Don’t tell me you forgot about the rantiest review on The Fan! Well, let me refresh your memory and pray for your continuing service as a savior with a break down of Eden of the East.
Where to begin on this journey into this twisted game? Say you found yourself naked in front of the White House, memory wiped clean, with a gun in one hand and a cell phone stocked with 10,000,000,000 yen and a concierge to complete your every outlandish request in the other. What would you do? Attempt to restore and save Japan from itself, of course. And should you or the other eleven participants (Selaçao) with the same tricked out phone fail to do so or spend all of your money before achieving your goal, you will be “eliminated”. The one responsible for saving Japan before the others will be crowned “king”. This is the situation that one Akira Takizawa found himself in and now he must not only restore his memories but find the mad man behind this game, Mr. Outside.
In a paragraph, I managed to sum up the entire premise of this 11 episode series. There is, of course, a considerable amount of meat I left out but that’s all you really need to know for the time being. Oh alright, I suppose I should mention the 20,000 “neets” (shut-ins) that mysteriously went missing and a missile attack on Japan that managed to garner no casualties now referred to as “Careless Monday”. You may be asking yourself how in the world our attractive mystery man, Takizawa, was involved. You’ll just have to see for yourself.
Now, that won’t be too difficult seeing as the answers are only meagerly hidden within 11 episodes, a short lived compilation film and two feature length movies. This isn’t what you would call a “long term relationship” in the anime world but the end of the main series will leave a handful of questions unanswered. All the more reason to pick up the films while you’re at it. Simply put, you won’t be disappointed.
What might only leave a small bit of disappointment in the after taste could be one of two things (or both): The dubs and the aesthetic changes made for the dub, namely, the opening. I’m entirely sure how to approach this as it was a pretty bad let down. The original song is from a 90′s British band we all should have at least heard of (If not, you need to brush up on your rock history), Oasis.
The song, Falling Out, released in 2009, syncs perfectly to the animation giving it fantastic aesthetic appeal. However, as per usual with Funimation, America felt the need to make it more “Japanese” by slapping a Japenese pop song over the top of the imagery, leaving it disjointed. The first 90 seconds is what draws a person in. It should make you want to see more. I’m not saying that the opening was bad, but the choice of song ruined what was an enticing and intriguing opening.
Though the dub’s change in opening was sub par, this should not deter you from giving the series a shot. Frankly, I was impressed. The series captured the stereotypes of modern society with ease. In some cases, the superficial traits of nerds portrayed in anime can be unseemly, distasteful or insulting however, the writing gave the typical “shut in” a softer, yet fully invested and obsessed look. The perfect example of this is “Pants” (or “Panties” as the dub put it), an otaku who, by “divine fate”, lost his only pair of pants. He had better things to do than leave his home anyway.
I suppose I should touch on the main character a bit. Her name is Saki, a strong willed yet soft spoken red head with her heart in the right place and her nose into trouble. Well versed in current news, she can hold her own in a debate over the state of the world. She cares about the well being of the nation but her concerns don’t stray far from that of a normal 20-something. All she really wants is to find her “prince” and she believes she found him in Takizawa.
Eden begins very much like a typical shoujo “love at first site” series and you can’t have a shoujo without the male eye candy. Takizawa fits the bill for almost every male love interest. He’s cute and mysterious with a sense of humor, cleverness and an incredible mental film library (obviously this is a case of selective memory loss). Add a pinch of amnesia and you’ve got the perfect man. All I know is that he can’t hold his own in a bare knuckle brawl. And now he broke the mold because we all know shoujo men should be able to throw a tooth shattering punch when necessary.
We all agree (more like I agree for all of you) that no dub is complete without some J. Michael Tatum, but C’MON! The bespectacled type casting is only getting slightly old. The dubbing in general is neither a masterpiece or disaster. It is unmemorable amidst the greater works of the business. The personalities just don’t feel organic. This isn’t to say it was a bad dub, something just didn’t mesh, in my opinion. However, this hardly means I didn’t thoroughly enjoy Eden. So, let’s talk about something that did work.
I love a good mystery, even if the larger-than-life scale of it all may seem overwhelming at first. Eden’s writers did one thing right by breaking traditional anime story telling. Anime has a general habit of giving you some internal narration or outward statement within the first few minutes that outlines the game, the risks, the goal and the character’s opinion on the situation. This is where things get interesting. Tearing away from overused means of story telling, you must stay as equally in the dark about the situation as Takizawa. When he learns something, you will also be in the know. Your understanding only extends as far as what he has sleuthed out for himself. The sense of mystery sticks around until the climax near the end of the series. Even you will be shocked by the answers.
There’s something more I think I should address: Eden’s obsession with “Johnny”. It is probably the most awkward visual in the entire series. “Johnny” has many meanings. Some are simply terms of creepy endearment, others are purely inappropriate. If I need to tell you what is meant by a “Johnny”, you needn’t use much imagination. It’s as dirty as it sounds. The fact that there is a serial killer named “The Johnny Hunter” wielding some black pumps and a cigar guillotine should give you a pretty good look into the dark realities of Eden’s Japan. I’ll leave the rest for you to figure out.
As a whole, Eden’s message of social media and digital connectivity as a means for uniting a nation against attack is something intriguing and entirely possible in the real world. Using the thread of a Facebook-esque social network to bring together a jaded nation is almost inspiring if not for the outlandish events of the fictional series. But a message is a message. I’m nothing short of impressed.
If you’ve read my work before, you should find it quite clear that even the best anime has its glaring shortcomings and minor mistakes. Eden of the East is innovative in message and story telling but typical in character traits and casting choices. Cleverly written to give even the purest heart a darker interior and the cruelest of characters the purest of intentions gives the series a sense of realism despite its out-there plot. Eden is worth the time, attention and praise. It was a pleasure.
Well, this closes out yet another month. Despite fate throwing some unnecessary curve balls this year, I will continue to bring you the best in anime reviews that I can give you. Happy August, FANatics!