Eden of the East
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
As amusing as I find Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, I'm increasingly convinced that I'm primarily watching it as an excuse to enjoy its opening theme once a week. It's cool, cooler, coolest.
Before we dive into this week's new releases, just a quick housekeeping note: rather than try to differentiate between Right Stuf's imports, their joint Gundam releases with Sunrise, and the stuff they put out through their Nozomi Entertainment label, I'm just going to group them all together under "Right Stuf" when I list the publisher for each item. It's a little less specific, but hopefully it'll keep things a bit simpler for us all. With that out of the way, welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Eden of the East - Premium Edition
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: Takaki and Akari develop a bond in elementary school, but are separated after graduation. Will they still have feelings for one another when they finally reunite?
A Little Snow Fairy Sugar - Complete Collection [Sentai Selects] DVD
Sentai - 650 min - Hyb - MSRP $39.98
Currently cheapest at: $20.99 Amazon
Synopsis: Sugar and her fellow apprentice fairies are on a mission to find the "Twinkles" that will allow them to complete their training, but none of them actually know what a Twinkle is. They end up enlisting the help of Saga, a young girl with the ability to see fairies.
Extra: This series has gone in and out of print in the US a few times since it first came here in 2003, and we've got a few reviews and an old Shelf Life entry covering its various past releases. You'll find it streaming on Hulu and The Anime Network.
Azumanga Daioh - Complete Collection [Sentai Selects] DVD
Sentai - 650 min - Hyb - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $25.99 Amazon
Synopsis: A group high school girls and their somewhat unusual teachers navigate the ups and downs of everyday life.
Extra: I'm pretty sure I still have an old ADV thinpack collection of this show sitting around somewhere. We've got a review of this early entry in the slice of life genre here, and you can stream it on Hulu and The Anime Network.
Gasaraki - Complete Series Collection [Anime Elements] DVD
Right Stuf - 625 min - Hyb - MSRP $39.99
Currently cheapest at: $25.99 Right Stuf
Synopsis: In the midst of a war waged with giant robots, a son of the powerful Gowa clan gets caught up in the search for a mysterious force called Gasaraki.
Synopsis: This set contains side stories and alternate scenes from a variety of Mobile Suit Gundam series, including Gundam Wing and Zeta Gundam, presented using both 2D and 3D animation styles.
Extra: We've got a shiny new review of this very collection right here. Sounds like an interesting little oddity for longtime Gundam fans.
Synopsis: In the aftermath of the war between Zeon and the Earth Federation, a resistance group called the A.E.U.G. rises up against the increasingly tyrannical Federation forces.
Synopsis: Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang continue their training to become Huntresses while defending Beacon Academy from monsters and villains.
Extra: We don't have any formal reviews of RWBY here on ANN, but it is kind of cool to see an American production make it to the release encyclopedia. You can stream the series on Crunchyroll or the Rooster Teeth website.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal - Season 3 Complete Collection DVD
Cinedigm - 1145 min - Dub - MSRP $44.99
Currently cheapest at: $34.29 Barnes and Noble
Synopsis: Yuma and Astral must find seven legendary Number cards with the power to save or destroy the galaxy before the evil Barians get their hands on them.
Extra: I'm honestly kind of impressed that the collectible card game scene is still strong enough to make a solid business case for new TV shows. You'd think kids these days would've moved on to their newfangled video games or something by now. In any case, you can watch this series on Hulu.
Shelf Life Reviews
Eden of the East - Premium Edition
Nothing this week.
Nothing this week.
James takes a look at Funimation's big fancy Eden of the East collection, which includes both the TV series and the movies, for this week's review.
I'll start by saying that the first eleven episodes of Eden of the East remain as excellent as they ever were. The story follows the mysterious amnesiac Akira Takizawa, who has been gifted 10 billion yen and a nearly all-powerful concierge named Juiz. His mission is to use his newfound wealth and resources to “save Japan”. Eleven others have all been roped into the same game, and each of these “Seleção” have different ideas on how to save their country from its current cultural and political woes, and whoever is deemed a failure will be “eliminated”. Some use their money to save lives, while others fund acts of terrorism and political manipulation. When a young college graduate named Saki gets caught up in Akira's crazy world, she finds herself wondering if this charming young man is one of the good guys, or if he's the kind of man who's willing to do whatever it takes to win the game.
Even after all of these years, few anime have had as confident and solid a run as Eden of the East managed in 2009. The show has since proved a little divisive, given the slow-burn nature of the plot and its willingness to lead viewers on while providing little in the way of answers. For me, though, Eden of the East is brilliant. Its two protagonists are likable and engaging, and they share the kind of easy-going romantic chemistry that so many stories try and fail to force down viewer's throats. While the Seleção plot is indeed an obtuse one, I really enjoy how the series can gradually deliver answers in a way that feels measured and deliberate. There's not a lot of action going on in Eden of the East, but it produces a cat-and-mouse suspense that works just as well any showy fight scenes might.
The series owes quite a debt to Western thrillers and spy movies, and it's no coincidence that Akira name-drops Jason Bourne in the first few minutes of the first episode. Still, the thematic concerns of Eden of the East are one hundred percent unique to Japan and the country's cultural and political concerns. It recognizes the many problems Japan faces, with an increasingly aging social elite and a generation of disenfranchised youth feeling like they have no agency in the society they're breaking their backs to support. The fact that Eden of the East can actually address these issues with a little intelligence while also working as really fun science-fiction thriller is a testament to its quality.
Funimation also did an excellent job with the dub. Jason Liebrecht and Leah Clark are wonderful together as Akira and Saki, and the supporting characters all turn in great performances too. The script is funny and easygoing in a way that pairs perfectly with the show's more Western sensibilities, and the liberties it takes with translation here and there are fair and respectful to the source material. The one quibble I have with it is its overreliance on the word “Johnny”. A surprising amount of the plot is devoted to situations revolving around men's…more sensitive areas, and the script defaults to “Johnny” as slang for it. It's featured so heavily in the dub that it seems almost like a weird in-joke, and it's the only thing that threatens to detract from an otherwise excellent dub.
The series' biggest problem really lies in the fact that it is in and of itself not a complete story. The show ends with a thrilling, yet completely inconclusive, cliffhanger. Would the two films give Eden of the East the sendoff they deserve? Now, seven years after the series has concluded, I can tell you that the answer to that question is yes. Mostly. Kind of?
King of Eden and Paradise Lost are both much better than you might have heard, yet they're still the weak link in the show's story overall. A big problem is the fact that King of Eden literally does not function as a solo film; it answers few of the series' original questions while raising a whole lot of new ones, and it ends on yet another cliffhanger that resolves nothing. Back in 2010 this would have rightly been seen as a huge letdown. In 2016, however, one can easily just pretend that King of Eden and Paradise Lost are the collective second season of the show, and watch it all in one go. Coming at it like that, the story these two movies tell is much more satisfying, if not entirely up to the expectations set by the series that preceded it. A lot of subplots get rushed out of the door, and quite a few characters are given very short shrift development wise. The conclusion to everything is definitely an open-ended one, and after so much buildup and teasing I can see how it can come across as a letdown.
Still, the ultimate conclusion is ambiguous in a way that is true to the themes that Eden of the East has been trading in from the very start. A good comparison would be the recently released Terror in Resonance, but while that show was a righteously angry manifesto, Eden of the East is more a cautiously optimistic parable. It isn't necessarily out to provide all of the answers; it's trying to ask the right questions to an audience it hopes will listen. It may not be for everyone, but for me the series' strengths and ambitions vastly outweigh its flaws.
While the quality of the films may be up for debate, one thing that is very difficult to argue is that Funimation has put together an absolutely exquisite set for this release. Not only does it package together the series and its films, it includes all of the extra features those original sets included. We're talking production interviews, cast commentary, and more. In addition to all of the original features, the discs are all packaged in a premium box and paired with some physical goodies as well. There are posters, stickers, a certificate of authenticity, and even a little papercraft of the show's mascot dog, Angel. The Blu-Ray transfer is pitch perfect for the most part, though the high resolution does occasionally spotlight some of the animation shortcomings in the show and films.
Honestly, this is one of the best anime box sets I've seen in years. For about eighty dollars you get an amazing series and two pretty good movies to follow it up, all wrapped up in a gorgeous package loaded with hours of bonus material. This is a limited edition set, too, so once it's gone, it's gone. If you're a fan of the series, or you just appreciate good anime in general, you should really consider picking this up.
That wraps up this week's reviews. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from ayacamui:
"I've been collecting anime and manga since I was in middle school back in the late 90s.
A lot of my collection is put up in storage due to currently not having room to display them (old comic book style manga, Sailor Moon barbie style dolls, est). My actual anime collection is over 300 discs large so they are kept in large metal cd boxes. At one time I had around 200 VSHs (but it now down to about 20 in storage).
I think my most favorite items in my collection are my Sailor Pluto & Saturn figures and my Sailor Moon cel of Yaten.
I included a couple of pics of my two chinchillas, Riki & Sebastian (he is named after the character from Black Butler, and is quite the demon), helping me show off my figures."
I had a friend in college who owned a chinchilla, and she'd probably agree with you on the demon part. They are adorable, though. Thanks for sharing!
If you'd like to show off your own collection, send me your pictures at [email protected] I'm starting to run a little low on entries, so there's no time like the present!
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