Eden of the East (2009) Anime Review
Eden of the East is an anime which is not based off a novel or a manga, which is quite rare. It first appeared on Fuji TV, and was written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama.
Eden of the East is a mystery thriller set briefly in Washington DC, before the main storyline being set in Tokyo, Japan. A young man is naked and clutching a special cell phone, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He meets the young female protagonist, Saki, who helps him regain his memories when they travel back to Japan. There have also been several movies made as sequels to the anime series, which is 11 twenty-minute episodes long.
This article will review the anime's setting, characters, storyline and plot twists. It does NOT contain spoilers.
I was very impressed with this anime's portrayal of Tokyo - it was an almost perfect cartoonified version of the Japanese city. I lived in Tokyo for a year, and could even recognise places like Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku, and downtown Roppongi. It was very well-done, and I was impressed by the artist's attention to detail and drawing style. The anime was also set in Kyoto for a while, which they travelled to by bullet train - something else which was almost identical to the 'real-life' version.
The anime was also briefly set in Washington DC, and as well as being beautifully drawn (I'm not sure about accuracy as I've never been to DC), and also portrayed Americans as very tall, and quite loud. I didn't think this was overtly racist; more of an imitation of an account of a Japanese person's experience travelling in DC. The animation itself was of medium-to-high quality, though the scenery was very well done.
The main protagonists were the man with the lost memories, who later decides to call himself Akira after finding his passport, and Saki, the young girl he meets in DC whilst she's on a graduation trip. I instantly really liked Saki - she was meek and cute like most anime characters, but didn't fall head-over-heels for the male character within five minutes, which is what usually happens in anime.
She wasn't feisty or tough either, however - she was quietly intelligent, and when she spoke English during her time in DC, I thought it was adorable. Saki's eyes are very well-drawn - not huge and sparkly like in some animes, but smaller and simpler, yet still cute and pretty.
Akira, the male character, was carefree and very likeable, and always wore a smile, even if he was in trouble. He is a talented man, and slowly discovers his past deeds with the strange cell phone he has, finding out the truth about himself and his position in the country.
Other characters included a group of Saki's friends who had designed the website "Eden of the East", including a quiet and very clever girl and her older sister, a 'nerdy' type, and an intelligent but shy 'leader' type. None of these characters went into much depth or backstory, however. Lastly, there was a smaller character nicknamed Pants, a computer whiz who never left his bedroom after his only pair of pants flapped away in the wind. This was an odd bit of comedy value that added a little flavour to the anime. Lastly, there was a cute little shiba inu that belonged to Akira in Tokyo, and although didn't contribute to the story at all, was a very cute addition to the show.
Overall, the characters were pretty interesting, and Saki remains one of my favourite anime girls, with her simplicity, motivation and intelligence.
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The storyline was very interesting, and developed into a bigger and bigger conspiracy that affected the whole of Japan. A past conspiracy cropped up, and Akira doesn't know whether he was involved with it or not. The design of the cell phone, very significant with Akira's group of people, was brilliantly designed; at the push of a button, Akira could order a woman, who named herself Juiz, to perform almost any action - including manipulating the government.
Perhaps it's because I've only watched the anime through once, and over the period of a busy few weeks, but I was completely lost when they mentioned "NEETS". They seemed to be a specific group of people, but I couldn't grasp who they were or what they did (I assume it was explained at one point, but I didn't catch it). This didn't ruin the anime for me, but left me confused at certain parts. The person I watched it with actually agreed with me, so it's unclear whether we were both tired and missed it, or the anime didn't explain it properly.
There were plenty of unfolding layers to the story, including mysteries that were eventually resolved. One 'twist' was fairly obvious to me at the beginning (the identity of a certain character), and some mysteries just weren't explained at all (though I haven't watched the movie sequels yet - it might all come together in those). All in all, it was an original and interesting storyline, but honestly had some 'missing' parts that, disappointingly, weren't explained or mentioned again. We were actually both very surprised when we realised that the episode we'd watched had been the season finale - though the main plot had been 'cleared up', there was still a lot left unexplained.
I'd recommend this anime to people who enjoy mysteries, and have possibly been to or lived in Tokyo. The storyline had great potential, but seemed to lack explanation in some parts. The ending was fairly climatic and exciting, but seemed to drizzle out a little in the season finale. In fairness, I haven't yet seen the movies, so some of these issues might be cleared up there.
For the reasons stated above, I give Eden of the East three stars out of five.