Most anime series, either half length (12 to 13 episodes) or full season length (23 to 26), are capable of wrapping up the story with a neat little bow, as the production team behind them move on to their next assignments, the show becoming legend, revived from time to time in OVA fashion. Most of the anime I've seen have plotted the end of the show, building up tension or anticipation and conflict, with the final episode(s) often leading to revelatory sequences or fantastic action, going out with a bang. Then there's 'Eden of the East,' a show that, at 11 episodes long, ends as abruptly as it starts, despite the fact that the story could have readily been spread out across numerous full length seasons. It's rather bizarre, actually, how the entire show just up and finishes, regardless of any plans to adapt with any number of OVA releases or movies.
Of course, go figure it would be a show that's actually worthwhile, worth watching, so naturally it has to prematurely end, amirite?
'Eden of the East,' on the outside, looks as cutesy and generic as any other anime, with none-too-original character designs that make every single inhabitant on the show seem like they're high schoolers. It's funny, as these are the same types of designs that you regularly see in any number of high school themed shows, but here's a batch of characters fresh out of college, getting ready to adapt to the cruelties of the real world. Perhaps their baby faces show their innocence, their youth. It's really an odd mesh, considering the adult tones and themes in the show.
The idea of twelve Japanese citizens being given phones that have access to ten billion yen (modern day American equivalent? $130 million), with vague instructions on how it is to be spent is novel, if somewhat generic. The fact that these twelve characters no nothing of their very limited number of peers, or the reasons behind their inclusion into this game? Interesting. The fact that they're viewed as saviors, and their goal is to make Japan a better place, however they see fit? Very interesting. The rules that a zero balance brings forth an untimely demise, prolonged inactivity or misuse brings forth a similar fate, and that only one of the players will survive? Now we're cooking! The fact that the participants that we do meet (we don't see all twelve) have very, very different ideas on how to change the world, with humanitarianism, serial killing, and domestic terrorism among their agendas? So much win!
This anime follows a strange young man who wiped his own memory with part of his funds mid-game, as he discovers the mysterious, amazing gift he has been given, as he tries to retrace his steps and learn why exactly he was chosen and why exactly he gave himself the oh-so-convenient amnesia plot device. As the mysterious man (known on his fake passport as Akira Takizawa) delves deeper and deeper into the complicated plot, a young woman caught up in his mess named Saki Morimi also tries to uncover his past, while dealing with her own complicated place in post-graduate life. Dealing with deceit, dangerous treachery, and constant threat, from both past and present, the pair must do what they can to win the game and deal with a complicated political climate where nothing is as it seems.
The premise of 'Eden of the East' really takes a lot from the September 11 attacks here in America, referencing them on more than a few occasions. In the show, they have their own events that changed the world after that, with numerous missile attacks on Japan, one taking not a single life despite the massive damage, another that took down an airliner. Conspiracy theories abound, with the mysterious disappearance of some 20,000 youths shortly after the attacks, and the unexplained origin and intention of the attacker. The law enforcement and political landscape all works through control behind the scenes, which is how the players of the game, known as Seleção (pronounced cell-a-sow), are able to get what they want on a whim, forcing men and women of immense power to do their bidding, due to fear of some unnamed consequence.
While the structure of the show aims to help first time viewers adapt to the new story elements through the amnesia story line (which is the weakest part of the show, bar none), 'Eden of the East' actually provides a very enjoyable, intelligent viewing experience. The very short runtime was designed for instant payoff, with no prolonged sense of mystery, which is a shame, but what we get is a massive conspiracy theory coming true to life before us, with generic characters thrown into extraordinary conditions having to make the most of it or die trying.
'Eden of the East' is at its best when Takizawa is trying to find other Seleção, to learn who and what he is and what all he's in over his head with. The few we do meet, which are about half of the roster, are an eclectic bunch, ranging from a dubious, manipulative borderline anarchist to a "johnny" (this show's term for male genitalia) severing serial killer-slash-head of industry, to a crooked detective and a simple old doctor trying to make the country better for the elderly citizens seemingly abandoned by government. The agendas put forth by these amazingly different characters clash dramatically, leading to some very intense sequences where these players use all the money at their disposal to take out the opposition in unique fashion. Adding to the mystery of the characters is the fact that one of the twelve is called the Supporter, whose job is to terminate the misbehaving players, the game's enforcer, and no one is quite sure which one he or she is. It would make sense that the woman who severs penises with a cigar cutter would be the one, but the identity remains a troubling secret to all involved, save for the only one who knows the truth.
'Eden of the East' would have been better had it been spread out across a full season or two, expanding and elaborating on the very complex (yet easy to pick up) plot and backstory, rather than spilling the beans far too early for its own good. This show is a great introduction to anime for westerners, due to this rushed, action and suspense (at the expense of character development) oriented mentality and the relatable themes and sequences. Is it believable? Hardly. But that doesn't stop 'Eden of the East' from being a universally appreciable, entertaining little anime series.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Eden of the East: The Complete Series' comes to Blu-ray from FUNimation across two Region A/B marked BD50 discs. As per usual, there is a single pre-menu trailer per disc only skippable through top menu (fast forwarding is disabled) for other FUNimation anime product. Disc one houses the first eight episodes, while disc two holds the final three as well as the entire supplement package.
Presented in 1080p at 1.78:1, 'Eden of the East: The Complete Series' may be a native HD release, but that doesn't mean it stands head and shoulders above all upconverts. Actually, I feel there's more than a few titles that were done so well by FUNimation on Blu-ray that they beat the presentation here. That isn't calling 'Eden of the East' a misfire as much as it is a curiosity.
This show mixes CG with traditional hand-drawn elements, and the mixture is hardly cohesive. In fact, any computer sequence, like an intricate pan, stands out far too much in the show. Another interesting concern is what is, and what isn't banding. The aesthetic for the show features numerous non-too-smooth color grades, making items have a heavy, borderline unnatural quality to them, which makes for an interesting appearance, and isn't at all what we'd call banding (though the end result is similar), but the fact that actual, factual banding shows up is the problem, as it's pretty hard to miss on more than a few occasions in the four hour runtime. Textures in this show are quite interesting, with numerous standout moments, and detail itself is quite strong, with more than a few jaw-dropper moments to help fans realize how good a show can look in HD.
'Eden of the East' has that annoying exaggerated, pronounced edge style of animation, that isn't Edge Enhancement as much as it is aesthetic and/or ugly. These outlines are pretty light and thin, but they can be annoying. Some pans in the show induce an aliasing shimmer, while light artifacting can be seen from time to time, especially on the first few episodes. This isn't a demo-worthy release, but it is a nice presentation, flaws be damned.
The series release of 'Eden of the East' is one of the rare animes on Blu-ray that features equivalent tracks for both the native track and the dub, with English and Japanese both receiving lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes. As such, viewers can freely pick their poison and not lose all that much one way or another. I'll admit, either way you go, this is a great sounding release. Bass can pick up in a hurry, and not just in the theme songs (including a bit from Oasis (yes, Oasis) in the first opening), as entire scenes can have one hell of a rumble behind them. There's great bass in the score, as well, with serious power coming in the low ends. Localization is appropriate, not used heavily but spread out nicely throughout the show, while rears get plenty of activity, random ambience that makes scenes feel more alive, removing the sterile environment that many shows have. This isn't genre-redefining stuff, but there's no arguing that the DVD release has no chance of sounding like this. Victory!
The usual trailers for other FUNimation product grace this release, the majority of which have not been announced or released on Blu-ray.
'Eden of the East' could have been a spectacular show. Instead, it's just really good. Hard to complain much when the end result is still an enjoyable experience. This truncated anime series really could have lasted a few years if unfolded slower, but instead it's a little rushed, and very incomplete, relying on the films that were to follow to wrap it all up. FUNimation's Blu-ray release features good but not great video, pretty great audio, and a few extras. This one earns an easy recommendation, as one of the most accessible anime series made in years.