The 2nd Dimension

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Viewing Journal: Eden of the East (TV, Movie 1 & Movie 2)

Series Overview
Movie 1 Overview
Movie 2 Overview
DVD Info

Overall= B
Story = B
Video = A+
Audio = A

On November 22, 2010 ten missiles strike Japan. However, this unprecedented terrorist act, later to be called as "Careless Monday," does not result in any apparent victims, and is soon forgotten by almost everyone. Then, 3 months later... Saki Morimi is a young woman currently in the United States of America on her graduation trip. But just when she is in front of the White House, Washington DC, she gets into trouble, and only the unexpected intervention of one of her fellow countrymen saves her. However, this man, who introduces himself as Akira Takizawa, is a complete mystery. He appears to have lost his memory. and he is stark naked, except for the gun he holds in one hand, and the mobile phone he's holding with the other hand. A phone that is charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash. (Source: ANN)
I started watching Eden of the East because it was directed by Stand Alone Complex and Moribito director Kenji Kamiyama, and was the first of his works not based on an existing manga or novel. He usually works with animation studio Production IG, and the result is some of the most stunning visuals in TV anime. But what really grabs me is his intricately plotted stories, and his strong, multi-dimentional, and intelligent characters. Overall he puts an incredible level of detail into all three parts of his anime: visuals, characters, and story. And for the most part, that is all present in Eden of the East, but even so there was something missing that kept me from being able to fully enjoy this story.

This review is for all of Eden of the East, including the 11-episode TV series and the two movies, King of Eden and Paradise Lost. The story revolves around several people called Seleção who have access to specialized cell phones. They can use the cell phones to call a woman named Juiz who is kind of like a catch-all concierge — she can, one way or another, grant any request in the hopes that it will ultimately lead to that person becoming savior of Japan, whatever that means. The main character is Akira Takizawa — a man who has lost most of his memory who gets involved with a group of people who are involved in the development of a kind of social networking site called Eden of the East. Suffice to say that a hell of a lot of stuff happens across the series and movies with lots of twists and turns. But all of those plot twists are part of a very well thought-out storyline, with lots of details that are integrated into the story so well that it never seems like there is a lot of exposition. This is an anime that you need to pay attention to, and have a solid memory for in order to fully appreciate all the work that has gone into it.

One of the things the most stands out in the show is the number of very specific references to the real-world. It specifically names locations like the White House in Washington DC and specific areas or streets in Japan. And then there are the numbers specific movie references from Taxi Driver to Dumbo. There are so many real-world elements weaved into the story that the over all effect is that it feels like a very solid setting within our world.

The visuals here are also mind-blowing in their level of detail. It reminded me a lot of Voices of a Distant Star director Makoto Shinkai in that you can tell that the settings are drawn directly from real places in both Japan and the US. I have been disappointed with Production IG as of late, but this series shows what they can achieve when they are in top form. And there isn't a lot of difference between the TV series and movies in terms of quality, mostly just in terms of scale.

So the theme here is detail detail detail; but as impressive as all that is, and as much as I genuinely enjoyed much of this series, ultimately I was disappointed with it. The first thing that was that I couldn't figure out the point of the story. And by that I mean that I didn't have a firm grasp on the motivation of the characters, or the purpose of certain events. As I mentioned, I was really hooked on the level of detail, but after a while that fascination waned because I just couldn't see what the purpose of everything going on. I'm not sure if I was a weakness in the storytelling or if I just wasn't paying close enough attention, but by the end of the second movie, I got pretty bored and was just happy to have it be over.

The other thing was that there were no strong characters to latch onto. In Stand Alone Complex and Moribito there were strong and intelligent protagonists; but I just couldn't see that here. The main character was supposed to be this weird guy with a mysterious past, but as I mentioned before, I didn't understand why he did the things he did at all; plus he always had this grin on his face and it seemed like he was supposed to have that Vash the Stampede "I'm acting oblivious but but I'm actually really powerful" grin, but I never got what the power was or what made him any more special than anyone else in the series. After a while I grew really annoyed with him and Saki, the main girl character, who seemed to like him for no reason. Actually, the other characters were more interesting, but got less screen time.

All in all, this was a show that I can recommend for the visuals and the level of details, but I think it becomes weaker as it goes; so that the two movies, as visually incredible as they all are, completely fall flat by the end.

[ For a full list of reviews see the Viewing Journal Archive ]

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