After an event known as careless Monday (a bunch of missiles hit Japan but there were no casualties), Saki finds herself travelling in America before beginning her first job. She wants to make a wish but after throwing a coin over a fence in Washington she is confronted by police. A naked man comes to her rescue and ends up travelling back to Japan with her, after taking the name Akira from a whole bunch of passports he found in his house (yeah he has amnesia).
While I’ve watched the series for this a number of times I haven’t yet watched either of the films that follow on from it (despite having them sitting in the DVD case with the series). I don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to the films although my cheap justification will be that I’m worried that any further explanation of events may very well undermine what is a fairly solid series.
I decided to write this review after my Top 5 about characters with convenient missing memories because it got me thinking about Akira again. This series is really enjoyable and has some interesting ideas in it, but it kind of lacks cohesion at times.
Because of this, I’ve decided to take a plus/minus approach to Eden of the East. Before I get into that though, just saying that this story has politics, nudity, terroist attacks and some heavy commentary about capitalism.
Eden of the East has a compelling story as we see the Selecao (characters armed with a phone and a large amount of money) pursue their own agendas and tasked with the very vague goal of saving Japan. It’s an interesting set up. While it might be compared with Future Diary (unidentified characters with phones competing against one another), Eden of the East takes this in a very different direction. The stakes aren’t some supernatural god-hood and the phones really don’t achieve anything that cannot actually be achieved with money (and a large imagination that allows for transactions to occur instantly with no miscommunications). I really enjoyed the political aspects of the show as well as the character driven moments between Akira and Saki.
Possibly the story is too ambitious. We have multiple characters all trying to achieve this goal (or at least giving lip service to this goal while going their own way) but the focus is firmly on Akira and his interactions with these characters. So in addition to following Akira on his journey to remember what happened, and achieve his goal, we have other characters sometimes opposing Akira, sometimes doing something totally unrelated to Akira but there’s a thin cross over so that they have some reason for appearing at all, and we also have Saki and her friends who are serving as the everyman in the series so that the storyline doesn’t become too inaccessible. And honestly, with the short run time, some of these characters and developments could have been cut so that more time could have been spent on a central narrative. Admittedly, it is clearly a stylistic choice to have an ambiguous plot that comes together toward the end but it does make you wonder whether the story could have been enjoyed in a more straight forward manner.
Saki is not the oblivious, blank slate female that is getting duped by Akira. Nor is she the damsel in distress. While she isn’t privy to a lot of what happens in the series, she continues to ask questions, to have suspicions, to demand explanations, and when she’s actually convinced of something she takes action. It would be a stretch to say that she is a strong character, but she is a very relatable character. Uncertain about her future, plunged into a situation beyond her control, crush on a guy that may or may not be trouble, trying to establish clear relationship boundaries with friends and potential but dismissed boyfriends, and going through family issues. Again, the short run time really stops us from delving into any depth with her character, there’s certainly enough there to see her as an interesting character and not a cookie cutter place holder.
The rest of Saki’s friends aren’t particularly interesting or developed and given the scope of the rest of the story their moments feel like they are really just in the way. While they do get tied in nicely to the finale of the series, it feels like we could have had less in the group and spent more time learning who they were so that we actually cared about them beyond the fact that they were Saki’s friends.
Eden of the East has a really diverse range of settings. We start in America before crossing back to Japan. We see Saki interviewing for a job in an office, the room her friends meet in, the various places Saki and Akira go while travelling around, the shopping mall that Akira apparently lives in, a hospital, hotel, and the list continues. That said, we never feel lost in this anime. We aren’t just zipping around from location to location. Each place feels meaningful and it feels like the characters are interacting with the world the way people do. We aren’t static and just following the same paths every single day (or at least we like to believe we aren’t), and Eden of the East feels like it understands that.
The ending of the series does offer some resolution but the story isn’t finished. The immediate crisis of the series is averted and Akira uses his money for something that seems wholly ridiculous and yet kind of gives the final episode a feeling of finality. As I said earlier, I haven’t watched the movies yet, and it seems like these will continue on and give a bit more closure, but for once I kind of like the ambiguity of this ending. It really feels like there isn’t going to be a satisfying answer and imaging the possible outcomes has been quite fun. But, it makes it difficult to recommend a series when you know it doesn’t finish in a way that most people would call finished.
This series has a great balance of drama, plot movement, character development, and the occasional comedic moment to keep things moving. While it isn’t an anime that reels from one emotion to the next and the tone is fairly level throughout, there is some great writing that keeps the audience engaged. There’s definitely some sad moments but there are also smiles and some really fascinating interactions.
A very minor minus. I don’t like the explanation we’re given for how Akira came to have his memory erased. This is kind of a critical plot point and revelation and I just found it kind of blah. It seemed really stupid and unnecessary and yet it is quite obvious the story doesn’t work without Akira having his memory removed. I really, really wish they’d come up with a better reason as to how we got to that starting point because this is the point that always makes me roll my eyes when I watch this series.
Final selling point: There’s a dog with wings (not real ones unfortunately). That is all kinds of cute.
If you’ve watched Eden of the East, let me know what you think. If you’ve watched the movies let me know if I should get on that right away or whether it’s okay to let it sit for a bit longer.