Eden of the East TV

Eden of the East

EDEN OF THE EAST TV

Watched via BD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Eden of the East isn’t your typical action, josei, or slice-of-life show. It’s truly a lovely respite from the typical genre series that you usually find in the anime market. Eden of the East begins with Saki traveling abroad to America after graduating, and running into the shockingly nude, young, and self-proclaimed Japanese man, “Akira Takizawa”. The story begins innocently enough with Akira assisting Saki’s attempts to escape from the police after naïvely throwing a coin onto the White House lawn.

While the series begins much like a serendipitous love story, it quickly transitions into a conspiracy mystery when Akira, who has lost his memory, goes back home to discover countless passports, weapons, and cash stashed away. Actually it kind of reminds me of the Jason Bourne movies. Anyways, the turning point is when Akira finds a special phone that connects him to a secret organization, able and willing to do anything he bids at a cost. He has been selected, along with several other countrymen, to save Japan with a limit of 10 billion yen.

We are given the opportunity to discover the secrets behind the mysterious operation known as Seleção, through the eyes of Akira as he works to regain his memories and discover what his past self was trying to accomplish. In the meanwhile Saki accompanies Akira, and remains a solid rock amidst all the turmoil, even going so far as to pull some strings with her friends’ newly operational social media software to assist Akira in his efforts.

I think the storyline was a nice introduction to the characters and concepts, and the series as a whole was well rounded in the given episode amount. What I liked most was how well it tied up the story arc’s ends, but allowed for continual movies to be made that branched off of this series, while still retaining a bit of autonomy as its own story.

This series is just the right length to tell its story without tripping itself up by adding in too many ideas or getting ahead of itself. I think a lot of anime would benefit from being this short.

PLOT: Saki’s an average Japanese college student who went to Washington D.C. on a graduation trip. She decides to throw a coin onto the White House lawn, which leads to the police questioning her and being rude. A young Japanese man, Akira Takizawa, then appears and helps her out by distracting the police with his nudity and letting her escape.

That’s right, Saki meets a naked man in front of the White House. On top of that, he’s lost his memory but has suspicious stuff at his apartment, like guns, tons of passports under different names, and a phone that connects him to “Juiz,” who will do anything he wants for a certain amount of money.

Turns out Akira’s part of a game where participants (called “Seleção”) are given 10 billion yen to save Japan. Throughout the series, Akira works to figure out the rules of the game, who the other Seleção are, and what he did before he wiped his memory. Some of the Seleção are using their money for selfish desires or for outcomes that go against Akira’s morals, like bombing part of Japan to unify the rest, and Akira has to race against the clock to figure out his past self’s plan in order to stop another disaster in Japan like the recent Careless Monday missile strike.

Meanwhile, Saki’s trying to keep up with Akira and figure out her own way in the world after graduation. She has a group of friends who created image recognition software called “Eden of the East” that allows users to tag images of reality and share them to create an enhanced virtual reality. Naturally, the Eden of the East group gets caught up in Akira’s plans due to Saki’s connection to him, and the software becomes relevant to the plot in a very interesting way.

I found the plot of this series very intriguing, and it unfolded in a way I wasn’t expected, where everything seemed connected and relevant, even Saki, who could seem too ordinary to be involved in such events. I actually thought that it all wrapped up nicely, and I appreciated that the series made me think about Japanese current events from another perspective. The plot’s not perfect, of course, but it’s definitely an interesting watch.

SETTING: While Eden of the East begins in a modern day version of the United States, the majority of the show takes place in Japan. Akira isn’t the only member selected to save Japan, there are 11 other Seleçao members, all with their own motivations and ideas of what a perfect Japan would look like. Some of these members are more idealistic, and others are just plain selfish. I liked that the power of influence these members have has the ability to completely transform the setting the the series takes place in. The characters themselves are part of the world building process, and are therefore in direct control of their destinies.

This alternative Japan is constantly threatened by the balance of politics, economics, and terrorism. I really enjoyed these themes throughout the series as they link strongly to current world events all over the globe, which people from all over can identify and empathize with.

SETTING: Part of what I like about this series is that it takes place in modern day Japan, but there are slight alterations that are shown to the viewer over time. For starters, there’s the Careless Monday missile attack that happened on November 22, 2010. This attack didn’t kill anyone, so most people seem to blow it off, but it’s definitely a harbinger of changes to come and subtly shifts events and motivations of characters within the series’s world.

Beyond those changes, I enjoyed the realism of the series. When the series has parts in Washington D.C. and New York, they feel realistic, like the studio went on location and did research for how things work in the US. Furthermore, the series deals with real-world issues in Japan, like the NEET situation without all of the sugar-coating that so many anime apply when involving NEET characters. I think this series is most useful as a commentary on NEETs in Japan, and, after so many anime that trivialize the problem, I thoroughly enjoyed this take on NEETs.

I’m not so taken in with the inclusion of NEETs in this series. It felt rather simplistic and exploitive. I’m not saying it didn’t fit into the series, but I don’t think it’s worth all the praise you’re giving it.

I agree that the NEETs are exploited in this series, and I find some of the series’s ideas relating to NEETs to be problematic. However, I much prefer this approach to that of most other anime that include NEETs, since Eden of the East at least treats NEETs like a major issue, though it may do so imperfectly, while most anime spend all of their time slathering their NEETs with love and affection to give their audience solace. I’ll take the innovative, if troublesome, approach to sickly sweet fanservice any day.

CHARACTERS: Eden of the East gets its strong slice-of-life essence mostly from its character types and interactions. Unlike the cast of GITS: SAC, which was directed by the same guy, the protagonists of Eden of the East are rather dull. Sure they are adorable and charismatic, but they just didn’t pump me up for action or political drama and intrigue.

Akira’s calm and boyish personality and appearance really cheapened the drama for me. I often felt as if his character was solely a player in a big game, with little at stake. I suppose this was done to heighten the impression of inhumanity in those with total power, rather than going the crazy, or villainous route. While I did grow to appreciate his character more, I still always felt a bit like he was disingenuous.

I strongly agree with Crystal’s summary of Saki’s character. I think the portrayal of Saki is dangerously close to being summed up as “just a love interest”. However, rather than allowing her the sole purpose of damsel in distress, she ends up being a source of support, and helps drive the plot forward with her own expertise as well as her own personal connections. If you break it down, she is a great role model for female characters. Saki really goes to show that you don’t have to use guns or sexual appeal to move a story along. Instead she utilizes her career, intelligence, and social ties to help save the day, and in turn Japan.

The biggest disappointment I had with this series was that I didn’t get the opportunity to learn about every one of the Seleçao. I want to know all of the nitty gritty details, not just the stuff that’s immediately relevant to the immediate plot at the moment.

I also would’ve liked to see all of the different Seleção in action. I know the series left some things for the movies to resolve, but I think the series lost some credibility by shrouding everything involving them in mystery.

CHARACTERS: Since this show shares a director with GitS: SAC, I expected to immediately respect the characters but took a while to warm up to them, but I was pleasantly surprised and liked most of the main cast right away. There were a couple of people in the Eden of the East development group who were obnoxious, but they got better over time.

Akira is, as you might expect, cool and mysterious, so he sucked me in like he did Saki. From his first goofy appearance, I liked him, and then he began showing his layers and uncovering his past, which just made him more interesting. I know that amnesia’s a pretty cheap plot trick by now, but Akira’s worked out pretty well within this series, so I’ll forgive its use.

Saki’s the kind of character who might be annoying if you don’t like innocent girls who get drawn into Serious Stuff and try to be helpful. I found her to have a surprising amount of backbone, and I think she brought more to the plot than a convenient love interest for Akira. Saki’s a good example of how the director, Kenji Kamiyama, is getting better at creating characters who act like real people instead of bad-ass idealizations. She’s definitely not perfect, and she has her damsel-y moments, but I quite appreciate her presence in this show to make it warmer and more approachable.

The rest of the group behind Eden of the East is also pretty likable, and, as I said above, they work out their issues by the end of the series. The other Seleção we run into, on the other hand, are mostly intriguing with their theories about how to fix Japan and their psychological states, but they’re not all as likable. Finally, I love Juiz. She’s a computer that responds to each Seleção’s phone, but you can tell a lot about them by how she treats them.

I like your brief focus on communication as a means of illustrating personality and identity on social platforms, be it through mobiles or the software system.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Honestly, the biggest reason I delved into the world of Eden of the East, was because the characters designs were made by the manga-ka of Honey and Clover. In that regard, I feel that the designs for the characters fit well with the josei vibe of the series, and worked harmoniously with the personalities and actions of the characters. Had the series been more of an action series, I’d have expected the character designs to follow suit, but for what the show is, the designs work well to match it.

There is a distinct flatness in the animation of people in the show. They have a simple drawn appearance with little in the way of shading or highlighting to distinguish their bodies or clothes. In harsh contrast the architecture and backgrounds have the impression of being highly rendered as if aided by computer modeling, and have sleek lines and a wider spectrum use of value. What helps the two mesh together is the fluidity that the characters move through the spaces they are in. Really it’s a necessary aspect to redeem the foreground, otherwise they’d look like walking stickers. I still felt as if it took a while to get used to watching.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: This show’s gorgeous, courtesy of Production I.G bringing out the big guns. It has a catchy, sleek opening that stands out from everything else, and from there it catches your interest and doesn’t let go. This show pays great attention to detail in both setting and character animation, which is definitely appreciated. The thorough worldbuilding pays out by making the series that much more engrossing, as if its events could actually happen if someone were rich and mad enough to create the Seleção and make a similar game.

I also love Eden of the East’s art style, even though it’s so different from most anime. The manga-ka of Honey and Clover designed the characters, which means they have a look that combines round faces and twiggy bodies in a way that makes a lot of characters look childish. This character aesthetic could make the show harder for people to swallow, especially after GitS: SAC and Moribito, but I found that it worked well with the series’s warmer feeling. I think Eden of the East marks a turning point for Kenji Kamiyama, as he’s beginning to make anime that’s warmer while at the same time further entering the world of social critique. It’s an interesting balance, but I like it so far.

OVERALL: While I’m going to give this a “very good” rating at an 8, it’s still bordering closely to just being “good”. The premise of the series is intriguing and holds a lot of potential for a widely developed line of series and movies, I think the execution was still rather dull-drum. This goes for the cast as well.

Unlike Crystal, I wasn’t so enamored with the exploration of NEETs. Really I felt it was rather gimmicky and exploitive.

However, having said all of that, I really did enjoy watching this series and getting to know the main protagonists as well as the world they inhabited. I eagerly awaited the movies as well, so there is definitely something about this show which is catchy. I’d strongly suggest giving it a try.

OVERALL: Really, I just love this series. I love the plot and social commentary, and I love the characters and their visual designs. Since I’ve been following Kenji Kamiyama as a director, this show was a treat for me, as I warmed up to it quickly and found more there for me in terms of interpersonal relationships. Furthermore, it caters to my interests in social criticism and offers up a serious commentary on the NEET situation in Japan. The series definitely isn’t flawless, nor are the following movies, but the series offers up a good bit of potential and some interesting thoughts on Japan that I’m grateful for. Hopefully the director will continue to make more anime like this, though perhaps he could work harder at hashing out the conclusions of his ideas first.

FINAL SCORE: (8/10) FINAL SCORE: (9/10)

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