Review for Eden of the East (TV Series + Movies) - Blu-ray Ltd Collector's Edition
‘Eden of the East’ (a play, perhaps, on ‘East of Eden’, the classic Steinbeck novel and a notable Jimmy Dean movie and the first of many film references throughout the series) is a fantastic series. It has everything you could possibly want from an anime series, all intelligently wrapped up and played out in an easy-to-follow narrative with just the right number of characters. In many respects, it’s almost a perfect anime for someone new to the genre.
In common with the very best anime, it has intelligence, heart and a mysterious, driving narrative which reflects an alternative reality to our own – almost life as we know it, but not quite. Anime is an art-form that freely allows uninhibited flights of imagination and ‘Eden of the East’ reflects that brilliantly. It also reflects the social concerns of the day for Japan back in 2010 when the series was made; down on its economic luck and wondering if it would have the strength and vision to re-build its previous position on the world stage. Even the ‘Eden of the East’ of the title turns out to be an incredibly innovative internet application run by an ambitious young start-up. But now I’m rambling without giving the slightest clue as to what the series and the movies are about.
This box-set set from All the Anime brings together all eleven episodes of the original series on the first two discs and a ‘movie’ (actually a feature length episode) on each of the third and fourth discs. The movies aren’t a ‘nice to have’; they are an essential part of the story-arc and resolve the narrative left hanging somewhat at the end of the last episode. I should note that the series was directed by the same director as Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, so you know you’re in for a treat.
As I am, to a large degree, an anime imposter, or a dabbler or part-timer if you prefer, you’ll find a more detailed and informed review of the series by our in-house expert, Jitendar Canth here; and his reviews for Movie 1 and Movie 2 are here and here respectively.
If you also want the view from the outside then you are, of course, welcome to read on.
The series starts with a young female, Japanese student (Saki Morimi) standing outside the Whitehouse in Washington. When she decides to throw a cent coin across the fence towards the fountain in order to make a wish, she attracts the unwanted attention of two policemen.
A young man, completely naked, comes running over to her rescue, waving a gun and a mobile phone. It’s too much for the security and they retreat. She lends him her coat to cover his modesty, but he has absolutely no idea how he came to be there, why he is naked, where the gun or the phone have come from or even who is. He thanks the girl and leaves. She sighs, picks up her bags and leaves. And that’s the end of the series. Only it isn’t of course.
Saki realises that she has left her passport in the coat she has generously donated to the young man so has no choice but to chase after him.
Meanwhile, the young man seeks some answers by trying the phone. He is immediately answered by a calm and helpful voice (Juiz) who is there to ‘serve’. He wants to know where home is and she tells him. It’s a run-down slum in one of Washington’s ghettos –full of guns, grenades and all the tools of the terrorist trade. There’s also a pile of passports, each with his picture and an alternative name. He picks one, Akira Takiwaza, and puts it into his pocket. Just then the doorbell rings and it’s Saki after her own passport. Seconds later, the police arrive and, almost without thinking, Akira moves himself and Saki quickly to safety, putting all the remaining passports into the toaster to burn as he does so. He may not know who he is but there is nothing wrong with his instincts. So the mystery begins and each new revelation answers one question but poses others, making the series a completely addictive watch.
So, without spoiling things too much, it would seem that Akira is one of twelve chosen ‘Selecao’; individuals who have been given over 8 billion yen each and a personal concierge service to arrange anything they wish, in order to ‘save Japan’ – to do whatever it takes. But only one of the ‘Selacao’ will win and the other eleven must die. It seems that one of the twelve has been empowered to be the ‘Supporter’ in case any go too far out of line. From what Saki and Akira can figure out, it looks like, before his memory was wiped, Akira had already stepped way out of line.
On a date now known as ‘Careless Monday’ (due to the carelessness of the Japanese authorities for allowing to happen) a terrorist, possibly Akira, launched ten missiles at Tokyo, which destroyed a large part of the city, and yet, didn’t take a single life. At exactly the same time, 20,000 NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) disappeared without any clue or explanation.
Akira has to figure out who he actually is, what he has done, and what he has yet to do to be Japan’s saviour. Maybe Saki and the crew at ‘Eden of the East’ can help? After all, they know some of the most brilliant hackers and programmers in the world.
The anime has many film references, from the obvious ‘Bourne Identity’ comparison, which Akira himself mentions, through to the prevalence of a cinema in a giant but empty shopping mall, seemingly Akira’s ‘real home’.
To a degree the series is a detective procedural with Akira picking up one clue after the other, unravelling his past and making sense of the present. But once that has been done the series shifts to being about the future. How can Akira, with the help of the ‘Eden’ team, win the race to save Japan and his own life?
That journey brings him into proximity with a beautiful fashion entrepreneur who, it turns out, is not only a Selacao, but is also a serial killer who cuts off men’s ‘johnnys’ with a cigar trimmer. Ouch!
There is also plenty of politics afoot as each of the Selacao try to outwit each other, some using extreme, right-wing thinking to their idea of how Japan must be saved. This really is a depthy, multi-layered series.
The series itself ends at a slightly unresolved high point where Akira’s final request to Juiz is that he should be made into royalty, something that sort of makes sense when you see how far he has come in galvanising the country as the so-called ‘Air King’. However, we see a much more definitive and satisfying ending at the end of movie 2, which goes a long way into pulling all the loose strands together.
The only low spot throughout for me was the first movie (The King of Eden) which was fine, but lacked the pace of either the series or the second film and felt a bit like a bridging episode, albeit a long one. The second film, Paradise Lost, was much more fun.
Image quality is excellent throughout and the animation style relatively sophisticated and fluid. Of course the phones, now seven year’s old, look a little dated but, other than that, it holds up well.
I used the US dub (sorry Jitendar) but found it to be really first class, avoiding cliché and locking to the dialogue animation perfectly.
Extra features abound including some that I haven’t seen (the physical stuff) like art-cards, stickers and a 40-page official log book, translated into English for the first time.
The on-disc extras include a bunch of interviews (see below) as well as a shortened ‘summary’ film of the series on the first movie disc, and a live event for fans of the series where an ‘Eden of the East’ style interface was used to comment throughout the showing of some episodes in theatre.
- Interview with Director Kamiya & Original character Designer Umino
- Interview with Kimura (voice of Takizawa) and Hayami (voice if Saki)
- Interview with Directors Kamiya and Oshii
- Interview with Art Director Takeda
- Interview with Composer Kawai
- TV Spot and Promotional Video
- Textless Closing title sequence
‘Eden of the East’ is must-have anime and this set pulls all of its constituent parts in to one place, all nicely transferred to blu-ray. It must surely be the ideal way to get your hands on it. I suspect that it’s the kind of anime that rewards a re-watch too. It was certainly a huge amount of fun first time round. Fantastic stuff!