check out this post at Precocious Curmudgeon comparing and contrasting Night Head Genesis with ES (Eternal Sabbath). I’m thinking that ES may be the HBO version of the story complete with surreal quirks, less [...]

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