Eden of the East

Title: Eden of the East aka Higashi no Eden
Genre: Drama/Romance
Company: Production I.G.
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 10 Apr 2009 – 19 Jun 2009

Synopsis: Morimi Saki has just graduated and is on an overseas trip with her friends in the United States. A detour from her group to see the White House, a place which she sees as the centre of the earth because of its influence on world affairs, gets her involved in an incident with the police and a strange naked man wielding a gun and a mobile phone. This man, Takizawa Akira, has amnesia, and his phone holds the key to a mystery… one that relates to a spate of recent missile attacks on Japanese soil.

The Highlights
Animation: Maintains Production I.G.’s reputation for quality.
Character designs: Umino Chika’s character designs complement a unique style.
Music: A typically excellent soundtrack from Kawai Kenji.
OP and ED sequences: Unique and creative, like the show in general.
Themes: An analysis of the interplay between politics, society and technology.
Characters: Akira is enigmatic and sympathetic.
Romance: Stalls a tad in the latter part.
Ending: Not yet… wait for the movies.

When it’s done right, the mystery genre can produce some of the most absorbing and unique stories in anime. Eden of the East is a fine example of the mystery genre done right, and it’s utterly captivating from its first few minutes. However, as the story evolves, it not only becomes more intricate, it also strives for relevance, making commentaries on politics, society and the corporate structure in Japan. All this is done with production values that are simply gorgeous: the animation is technically proficient, but Umino Chika’s character designs also lend it a quality of sweet charm and charisma. My only major complaint can almost be seen as a good thing: with the hanging ending, comes confirmation that there’s still more to come.

There’s so much polish to the aesthetics of this anime. Production I.G. have a remarkable history of pushing the limits of animation, as can be seen with an extensive catalogue of visual feasts like FLCL, Blood: The Last Vampire and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Eden of the East is similarly visually delightful but rather than trying to outdo its predecessors for motion and vibrancy, Eden is more concerned with forging an aesthetic identity to call its own. Combined with rich and colourful backgrounds are character designs by Umino Chika which are patently moe and instantly recall memories of Honey and Clover. It allows director Kamiyama Kenji to add both humour and humanity to his characters (for example, he often employs the somewhat antiquated technique of giving his characters visible emotion bubbles), making them both more sympathetic and intriguing.

This is offset by Kawai Kenji’s solemn soundtrack, which does a great job of keeping up a serious and mysterious atmosphere. On the topic of music, even the OP and ED complement Eden’s aesthetic sensibilities in a unique way: the ED sequence, set to School Food Punishment’s “Futuristic Imagination”, is a paper stop motion animation featuring pencils as missiles and a symbolic summary of the story, while the OP sequence, filled with vibrant, fast moving images, words, colours and patterns and the music of Oasis, leads us to the inevitable conclusion that someone’s thrown serious money at this anime (but that’s hardly a first for Production I.G.).

Barring a slightly off-putting obsession with “Johnnies”, the script is excellent. The mystery throws up its fair share of memorable curveballs, particularly towards the end, but its strength is in the relevant commentaries that come from its themes. At several points an analysis of public opinion in the face of terrorism, crisis and political and technological upheaval, Eden is at its strongest when its denouncing the rigidness of the corporate culture in Japan, and its requirements of loyalty and, ultimately, identity, and how many of the most creative and innovative individuals are stifled and eventually cast off by the established system. There’s also an analysis of the pros and cons of concentrating power in the hands of few, and how this influences change on a local and national level.

Unfortunately this is a story that’s far from over, with numerous questions, especially surrounding the “Supporter” and Mr. Outside, still remaining. This incarnation has built up my expectations for what has to follow, but what I really want to see is Saki take a more active role in the story. Initially an interesting character, by the end she falls into the role of a normal person observing a world beyond her comprehension. More romance between her and Akira would be nice too; they share one incredibly romantic moment about half way through, but after that their relationship stalls. Akira, fortunately, offsets this by being an incredibly captivating and enigmatic character, one of the real strengths of this show. Eden makes the point that he is a prince, and the TV series documents his rise. Fortunately, with two movies promised already, it won’t be a long wait before we see his reign.

The Rating: 9
9/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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