Anime Reviews: Eden of the East

2009; Director: Kenji Kamiyama; Studio: Production I.G
2009; Director: Kenji Kamiyama; Studio: Production I.G

CAUTION: Contains minor spoilers.

On November 22, 2010, ten missiles launched by persons unknown struck Japan in what was at first thought to be an unprecedented terrorist attack. The incident, now referred to as “Careless Monday”, is curious in that all ten missiles hit uninhabited areas and no casualties were reported, so the government simply writes it off and everyone gets on with their lives.

Three months later, in Washington, D.C., recent college graduate Saki Morimi is visiting the White House when she comes across a strange naked boy in a bush who introduces himself as Akira Takizawa. He has no memory of how he got there or what he was doing up to now. All he is carrying are a gun and a cell phone linked to an 8.2 billion yen account which he can access anytime through an unseen operator named Juiz.

Akira returns with Saki to Japan—but not before an eleventh missile hits Tokyo—where he slowly learns that he is one of twelve competitors, or “Seleção”, playing a game arranged by a man known only as “Mr. Outside” to see who can be the first to make Japan a better place with an account of 10 billion yen. But there are still pieces of his memory missing, including his possible involvement with “Careless Monday” as well as the mysterious disappearance of 20,000 NEETs…

From Kenji Kamiyama, director of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and two seasons of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, comes Production I.G’s Eden of the East, an eleven-episode series from Fuji TV’s “noitaminA” block that combines conspiracy theory with the classic “what would you do if you had a million dollars” question.

Basically, the gist of this whole game is how its contestants use their new-found power and wealth in the service of their country. A couple of episodes focus on other Seleção who clue Akira in on the rules of the game and reveal to him its terrifically high stakes. Some of these guys have good intentions, while others I wouldn’t trust to manage a Walgreens pharmacy, much less the fate of an entire country, so it does add a bit of tension. There is also a superfluous subplot about another Seleção known as the “Johnny Hunter,” who turns out to be a businesswoman who abducts men and then slices their manhood off. Akira himself is a piece of work. He has a generally playful personality which at first glance would make you think he’s not to be trusted. My only complaint with the cast would be with Saki’s character design, in that she looks a little too moe for a show as serious as this. My first thought at seeing her character design was that she looked more like the graduated from junior high than from college.

Eleven episodes is a weird length for a TV series, though, and one of the main hiccups is that you don’t have as much time to establish a story. We don’t actually get a lot of conflict until the player designated as the villain finally shows up in episode nine, and as a result the climax of the series feels a little bit rushed. Perhaps if it had gone on up to the standard length of twelve or thirteen episodes it might have fleshed the story out a bit more, but the climactic moments are enjoyable anyway, and there are a couple of spin-off movies that continue the story, so perhaps those will pick up the slack.

Despite its minor pacing problems, Eden of the East is still worth a watch. The tension builds quite nicely as the rules of the game slowly unfold to give a good blend of comedy and suspense, and even though the ending is a bit of a rush it is a decent capper to an intriguing and fun series.

tl;dr:

PROS
CONS
Interesting concept
Too short, feels rushed; Saki looks younger than she really is

Eden of the East: awesome or crap?

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