SciFi Japan

    Review: EDEN OF THE EAST

    Akira Takizawa poses for the mirror after discovering a stash of weapons. Photo courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment. © 2009 EDEN OF THE EAST.

    Author: Elliot Gay Official Site: Special Thanks to Jackie Smith and Manny Alcala, FUNimation Entertainment EDEN OF THE EAST (Higashi no Eden) is a tricky show to look at in a lot of ways. Coming from Kenji Kamiyama, the man behind the GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX (K?kaku Kid?tai Sutando Ar?n Konpurekkusu) TV series, it’s something of a departure. The character designs have a decidedly more feminine edge, the season itself only ran an awkward eleven episodes and the story has yet to be concluded via a series of theatrical films. Yet despite all of this strangeness, the story manages to engage the viewer, making it maddening to have to wait for a proper ending. For those of you who don’t wish to read my reasoning beyond this paragraph, I’ll make it simple: I highly recommend EDEN OF THE EAST if you have any interest in Japanese animation on the whole. This is a series crafted with a lot of love.

    The Selecao phone. What secrets does it hold? Photo courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment. © 2009 EDEN OF THE EAST.

    The premise of the show is deceptively simple; a group of 12 men and women have been chosen by a mysterious being known only as Mr. Outside. They’re given a phone and 10 billion yen to spend, with the only rule being that they must change the country. If they fail to do this, they will be killed. If they succeed, they will have saved the country and avoided death. This is where said simplicity ends however. Over the course of eleven episodes, new characters are introduced as quickly as they vanish leading to an ultimately satisfying but mind-numbing conclusion. It’s important to note however that the series was designed with two concluding films in mind. Therefore the series conclusion is not to be looked at as a series finale so much as it’s a season closer in many ways. The main male protagonist is a Japanese man who goes by the name Akira Takizawa. At the beginning of the series he’s just lost his memory, and is standing nude in Washington DC with only a pistol and a cell phone to call his own. It’s there that he meets our female protagonist, the charming Saki Morimi. Saki’s in DC on something of a college trip she and her friends decided to take in honor of their upcoming graduation. Takizawa helps her out in a tough situation and the two of them make their way back to Japan together. As the story develops, Takizawa meets several other people chosen by Mr. Outside (known as the Selecao) in attempts to figure out just who he is and what he’s done. I’ll try to maintain distance from spoilers here if only because the plot twists are part of what makes the show so very compelling. Needless to say there may in fact be plot holes, but due to the fact that I’ve yet to see either of the two new films, it would seem wrong to remark upon them now in the case that they are resolved.

    After a near death incident, Takizawa stops to save a wounded truck driver. Photo courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment. © 2009 EDEN OF THE EAST.

    These two main characters are part of what makes the show so engaging. While Saki isn’t really anyone mysterious, nor does she have some dark past, it is her own interest in Takizawa that becomes fun to watch. Her primary character development is a result of Takizawa entering her life, as she starts to look at things in a way she never did before. Takizawa himself oozes with charisma and charm. His relaxed nature makes him easy to relate to, even in the most impossible situations. Having a likable main character in an anime series is never a given, so in the case of EDEN OF THE EAST where two are present, it’s truly remarkable. That isn’t to say they’re all perfect. There are points midway through the series where characters will act in ways that might drive a viewer to yell at the screen in frustration. It doesn’t happen frequently enough to ruin the experience, but it’s always a bit jarring. Something that never fails to impress however, are the production values. The visuals are of the high standard that one might expect from studio Production IG. While the show is certainly more of a sci-fi thriller than it is an action series, movement is handled extremely smoothly and realistically, falling in line with the more natural proportions of the character designs. One element of the visuals that really pops out is the background art. In the first episode alone, exact streets and locations of Washington DC are near perfectly drawn and modeled. This trend continues with the cityscapes of Japan, and even old Kyoto. It seems like a small detail, but a lot of modern anime eschew the importance of backgrounds in favor of abstract shapes and colors.

    Saki and Takizawa happily look at a brand new memory for both of them. Photo courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment. © 2009 EDEN OF THE EAST.

    Musically, a lot of the material in EDEN OF THE EAST should seem familiar to fans of Japanese sci-fi. Composer Kenji Kawai once again brings with him a series of extremely atmospheric tracks. While I wouldn’t argue that anything in the soundtrack is intensely memorable, it’s not a show that requires that sort of sound design. Rather, Kawai’s soundtrack sets the appropriate mood that allows the viewer to truly become engaged without distraction. EDEN OF THE EAST THE MOVIE I: THE KING OF EDEN (Higashi no Eden I: The King of Eden) released November 28th of last year and continued the story from where the television series ended. EDEN OF THE EAST THE MOVIE II: PARADISE LOST (Higashi no Eden II: Paradise Lost) is due for a theatrical release March 13th, and looks to conclude the entirety of the tale. It was initially scheduled to release on January 9th of this year, but the production staff delayed in order to add an additional thirty minutes to the film. On the whole, I really can’t recommend EDEN OF THE EAST enough. For the sci-fi fans out there, the series has enough twists and turns to appease anyone. Even the fan of the romantic comedy has a lot to like here. Shows that try to appeal to a wide demographic rarely do any one thing particularly well. In EDEN OF THE EAST’s case, it is not only satisfying, but successful in nearly everything it sets out to accomplish. Director Kenji Kamiyama has another hit on his hands, and it’ll be interesting to see how the series does in America when FUNimation Entertainment releases EDEN OF THE EAST: THE COMPLETE SERIES on Blu-ray and DVD in late summer of this year.

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