The Series Itself:
This is the new series from Kenji Kamiyama, director of MiniPato, Ghost in the Shell SAC Complete 1st Season Collection Box Set + Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, 2nd GIG, and Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. Being a fan of all of the above, I was of course enthusiastic to see what he was working on next; especially as this is, unlike his previous efforts, is a completely new story, complete with a new universe and original characters.
I can affirm that I am not disappointed.
The basic setup is as follows:
“On November 22, 2010 ten missiles strike Japan. However, this unprecedented terrorist act, later to be called as “Careless Monday,” does not result in any apparent victims, and is soon forgotten by almost everyone. Then, 3 months later… Saki Morimi is a young woman currently in the United States of America on her graduation trip. But just when she is in front of the White House, Washington DC, she gets into trouble, and only the unexpected intervention of one of her fellow countrymen saves her. However, this man, who introduces himself as Akira Takizawa, is a complete mystery. He appears to have lost his memory. and he is stark naked, except for the gun he holds in one hand, and the mobile phone he’s holding with the other hand. A phone that is charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash.”
Essentially, the setup for the show is one giant mystery. But, as Momorou Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor, Jin Roh) says- being Kenji Kamiyama, it is certain that all mysteries will be eventually revealed. The unraveling of this mystery, as well as Akria Takizawa’s memories, leads him, Saki Morimi, and her friends, into an adventure of national and international import.
It’s difficult to go into more detail without providing spoilers, so I will make no attempt to do so here. Suffice to say that if you enjoy anime, then it is likely that you will enjoy this series. If you enjoyed Ghost in the Shell TV, either or both series, then you are all but guaranteed to enjoy this series (actually, Akira’s design reminded me a lot of The Laughing Man from GITS. Personality-wise, however, he’s a complete inversion).
In the past, I have been somewhat disappointed with the gap in quality between Production IG’s efforts in cinematic releases (ex. Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence) and their relatively low-quality TV productions (ex. “Otogo Zoshi”). This gap is certainly not evident with Eden of the East. From the characters, to the gadgets, to the background world, everything is beautifully designed.
Startlingly, all seem to have their own style; living creatures, human and animal are animated in traditional cels, whereas gadgets and gizmos have a clear cel-shaded GCI design. The backgrounds, however, are rendered in a consciously painterly style, with obvious digital ‘brushstrokes’ breaking any attempt at direct imitation of reality. The result, however, is not an inconsistent world (I’m looking at you, Gonzo), but an oddly seamless whole, like in Miyazaki’s recent effort, Ponyo.
Of course, much of this artistry might be lost in a bad-transfer. Which leads me to my next section…
I have often said that much of the benefits of Blu-Ray vs DVD is simply lost when dealing with anime. I have long felt, and I still feel, that the DVD format almost feels tailor-made for anime: with it’s inherent support for multiple languages, and the bit-rate benefits for flat-color under the MPEG2 format. Having recently watched Moribito (as above, another Kenji Kamiyami effort with Production IG) on DVD, I can attest to being very pleased with the quality of the series on DVD, even when viewed on a 1080p capable HDTV.
Now, not having seen the DVD transfer I am not in position to make a comparison. But- if you own a Blu-Ray player, and you are planning on watching or owning this series, then you owe it yourself to watch this on Blu-Ray. As noted above, no obvious corners have been cut to bring this series to life, and this fact vibrantly appears in every frame of this program. To their credit, I have been impressed with the quality of Funimation releases in the past, and this Blu-Ray release continues their excellent track-record. From the menus, to the transfer quality, to the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio, this is truly a flawless presentation. Having seen this on BD, I cannot imagine wanting to see this series any other way.
Another note- please be aware that my review is based upon watching this series in the original Japanese with subtitles. If you have issues with the dub version, then I am sorry to hear that. I suggest that you try the original Japanese with subs in this case; after all, this is what the animators saw as the finished version of the show.
If you enjoy anime, foreign film, and/or challenging sci-fi, this is at the very least a ‘rent’ recommendation. If you are a fan of seminal anime shows like “Ghost in the Shell,” “Akira,” and “Evangellion,” feel free to upgrade yourself to the ‘buy’ category. You will not be disappointed.