Reviewby Mark Sombillo, Mar 24th 2011
Eden of the East
DVD - The Complete Series
Saki is just finishing school and is now faced with taking the first steps into the grown up working world. A few opportunities are opening up for her but for the most part she is quite unsure of where her future is heading and whether or not the choices she has were even what she wanted. Her life seemed destined for normality until she meets Akira. On a graduation trip to Washington, she throws a pebble towards the White House's fountain to make a wish, a common enough tradition but ill advised in this instance. As security guards converge on her, Akira, the naked guy without a memory leaps into action and whisks her away. Saki always hoped for a life less ordinary but the journey she was about to embark in was something she never dreamt could happen.
I liked this series. I wouldn't say it's ground breaking or that it's got fantastic animation or even that the story isn't as confusing as a garden maze designed by sadistic nerds. No, this anime certainly has its fair share of negative points, the biggest of which is the ending which will almost certainly leave most people asking for more; but all of these are overshadowed by the ability of the storytellers to present a narrative that somehow draws you in and see the world from the perspective of the characters. In essence, you begin to care about where these people are heading to.
This is a multi layered story which encompasses almost all the genres (action, drama, comedy) but at the centre of it all is the relationship that emerges between Akira and Saki. Saki can be infuriatingly timid at first but she is realistic enough to be malleable and willing to make the changes when circumstances force her along. It's a very relatable point of view as many of the regular fans of anime these days are college students or graduates rather than the far too common 14 year old high school student. Akira can almost be said as the antithesis of Saki in that he is quite aloof and uses his intellect and brashness in unexpected ways. Couple that to the fact that he has lost his memory and hence has no previously held onto preconceptions or prejudices, then you get a character who is probably as free and open as a brand new wall waiting for local delinquents to graffiti over. In essence Saki is the person that we are and Akira is the one we secretly want to be, and the show's quaint appeal is the way Saki begins to live that and go “stuff it, here I come!”
Above them exists the story of a bunch of college students, friends of Saki who created Eden, an augmented reality website which potential was only being realised as the show gets into gear. The neat thing about this plot line is again how it utilises familiar things like the integration of the internet to everyday life and incorporates in them the possibilities which we've all pondered. It's not a full on sci-fi concept like mobile suits or laser beam swords; the relative realism of the concepts again keeps the show grounded and lets us connect to it easily.
On the highest tier of the narrative are the Selecao and Juiz, the group from which the wider events of the show stem from. These are possibly the least believable part of the show if they were explained to us in detail but that's where Eden of the East cleverly presents them. We're given just enough information to whet our appetite but never enough to actually make the show tedious with the finer points. Essentially you can consider them from a “Big Brother” perspective in that it's an entity or force that moves things from the background and would eventually have to be unmasked but for now since they are beyond our reach being mere citizens, all you can do is survive their personal effects on you.
Skip this paragraph if you don't want to read spoilers (though I won't say much). As I alluded to at the start, the ending is probably where it leaves you wanting a bit more closure. After learning that the show was to end in 2 movies, it made sense that they left things as they were because it made for a tantalising cliff hanger. The wait for the resolution to this abrupt ending however wasn't just another week like if you were waiting for the next episode to air in Japan, but months instead. It may take even a year or two if you're waiting for it on DVD. That's just too long. I'd much rather have a passable resolution followed by movies that will enrich that ending, than the two being pure continuations of each other.
One possible negative that I would like to focus on is the need to be aware of some contemporary Japanese issues and political nuances. Nothing is of course related to anything specific to today, but being aware of the impact of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and other underlying issues in Japan's youth society, fighting against a deeply conservative aging population, will undoubtedly help you realise more where the motivations of many of the characters stem from. I note this as a negative as it could prove too tiresome for others to keep up with (as I personally find most politics to be), but it could prove to be just the opposite for those so inclined.
The tendency for most people when they receive a complete series is to marathon the whole lot and be done with it as soon as possible. With Madman's release of Eden of the East, this shouldn't prove too difficult as there are only a dozen episodes (skip the intro, credits and previews and you'll end up with a running time shorter than the final instalment to the Lord of the Rings movies). However I would actually recommend against watching this in one sitting. There's quite a lot of understated richness both in the details of the story as well as in the characters' persona that it's easy to miss a point altogether. Rather, enjoy this one day at a time and feel their journey unfold in the more personal way that is needed to really get it.
© EDEN OF THE EAST Licensed by FUNimation® Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : A
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : C-
+ Engaging and relatable characters.
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