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DVD Review: Eden Of The East 2-Disc Set

By Spencer Lloyd Peet

Individualism is threatening the collective mindset once employed by the social order.

Director Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell) is joined by respected character designer Chika Umino (Honey & Clover) for his latest creation, Eden of the East, an original, gripping, intelligent animation series with a progressively unravelling plot that takes place over eleven intensifying 20-minute episodes.

On 22 November 2010 ten missiles strike Japan. Because they were targeted at isolated areas, the apparent terrorist attack, referred to as “Careless Monday”, claimed no victims and the incident was soon forgotten by most people…

Three months later, Saki Morimi is on her graduation trip from Japan and is standing outside the White House. As she tosses some coins onto the lawn, two police officers come charging over, demanding to know what she is doing. Just then, a young man by the name of Akira Takizawa, who is stark naked, distracts them and leads them away from the scene. He shortly returns and informs Morimi that he has no memory, and can’t explain why he isn’t wearing any clothes and why he is carrying a gun and a mobile phone with credit of 8.5 Billion Yen. After giving Takizawa her coat, Morimi, intrigued by the whole affair, decides to help him find out the meaning behind it all and so they head back to Japan together.

With the mystery concerning Takizawa’s identity and the news of another attack being planned, Morimi and Takizawa seek the help of the Eden of the East Project, a group of computer boffins of which Morimi is a member.

Takizawa is told by Mr. Mononobe, the main antagonist, that he is one of twelve Selecao’s taking part in a “game” devised by Mr. Outside, a mysterious figure who is never seen. The rules are simple:  Each of the selected twelve has a special phone containing credit of 8.5 Billion Yen and must use it to help bring stability back to Japan in any way they see fit. Whoever achieves this aim is the winner. But whoever breaks the rules, such as using the credit for personal gain or deciding to do nothing at all, will be exterminated. So, who is responsible for “Careless Monday”? Is it possible Takizawa is a terrorist? 

Kamiyama dangles a carrot in front of us, cleverly feeding us enough information in each episode to make us eager to continue watching. This is also facilitated by the talent of the two main voice artists, Ryohei Takizawa and Saori Hayami, who deliver commanding performances, making the rapport between Takizawa and Morimi all the more convincing, allowing us to warm to their characters naturally. The American police officers, on the other hand, seen in the opening episode, are portrayed as dim-wits – perhaps Kamiyama meant this as a humorous implication in response to the opinion by many that America is the centre of the world. The script is complex at times, but always mature and compelling and one of the main aspects for the series’ success, as well as focusing on a theme that is still very much close to our hearts.

With 9/11 still fresh in the minds of most people around the world, it’s easy to see how the terrorist attacks in East of Eden can be seen as distressing for some and why it makes a worthwhile premise for a TV series. It’s these feelings of insecurity that resonates so well with us and makes the subject matter all the more real, even if it is being presented in the form of animation. With such believable characters, the threat of a terrorist attack is very much realised.

Terrorism has been the central theme of many forms of storytelling and is much of a potential danger to society today than it’s ever been. Kamiyama intelligently uses this worldwide fear to make comment on the changing attitudes of the Japanese people which have been evolving more radically since the end of the Second World War. From Mr. Outside’s perspective the nation has lost a part of its identity whilst the economic struggle has caused a malfunction within the country’s structure. 

Individualism is threatening the collective mindset once employed by the social order. His opinion of the younger generation is irrational; he views them as “deadweight” who contributes to, what he perceives to be, a “slacker culture”, and his measures for putting Japan back to her former glory are extreme. The “game” he has developed is a retaliation against the fact that once the wheels of change are put in motion, it’s inevitable that they will keep on turning. However, no matter how isolated and detached we may feel within this change there will always be hope. Ironically, the threat of Mr. Outside’s neurotic ideology is what brings the people of Japan together as they aim to fight against it. And where modern technology is blamed for the cause of creating isolation among the younger generation as well as the crumble of community spirit, it actually serves as a positive tool which units the people as they oppose stale beliefs.

Eden of the East is a riveting series and makes an excellent first choice for those of you new to this genre, established fans will not be disappointed either. With strong, likable characters and a well thought out plot, its appeal stretches beyond anime, crossing over into mainstream quarters worldwide – a rare achievement indeed for a production within this category.

DVD release by Manga Entertainment on 29 November 2010

Review first published on Subtitled Online website

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