<div>Don't get me wrong: Eden of the East is good anime. It's from the writer/director of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, so the storyline is intelligent and solid. The characters are charming and don't stink of cliché anime archetypes. The concept is interesting and I was driven to see the conclusion. So why couldn't this climb to four or five stars? Let's get to it:
Smooth, no shortcuts or gimmicks. The backgrounds are a high point and stand out from standard anime. The battle animation and choreography look great, although battles are almost nonexistent.
The main character is funny, confident, and completely at home in his confusion. His self-assurance gives the series a lighthearted attitude that helps to keep it entertaining but also causes a problem down the road, which I'll get to. There's a hacker called "Panties" who'll come into play in the second half, and he is fantastic. The rest of the players are mildly interesting and not annoying, which seems to be hard to achieve nowadays in anime.
It's hard to touch on the story without throwing up *SPOILERS* because the whole point of the show is that the main character (Akira) has amnesia--and thus the audience should be amnesiacs, as well. We learn of this world as we go along. Akira wakes up naked outside the Capitol in Washington, DC. He has a gun, a cellphone, and no memory. The token female lead appears, and it's time to figure out what's going on. His cellphone has a ton of yen on it and an operator on call that can make pretty much anything happen. It's intriguing and enjoyable to unravel the facts of this unique world.
Eden of the East suffers from some pacing issues that begin around episode five. The story slows to service a romance and some curious side characters, and the casual attitude that makes Akira so likable begins to erode the seriousness that the plot is trying to form. The lag isn't terrible, but I felt myself getting bored. Worry set in that this show was going to lose its narrative or that the creators didn't have a conclusion planned at all (which anime is famous for). This story DOES HAVE A CONCLUSION, but it drifts between epic and disappointing--an odd feeling. While I can say I liked the resolution, I also felt the show deserved more.
The soundtrack is light, funky, and has some jazzy vocals. This quirkiness works during cute moments or when Akira is being slick, but during the intense scenes the lightness of the music undermines the gravity of the content. The missile attack finale is ruled by this music, dampening a great scene and making the end of the show feel like every other episode: charming and mildly entertaining.
Don't let my gripes dissuade you from watching this series; it's a good story and worth your time. I just expected more from the team behind this, because I knew they had the potential to create something fantastic. They created an interesting world and characters, and then moved them forward mildly. I will watch the movies and hope that they include the much-needed drama and intensity that the series is missing. Please enjoy, but don't expect action or anything more than what you start with. The story is interesting and well-conceived, but that is all.</div> <div> </div>
One day, in 2011, a Japanese university student by the name of Saki Morimi is visiting America. When she throws something into the Whitehouse courtyard, the security guards quickly start questioning her... but she is quickly granted a distraction by our protagonist, Akira Takizawa, who has appeared outside the Whitehouse completely naked, with a phone in one hand and a gun in the other, and absolutely no recollection of who he is or how he got there.
Saki lends him her coat, but quickly comes to realise that she left her passport in there, causing her to chase after him. Meanwhile, Akira finds a large amount of weapons at his apartment, along with several fake IDs. As the series progresses, Akira finds out that he is part of a group called the Selecao, who have each been granted an enormous sum of money, and a phone connected to somebody called Juiz who will use this money to carry out any command they are given. Their cause is to use this money to save Japan.
As you've probably noticed by this point, the premise of this series is absolutely bonkers, and in the best way possible. It comes across as anime's take on American spy thrillers, and pulls it off with ease. For example, a notable part of this series is their aversion to Engrish, not counting that spoken by the Japanese characters when in America. Instead, they hire actual American voice actors to play the American roles. This is, of course, only one facet of the genius put into this show's production. Watching it, it's very obvious that Production I.G. absolutely spared no expenses in making this series. The animation is absolutely top-notch, along with a distinctive art style that will be familiar to fans of Honey And Clover, whom it shared a character designer with. It's also worth noting that the opening and ending themes are both extremely impressive. For the opening theme, they use Falling Down by Oasis, which not only flaunts the massive budget they had on this, but also adds heavily to the multicultural chic the show uses. This is set over an animated sequence with a visual style that would make Steve Jobs cream his shorts if he saw it. The ending theme, while less notable music-wise, uses a very distinct style, using a stop-motion sequence made using papercraft.
And all of this makes Eden of the East all the more disappointing.
The first problem that appears comes up about halfway through the series, and that would be that Juiz is ridiculously overpowered. You can basically ask Juiz to perform pretty much any command, and it will magically happen. Now, in of itself, this isn't the problem. The issue isn't what she can do so much as how she does it. The ways in which the commands are executed are simply ridiculous. For one example, upon command, a truck is to be brought down to block the path. Rather than, say, a sniper shooting out the wheels, the truck falls apart. No explanation as to how this is done is ever given. It falls apart of it's own accord because somebody paid out a large sum of money for it to happen. And sadly, this isn't even the most nonsensical use of Juiz's abilities, though to name any worse uses would be to give out enormous spoilers. The ending, for example, features a mind-breakingly stupid use of it that provides a completely asinine plot twist that had no foreshadowing whatsoever, and doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. The Juiz concept does get put to good use on numerous occasions, mind you. One sequence, for example, is reminiscent of the back-and-forth mind games presented in Death Note, and is used just as well as they were there, which makes it a shame that it isn't put to such good use more often.
Another problem is that the "Save Japan" concept is underused. On a few occasions we see the other Selecao and their ideas for how to save Japan, and these are actually very good, but overall we just don't see enough of them. These ideas, and the stories behind them, are one of the more interesting parts of the series, but we only really see it happen on two occasions, most likely due to the painfully short 11-episode runtime.
The characters are another disappointing part of the series. Most of the cast are just completely uninteresting, especially Saki. The only truly interesting character in the series is Akira, but he isn't exactly great either. While he's far from a bad character, he's anything but impressive. Part of his problem is that he is permanently happy. The only side we ever see to him is an all-smiles personality with absolutely no depth of emotion. Of course, being constantly happy isn't exactly a bad thing, but it's hard to get attached to a character who seems completely one-dimensional.
If anything, I think this entire series would have been better in almost every way if it had just been longer. 11 episodes simply isn't enough time for a series this ambitious, which is probably why two movies have been produced to follow it up. I have yet to see the movies, but nonetheless it seems nigh impossible for them to properly fix the series' faults. At best, they may give some development to the characters, but as late as that it seems like a poor idea. Really, it would have been better if there had simply been about 4 more episodes in the middle of the series. This would have given them time to make the characters more interesting and fleshed-out, shown the ideas behind the remaining Selecao, and come up with more interesting ways to use the abilities of Juiz, then Eden of the East could have been truly fantastic. Instead, it comes across more as a collection of great ideas that weren't properly realised.
Final Words: I weep for the lost potential this series has. If we're lucky then the movies will pick up some slack for it, but there's no way it'll fix everything.
My experience with Eden of the East can pretty much be summarised as starting at immense enjoyment, proceeding on to immense fascination in what the show seemed to be doing and finally reaching a drawn out period of immense disappointment in what it actually decided to do.
Eden of the East starts with a young naked man showing up outside the White House with a gun, a mobile phone with over eight billion yen on it and no memory. There he encounters Saki, a student who is visiting America, and he travels back to Japan with her. The series largely concerns itself with the reason that this man (who takes up the name Akira Takizawa) has the phone, the reason he lost his memories and his response to all this.
Early on in the series I was very intrigued by the seemingly intentionally odd tone it had. Shifting from light-hearted, somewhat silly comedy to more dramatic reveals (and yet also using the comedy to sidestep potential drama), and more notably playing quite happy music over a scene that you wouldn’t think the music would naturally suit. It’s a charming way of handling things which is never quite recaptured later on in the series, but in retrospect I kind of wish the series had been more serious from the very start because from the point when the drama really kicks in after a few episodes I was starting to find the series’ attempts at comedy were detracting from everything else that was going on.
Regardless of my thoughts of the series as a whole, which consist of a lot of frustration, there is one episode which for me truly stood out and suggested what the series could have done: Episode 4. There are two things I really, really loved about this episode. The first was the explanation of what was up with the phones with vast quantities of money on them. I found the explanation genuinely riveting. Slight spoilers here, but the explanation concerns how twelve people have been each been given a phone with ten billion yen on it and that they must use this money to “save Japan”, and that if they run out of money, don’t spend money for a long period of time, or just generally don’t try to become a “saviour” for Japan they will be eliminated by one of the twelve who is known as the Supporter (the Supporter doesn’t necessarily know that they’re the Supporter, but will feel compelled to dispose of the failures due to their general disposition and beliefs).
Personally I find this idea utterly fascinating. It reminds me of Death Note, and just as that show makes you question what you’d do with the death note so too this show can’t help but pose the question (whether it intends to or not) of what you’d do with the money to “save Japan”, and indeed what “saving Japan” entails (as everyone’s viewpoint on this will be slightly different).
The other thing I loved about episode 4 was that we see how the brain surgeon used his money. He doesn’t intend to “save Japan”, but instead decides to use his money to help as many people as possible. Instantly I wanted to see how others would use their money, I wanted to know more about the backgrounds about the other Seleçãos, I wanted to know more about the potential dynamics between these Seleçãos (after all they may well want to kill each other to get rid of competition, or work together and combine resources and ideas). Essentially what I wanted from the show was for it to explore its ideas and themes, because it really had set up a truly mesmerising situation.
And from that point…the disappointment set in. For me the show just didn’t live up to anything that it had the potential to be. We’re introduced to an arc that takes up way too much of the show’s short running time involving a cartoonish woman who mutilates men, and this arc is ended in a way that from a characterisation point of view is corny and though it finished in a visually stunning way it also finishes in a manner which, to me, seemed silly, ludicrously out of place and which added nothing. The rest of the series is concerned with shoving in plot developments and tying up loose ends, and not only is it rushed but it’s also remarkably unsatisfactory in quite how little it really develops. Yes it shoves in new plot details and background information, but on a thematic level the show has regressed hugely since its earlier episodes, and the show is also let down by how the more of the mystery that it reveals the less interesting and more contrived it all starts to feel.
The final moments of the series are particularly disappointing and felt, to me, like a cop-out, an easy way of wrapping things up and trying (and failing) to be intelligent. I realise that there are two movies that follow on from the series, however the series still very much felt to me like it was trying to stand on its own at least to a certain extent, and even if I do accept that the plot isn’t over yet and there’s more to come I still can’t help but find something at least a bit pathetic about the ending.
The thing is, I do quite like Eden of the East. I’ve needed this opportunity to vent my frustration with the series, but I do realise I’m perhaps making it sound worse than it is. The first half of the series is effective (whilst I’m praising it, I will also add that I find the ED to be quite stunning in its own way) and has some wonderful moments, and the second half certainly isn’t ever bad (with the possible exception of the conclusion to the previously mentioned mutilator storyline) but what it is is a monumental let down. The first four episodes set the stage for a mature (if also humourous) series that can explore some interesting ideas whilst a mystery is at the same time slowly unravelled, and after that point the series squanders all its potential. I enjoyed the series enough, but it could have been so, so much more.
Story: I had little idea about the this series was about before I started so I was basically like a blank state. Immediately from episode 1, I was hooked. The concept was intriguing and exciting. It leaves you guessing and does eventually explain things to you but gives you hints to figure it for yourself. The pacing was steady without being too fast or slow. If you like something that makes you think and has some action, I would definitely recommend this. I loved the political and social aspects. That wasn't something I was expecting and it was done incredibly well. Another thing was the comedy. It starts off being hilarious and it doesn't stop. At first glance, I didn't expect much humour out of this series. I definitely didn't expect me to laugh as hard as I did. However, I didn't like the way the series ended. I liked the resolution to the conflict but you end up with a large amount of questions unanswered. You have to do a lot of guesswork with little to go and that was disappointing. The series ended with me think: "What?! That's it!". I know that there are movies out and I hope that they fill in the blanks.
Animation: I love Chicka Umino so you can already tell that I loved the character designs. All in the all, the animation was stellar. There's great attention to detail and great range of expressions for the characters. Also, the animation adds greatly to the humour for the series. The opening was a little lackluster but the ending made up for it. I don't have any complaints.
Sound: I don't know what version I was watching but the opening wasn't by Oasis which is strange. However, the ending song was nice and I really liked it. The soundtrack was a whole was very fitting and I did notice it. However, I don't really remember it after watching so it really doesn't stick with you. I did like the use of the English songs though. One thing that does stick with is the English voices for the Americans. It isn't Engrish with was refreshing. The rest of the seiyuus did a good job as well.
Characters: It's a really fun and amusing cast. However, Akira is definitely the one that sticks out the most. You see a great deal of change and development in him and he is incredibly likable. The girl is alright but more forgettable along with a good number of the cast. The best part of the series comes more from the plot and how the characters deal with the game as opposed to the characters themselves and their relationships.
Overall: Great concept, humour, pacing and high quality animation that has style and intelligence. However, unconclusive ending although I would still recommend this to most people I know.
For as long as I can remember, anime of the mystery genre have proven creatively stale. As a rule, trying to find a gratifying mystery is an ordeal much like rummaging for haute couture in a dark, creaky charity shop that smells faintly of mothballs. Foremost amongst the dust-caked offerings, Darker than Black collapses into a morbid mess; low-grade Fantastic Children keeps things cheap and cheerless; and the snail-paced Ghost Hound dulled my senses to such an extent that I never saw its middle episodes.
How delightfully reassuring, then, to discover Eden of the East; this, unlike the aforementioned failures, begins on a much higher bar of quality. In fact, tapping into the hot topics of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, information technology, marginalised geek subculture, and subversive conspiracy theories, it accomplishes an astronomical level of relevancy to its early twenty-first century audience that’s both rare and difficult to pull off. Like Akira emerging from a background of Cold War paranoia, Eden of the East manages to capture the Zeitgeist of disenfranchised youth of the millennium and repackage it into a fascinating adventure that anyone can enjoy. Instead of loudmouthed biker brats trying to prevent the apocalypse, there are spotty middle-class misfits with too much HP trying to save Japan from itself.
The sequence of events may be ambiguous, with the script hardly pausing to explain how they connect with each other, but the pace remains satisfyingly steady. Strangely enough, like watching a master illusionist at work, the confusion contributes to the enjoyment. The series withholds tantalising facts until the last possible moment and glosses over its meandering mystery with generous handfuls of charisma.
In truth, the first half of the show elicits the kind of spine-tingling rapture that only comes along once a decade when viewers inadvertently stumble upon a confident masterpiece. I could see it already – breathless fans hailing Eden of the East as the second coming of Death Note, the easy five-star ratings flying from reviewers’ fingertips, and a live-action movie so popular it even makes it as far as British cinemas by 2015!
All I can say is enjoy the magic while it lasts. Inevitably, Eden of the East overreaches and certain contortions of the plot midway stretch viewers’ suspension of disbelief to untenable limits. At first there is a clever chase sequence highly reminiscent of Light and L’s interplay in Death Note, where the mysterious hero Akira tries to save the day with the help of Juiz (a voice on his phone which grants his every wish). For whatever reason, just at that key juncture, the show follows up with a scene of such crippling farce that, despite later rationalisation, it spells a stunning loss of momentum. After that, there’s a long period of rushed explanations, sluggish suspense, and one or two twists desperately in need of more coherent setup.
Fans expecting easy-to-grasp developments and a neat conclusion will end up disappointed. However, for conspiracy theorists and generally anal fans who like to pore over minute details and debate exact wordings for weeks after a show is over, this will prove quite the feast.
Even in this age of knock-off CGI and dime-a-dozen action sequences, Eden of the East’s visuals warrant some respect. The style may not be up to much, but cityscapes, monorails, museums, cars, and streets have rarely looked this good. The quirkiest aspect is the combination of hamster-cheeked characters with hyper-realistic, superbly detailed backgrounds. Although this sounds intuitively incompatible, the quality of animation is consistently high and melds everything together nicely.
Apart from a catchy opening theme sung by the established Brit-rock band, Oasis, and some excellent American voice acting during the early episodes, Eden of the East’s soundtrack remains effective but wholly unremarkable.
Out of all the characters, only Akira Takigawa leaps off the screen with his incredible effervescence. Turning up at the White House naked with a gun in his first scene certainly makes him memorable, but his charm extends beyond mere gimmicks. Akira’s development reveals a fascinating duality in his personality, which ensures he is at once easy to like and teasingly difficult to grasp. His whimsical nature belies an underlying quick mind and a surprising level of gravity, the latter of which manifests itself in the messianic themes surrounding him (obvious statements that he’s Saki’s ‘prince’, his supposed massacre of 20,000 NEETs, the occasional deadpan expression etc). He’ll delight and entrance in turn, and he’ll do it seemingly without much effort.
Everyone else, unfortunately, gets caught in the whirlwind of his mystery without any opportunity to make their own mark. The good news is that the supporting cast, being ordinary people with ordinary problems, generally behave within the familiar boundaries of reason. Regrettably, this means that, when thrown into Eden of the East’s extraordinary circumstances, they become like headless chickens – alarmingly useless. At some point, I began to wonder how many more times I’d have to watch Saki mope after Akira, worrying about his terrible secrets without being able to help uncover them. Her behaviour is always understandable, of course, but also off-putting for being redundant.
Apart from that, the gaggle of weak antagonists impedes any attempt at emotional investment. The most carelessly developed individual has to be that purple-haired femme fatale whose morbid behaviour is as caricatured as her looks. Being the only female of note other than the mediocre Saki, I found her constant prancing in underwear and high heels a horribly patronising and silly portrayal. Truly, does being psychologically disturbed always have to mean being half naked? Other antagonists introduced later simply look boring, are underdeveloped, or generally don’t do much of note. Viewers will keep watching simply to find out the answers to the questions set at the beginning, and not because they will care about the conflict of interest.