Friday, September 14, 2012

Eden of the East Anime Review

Eden of the East
Complete Collection - 2 discs
275 mins. - 11 episodes
$54.98 (2010)
$59.98 (2010) Blu-Ray
$49.98 (2011) Blu-Ray/DVD combo
ISBN 704400088407
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Kenji Kamiyama
Studio - Production I.G

Synopsis: Saki Morimi is on a post-college graduation trip to America where she takes a detour to briefly visit Washington DC before heading back to Japan.  She arrives at the White House and tries to throw a coin into the fountain on the other side of the fence for good luck.  The fountain is much too far away to reach and her throw catches the attention of two police officers stationed by the fence.  She is freaking out at the prospect of getting arrested when a naked Japanese boy runs up waving a gun in one hand and a cell phone in the other. 
Akira walks up to Saki in front of the White House gate
Needless to say the police forget all about Saki and turn their attention to the naked guy.  He appears to escape and they take off in pursuit.  He reappears from behind some parked cars to talk with Saki and apparently has no memory of why/how he got to the White House.  She ends up giving him her jacket to cover up and as a 'thank you' for helping her out.  They go their separate ways, but she realizes her return airline ticket was in the coat.  She rushes to chase him down.
"I'm sorry officer, my penis is much larger than the other
Japanese man's you're looking for"
Meanwhile the naked guy has tried to use the cell phone he's carrying and talks with an operator named Juiz who calls herself a 'concierge'.  She gives him an address where he's been staying and he runs off to find clues about his lost memories.  In his apartment he finds guns and several passports with different names.  He chooses one with the name Akira Takizawa and learns he has 8.7 billion yen in a digital bank account.  Saki catches up with him and the police are looking for the pair.
I need to get one of these phones and a concierge
Akira and Saki catch a plane back to Japan where they find some more clues to his past.  As their plane is landing they see a smoking crater where a missile detonated.  Several missiles struck Tokyo recently in an apparent terrorist attack, but amazingly there were no casualties.  The attack was dubbed 'Careless Monday' and people have written it off to inept terrorists.  The two arrive at the address from Akira's passport and find it to be an abandoned shopping mall in one of the missile-damaged areas.  Saki heads home and goes to a job interview the next day while Akira tries to piece together his origin.
One of the missile explosion sites from 'Careless Monday'
It seems Akira is part of a game (the members are called Seleção) where participants are given 10 billion yen and charged with 'saving' Japan.  They are also given an advanced cell phone with the words 'noblesse oblige' on it and access to a concierge (named Juiz) who can facilitate any request to help them accomplish their goal.  Akira tests the extent of Juiz's abilities by asking her to have the president say the word "Uncle" while watching him on television.  Next thing you know a cabinet aide whispers something in the president's ear and he says "Uncle"!
Akira and Saki on his scooter heading to search for more clues
A broader conspiracy begins to unfold with Akira and the other Seleção at the center.  Who is behind the game and why did Akira lose all of his memories?  20,000 NEETS (people currently "not in education, employment, or training") have recently gone missing around the same time as Careless Monday.  What is Akira's link to these events?  Could he be the terrorist mastermind or the charming young man Saki has fallen for?
This suspicious photograph casts doubt on Akira's true nature.
Are those NEETS in the background?  Ewww, where are their clothes?
Pros: Excellent animation and production values (almost seamless melding of hand-drawn character animation with CG elements), Akira and Saki are likable characters, lots of funny moments interspersed with intense drama, neat portrayal of modern cell phone and social media technology, great conspiracy theory plot with cool reveals as it progresses, good opening/ending themes
Cons: Completely implausible, short series at 11 episodes [for the price], not much action, some of the characters were pretty lame (the "Johnny Catcher" and most of the Eden group), plot jumps around without making much sense after a great first episode, oddball scene with Akira hallucinating a bunch of creatures coming out of television sets was completely random (no explanation later), ending is kind of a head scratcher
"You're not the J-Johnny Hunter are y-you?"  "Oh, don't worry. I'm
just going to use this cigar cutter on this little cigar down here" Snip!
Mike Tells It Straight: The first episode of Eden of the East is awesome - easily a cut above the rest of the anime out there and a great plot setup for a major conspiracy theory finale.  The two main characters were great together with Saki being an idealistic college grad trying to make it in the real world and Akira an irresistibly charming young man with the world literally at his fingertips.  Animation was absolutely top notch with lush backgrounds and seamless CG mixed in.  A visual triumph.  
Akira's dog has cute little fairy wings
Akira's missing memories and the slow reveal of the Seleção game were truly intriguing concepts that made me blow through this show in two evenings.  The game's rules were interesting and I really dug the idea for the Eden of the East cell phone app (image recognition engine with social network add-on).  Adding the NEETs and political drama intensified the thrill-ride.  The short length (11 episodes) of the series made the plot race by quickly considering all the moving parts to the story.
WTF is the deal with this scene!
Despite my enjoyment this show definitely has its flaws.  The characters didn't really evolve (except maybe Saki) and were just shallow, one-note caricatures (even Akira).  Some story elements were pretty lame - like the whole "Johnny Hunter" thing, the totally weird computer-spawned creatures that Akira hallucinates, and the amount of time spent on the shut-in character "Panties". Akira was a bit too cheerful and the last episode felt like a non-ending (two sequel movies were released afterwards to finish the story).
"It's party time!"
Criticism aside, it's a good show and really entertaining.  A lot different than most anime out there and covered an actual social problem (NEETS).  If you can forgive its flaws and go along for the ride then this show is really fun.  Don't expect it all to wrap up in a nice neat little ending - we're just getting started with the Eden of the East storyline in these 11 episodes.  I'm planning to check out the two sequel movies: King of Eden and Paradise Lost to get the finale of the story and recommend you do the same.

TO BUY and Recommendations: