Funimation // 2009 // 275 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // October 19th, 2010
The power to save Japan is in his cell phone.
One of the reasons anime is so appealing is because its creators tend to really flex their creative muscles when it comes to animation. You can see and do anything with this form of storytelling. Unfortunately, after a wonderful creative boom in the '90s, anime started to stagnate with endless clones of popular shows. When I see a show like Eden of the East, I get enthusiastic about the genre all over again.
The story follows two young NEETs: a government classification meaning Not in Education Employment or Training. Saki Morimi (Leah Clark) trying to decide whether to seek a job in the corporate world or with her old school pals who have come together to create a company called Eden of the East. Then there's Akira Takizawa (Jason Liebrecht) a young man with amnesia, but in possession of a cell phone with 8.2 billion Yen on it. With the push of a button he contacts a concierge named Juiz (Stephanie Young) who uses the money to get him anything he wants.
Saki and Akira meet in Washington DC. She's about to get arrested for throwing a coin at the White House (she was trying to get it into the fountain on the lawn). He appears across the street waving a gun and his cell phone and without a stitch of clothing on. You know what they say about first impressions. The two help each other get out of the US without being arrested, and head back to Japan. There they attempt to unravel the mysteries of Akira's past, his role in a game involving eleven other "saviors," a missile attack on Japan called "Careless Monday," and a serial killer dubbed "The Johnny Hunter."
Eden of the East is hard to talk about without giving away some of the mysteries and plot elements that keep you coming back for the next episode. What really holds the anime together, even when it gets a little too mysterious are the characters of Akira and Saki. Akira seems to be a genuinely decent guy, who is curious about who he was. The more he finds out about his past the darker it appears to be. Saki is a good hearted, optimistic girl who wants to do the right thing for her family and friends, but often finds herself struggling with one need conflicting with the others. If she helps Akira, her family worries. But if she does what her family expects, Akira and her friends may end up in danger.
In addition there's a bit of social commentary dealing with NEETs and the use of technology. In a way it may be pandering to its target audience, but at the same time it shows that even people who may be looked down upon in society as aimless have a place and purpose. Technology plays a huge role in the series, as it is used to help and hinder our pair. The savior's cell phones are amazing tools, allowing characters to perform the impossible in unexpected ways. But there are also plenty of computers being used in the series, and the Eden of the East company is based on creating the ultimate search engine. All these technological elements create a web that the characters navigate, showing a society that is dependent and yet empowered at the same time.
The character designs by Chika Umino are atypical, providing a simple yet expressive look. The rest of the animation is well executed, with backgrounds being surprisingly detailed and action scenes flowing smoothly. While Eden of the East is a mystery and romance at heart, there are some exciting chase scenes and some cinematic sequences involving the Johnny Hunter. The sound effects do a good job of pulling you into the world. I also enjoyed the score by Kenji Kawai who balances the suspense and romance scenes perfectly.
As entertaining as Eden of the East was, there is a problem with it. This is a show about mysteries and conspiracies. As such, you expect some solutions to the puzzles you are given. Some answers are eventually revealed, like how the super powerful cell phone works. You get a fun climax at the end, but with only eleven episodes you are left with a lot of unanswered questions. The romance between Akira and Saki is left hanging as well as the whole conspiracy behind the saviors. The good news is that there were two movies resolving the story released in Japan, but at this time, we've only got the series.
Funimation has provided a solid release for this series. The picture was clear and both audio tracks do a good job of balancing the music, sound effects and dialogue. I enjoyed the English dub as the whole cast did a good job with the parts. For extras you get the typical trailers and textless opening, but there are a few interesting bits from the Japanese production. You get an interview with the director and character designer. This is low key and informative, but odd. Chika Umino appears in the interview as a plush toy. Um, ok, I guess she's shy. Then there is an interview with the Japanese voice actors for Saki and Akira. They talk about auditions for the parts and creating the characters based on the visuals. No one appears as a plush toy this time. Both interviews last about twenty minutes. You also get Japanese trailers for the series.
If you're looking for something off the beaten anime path, and don't mind a lack of a proper ending, check out Eden of the East. I enjoyed the series and look forward to seeing the two follow up movies. I want to know what happens to Saki and Akira.
Not Guilty. And even more not guilty if the two follow-up movies get a release in Region 1.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Textless Open
* Wikipedia: NEET