Just another Careless Monday
“Eden of the East” (a direct translation of Japanese title “Higashi no Eden”) starts firing mysteries at you from the first frame, and never really stops even after the final episode ends. I watched this series with my wife in one bold throw: all eleven episodes back-to-back, and when we finished we both looked at each other and asked “So what just happened?”
Part spy-thriller, part-social commentary, part-surrealist love story, “East of Eden” is not an anime for those who like their story neat and clean. The animation is flawless, as is the talent involved: writer and director Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell SAC), character designs by Chika Umino (Honey and Clover) and animation by Production I.G (Kill Bill – Volume One).
Plot-wise, there is a lot packed into those eleven episodes. 21-year old Morimi Saki stands in front of the White House in Washington D.C. and throws something on the lawn. Takizawa Akira, completely naked and memory-less (ala The Bourne Identity), appears holding a gun and a cell phone. Japan suffered a missile attack that left huge wholes in the country but magically managed not to kill anyone, now know as Careless Monday. Twelve operatives, called selecaos, are involved in a game to save the world. Each is given ten billion yen (roughly 100 million dollars) and access to a “concierge” who keeps track of their purchases and can deliver any service required from cleaning up dead bodies to making the Primer Minster say “Uncle” on live TV. A group of college kids, part of the NEET generation (In Japan NEET are a slacker sub-class. The word stands for No Employment, Education or Training), have developed an application called “Eden” which is a visual search engine that does a search via cellphone on anything it sees through the camera. The smartest guy in the world is a shut-in nicknamed “Underpants.” A sexy female serial killer called the “Johnny Chopper” uses a killing method I will leave up to your imagination.
Like I said, a lot packed in.
“East of Eden” was a great show, although I didn’t love it as much as some people did. Definitely not on the same level as Monster. It was disjointed, and a lot of questions that get posed are just never answered. What did Morimi Saki throw onto the front lawn of the White House? Who is the mysterious Supporter? Did that girl really just grow wings and fly away? Who are the little white monkey people? Many of these questions are answered in the two theatrical movies that followed the series, but here they are just questions.
There is one gapping plot hole. In light of films like “The Social Network,” it is hard to imagine that these kids would invent something as amazing as the Eden software and not become instantly rich. They said they couldn’t figure out how to sell it, which I find hard to believe. They would be millionaires.
“East of Eden” was interesting to me because I recently watched another Japanese film, “Kaiji the Ultimate Gambler,” that also offers a bizarre answer to the topical social question in Japan. What do we do with all of these NEETs? It is a big issue, and when I lived in Japan you could hardly turn on the TV without hearing something about it. A whole generation of young adults who just don’t want to work, study, or do anything. A sort of country-wide malaise affecting people of a certain age. Obviously it is time for the entertainment industry to offer their response.
The DVD for “Eden of the East” has some extras, although not as many as the Blu-ray release. There is an interview with the director and the two main voice actors. There has been some complaints that the Oasis song that was used for the opening credits in Japan only appears on the first episode due to rights issues, but I honestly didn’t even notice. I tend to skip the opening and closing theme songs anyways, so it didn’t affect my viewing experience at all.
The subtitle track was fine. Nothing really stood out and it did a good job. One noticeable difference between the subtitle and the dub is the nickname of the computer genius who is called “underpants” in the subtitle and “panties” in the dub. Technically, “underpants” is the correct Japanese equivalent, as “panties” implies women’s underwear which is not at all the case in the Japanese language track. But some one obviously thought it was funnier.