In order to properly discuss this film, events from 'Eden of the East: The Complete Series' will be discussed and/or spoiled. For those who have not seen the series as a whole, but are interested in this release, please click on the star buttons for the technical portions of this review.
Since, apparently, the creators of 'Eden of the East' intended to tell the story by way of a short series followed by a couple of movie adaptations, it makes some sense that there were so many unresolved issues and characters not met by the time the eleventh episode ended. Would we meet any of the so far unseen Seleção? Would there be any aftermath to the return of the 20,000 missing civilians or the failed missile attack that was the climax of the series? Would the mysterious, so far unseen and unheard Mr. Outside appear?
In this first new film in the 'Eden of the East' saga (discounting 'Air Communication,' a shortened recap film adaptation of the series), 'The King of Eden' moves to answer the questions left unanswered in its short 81 minute runtime, though in doing so leaves the door wide open for the next film in the series, all the while creating as many questions as it answers. As such, it's a less fulfilling story compared to the series, with a drastic change in tone, and a bit too much repetition.
After saving Japan using the Eden of the East program, Akira Takizawa disappears yet again. His image in the final dispute, hand outstretched, becomes a symbol of rebellion, as the Japanese Che Guevara of sorts. Six months have passed, and Saki is in search of her friend, with his powerful phone in tow, with nothing but a voicemail message to guide her. Back in the United States where the pair first met, they meet again, under similar circumstances: Takizawa's memory has once again been erased. Now the plucky young girl must convince him, yet again, of his part in saving Japan, all the while another Seleção is on the streets of New York, trying to create the ultimate film as he attempts to assassinate Takizawa.
'The King of Eden' does not work. It doesn't work as a standalone film. It doesn't work as a followup or sequel of any sort. Its problems are numerous, almost too numerous for this review to delve into while hitting every spot.
The characters haven't progressed much in six months. Sure, all of Saki's friends are doing well, and their shared Eden of the East social networking apparatus has gone mainstream (and in many sequences is sure to remind viewers of 'The Social Network'). This supporting cast remains identical to where they were before, with only one character (the humorously nicknamed Panties) actually growing in any sense in the interim. Saki, quite honestly, seems to have regressed, after all that she'd witnessed. These characters may be on top of the world, but they haven't accomplished a thing, and they're no closer to solving the mystery than they were before. Takizawa hasn't changed, either. Sure, he has undergone another memory swipe and is going by another name, but he's still the same guy, again starting over at square one. He doesn't understand what's going on (yet again...), not with his involvement in a political fiasco, not in his fame as a pop culture icon. He's painfully oblivious.
So, throw the same old same old into a similar situation, and what do you get? Well, each time I put a piece of bread in the toaster, I get toast. Or a burnt pile of inedible nothing. But still, I don't get bacon when it's done. This same idea applies here. It takes far too long for the film to get back to the loose ends from the end of the series, such as Number One (aka Mononobe), the man behind the repeated missile attacks, who is yet again planning a barrage, this time in a manner that will make him unstoppable. We don't get his motives, yet again, and the only change is he no longer has any Seleção on his side in his little coup attempt.
Number Six is the only new element in this film. The film producer, using his yen towards selfish gain, doesn't quite get along with his phone operator. He's strangely perverse, yet oddly hilarious, in an ironic sense. His attempts to kill Takizawa are the highlight of this film, but they're foiled so easily, one has to wonder why exactly he was ever chosen for the program. And that may very well be the theme of this film. New elements don't quite make sense, old elements don't really have anything to do, and nothing gets progressed until the final five or so minutes. You'd think a show that blazes through mystery and intrigue as rapidly as 'Eden of the East' could produce a winning film, but this isn't it. Nothing makes sense here. Why exactly would someone who wants to be king, quite literally, vanish and purge his memory? Why would someone who knows the power and information held in the phone not be checking it regularly, especially since it regularly updates and makes noises when it does so? How could someone who becomes a global icon go to New York and quite literally disappear, when people see him everyday? Why can't the Japanese government find him if thousands upon thousands of Americans see him daily? Since when were the servers and operating systems for each Seleção separately housed and constantly mobile?
More importantly, how can such a good series create such an uneven, uninteresting film? Even the new character is seen so little that he's hardly memorable like the other mysterious members of the elite cadre. 'Paradise Lost,' my expectations for you have been emphatically dropped. I hope you dazzle me. I really do.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Eden of the East: The King of Eden' comes to Blu-ray in a three disc DVD+Blu-ray combo package. There is, as of current, no standalone Blu-ray release, and this may annoy many, considering the series came in a Blu-ray package, yet this release is only available in a DVD height combo (similar to the packaging for the complete collection of 'Casshern Sins' or the 'TO' anime). The lone Blu-ray disc in this set is a Region A/B BD50 disc, with the usual FUNimation single pre-menu trailer, and a similar menu system to that of the series release, only with new background video.
Perhaps there was enough backlash to FUNimation making these releases DVD height only, since upcoming live action combo packs come in Blu-ray sized packages. We'll see. As is, finding titles like this can be a pain, due to stores stocking them in DVD sections, if at all due to the MSRP (in line with a Blu-ray, but not a DVD).
The technical specifications for 'Eden of the East: The King of Eden' remain true to what is on display in 'The Complete Series,' with an AVC MPEG-4 encode at 1080p in the 1.78:1 frame. Fittingly, the strengths and weaknesses of that release ring true in their entirety here, as the picture is almost identical, for better or worse.
Again, color clarity is superb and detail can be quite wonderful, with CG elements haphazardly fitting in with traditional animation. Sadly, from the opening few scenes we already know the story, as banding is obvious the minute we see pavement, and artifacting comes to light the moment we see the interior of the first vehicle shown. Of course, entire shirts sometimes flash in the middle, and I'm not assuming that's fancy high tech artifacto shirts, just problems with the encode. There's a few edge jaggies still, and random lines that can disappear, like the bricks whose outlines shimmer and fade in the pan out shortly after our main characters are reunited, or the CG plane whose entire outline, inside and out, shimmers and fades quite horribly. Thankfully, the pronounced anime edge is not all that apparent here, so that element almost makes up for the increase in random artifacting. Almost.
This first film adaptation of 'Eden of the East' features the same audio options as the series does: both English and Japanese lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks. 'The King of Eden' sounds about the same as the series, with a few distinct differences. For one, bass levels are toned down dramatically, to the point that they're inconsequential. To compensate for this loss, localized effects and movement are much more frequently utilized. Rears still get tons of ambience, especially in New York with the random car activity, and prioritization remains awesome. Strangely enough, a number of scenes have a light whirring sound behind them that is impossible to ignore once it's heard. It's rather annoying, and regardless of it being intentional or not, is a part of why this release doesn't score as highly as the show does in the section.
As always, an assortment of other FUNimation titles get trailers in the supplement package, a nice little bit of advertising that isn't forced on us pre-menu (ahem, Lionsgate, ahem). All of the shows receiving trailers have come out on Blu-ray at one point or another, save for 'El Cazador de la Bruja.'
'Eden of the East: The King of Eden' is probably one of my least favorite OVA or film adaptations of anime series. It doesn't add much of anything to the amazingly interesting series, and accomplishes so little in its runtime that it requires a bit of toiling to sit through. FUNimation's Blu-ray release of this add-on has presentation qualities about on par with the series release, for better or worse, up in some spots, down in others. This one may be for the completists, for the fans who can't just skip this. I can see myself rewatching the eleven episode series, but this, no thanks.