Saturday, April 9, 2011

Anime review: Eden of the East

The opening scene of the Eden of the East involves a young man waking up stark naked in Washington D.C., near the White House. He has no idea how he got here, why he is naked, or what his name even is. His only hopes for answering these questions lie in the very high-tech phone he is carrying and a young girl who he helps out of a pinch with the police. After reaching his apartment, he discovers a stash of firearms and a collection of passports to different countries, each with a different name on it. As it turns out, the young girl, who reveals her name to be Saki Morimi, was only in the U.S. for a graduation trip with some friends. After the strange turn of events, the man assumes the title of Akira Takizawa, a name listed on one of his many passports, and decides to accompany Saki Morimi on her return flight home.

Once in Japan, things become even stranger for Takizawa. It seems a number of missiles struck Japan in the recent past, though no one was killed in the process and the event became known as "Careless Monday". Takizawa does not recall this, even though Morimi insists it was covered in the news all over the world. A large number of NEETS (young men who remain cooped up in their apartments/houses all day, every day) went missing without a trace around the same time as "Careless Monday" occurred. Furthermore, Takizawa discovers a woman named Juiz can be contacted through his high-tech phone, and can make basically anything Takizawa wants happen within his allotted ten billion Yen. Juiz informs Takizawa that he is one of twelve individuals privy to this money with the hope that they might be able to save Japan. The identities of the other eleven individuals - known as Selecao - are kept secret from Takizawa unless he should choose to seek them out in person, but what they choose to spend their ten billion yen on is transmitted to the other Selecao immediately after their purchase, allowing them to keep tabs on and counteract one another should they choose to do so.

Takizawa is a very eccentric lead character, despite the fact that he doesn't remember much about himself. He and Morimi play off each other as a thoroughly amusing odd couple, the latter having been dragged into helping Takizawa by complete coincidence. As the series progresses, the two work together and alone depending on the severity and danger of the situation at hand. Even while apart, the two manage to provide each other will significant aid. Morimi utilizes the brainpower of her school friends and the computer program Eden, and Takizawa uses his quick wit and connections through Juiz to uncover new information regarding the other Selecao and Mr. Outside, the apparent host of the 'game' which all the Selecao are playing.

The series increases in complexity with each episode, and subsequently its characters and interweaving stories become more deep and engaging. Each episode strives to answer as many questions as possible during its twenty-three minute run time, but in doing so asks just as many. Not every question will be formally answered by the series' conclusion, but those that matter most to the characters are. Each of the mysteries surrounding Takizawa, Careless Monday, and the Selecao are dealt with in a style that is relatively consistent as opposed to seeking out cheap answers for the sake of convenient storytelling.

The biggest hit against Eden of the East is its conclusion. While the events therein are as entertaining as they are befitting of the series, the story has only just reached its highest point by the time episode eleven rolls around. The concluding events of this final episode are covered so quickly that the finale is less than satisfying. That said, there are two films that pick up where the series left off, but even so, the staff could have greatly benefitted from pacing the last stretch of the series out a bit.

Eden of the East looks stunning, which should come as little surprise, considering it is a work from Production I.G. The lighting plays very effectively with the atmosphere of the series as a whole and the moods of different scenes. The soundtrack is very light and upbeat but manages to capture tense moments in the series effectively as well. All in all, it's a fitting soundtrack, though it does sound generic at times.

Eden of the East presents a bit of a different take on the espionage anime, narrating primarily from two distinctly different viewpoints. A small but varied cast of characters carry the eleven episodes along, and - aside from a few hitches at the end - the series has rather strong pacing throughout. There is as much suspense to be found, as there is humor, and - to an extent - a sense of wonder hangs about the series. It isn't a particularly dark or violent game of spy vs. spy, but for anyone who likes a good modern tale of mystery and intrigue, Eden of the East might just be your cup of tea.

My rating: 8.5 (out of 10)

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