Eden of the East is a short mystery anime created by Kenji Kamiyama, whose previous directorial/writing credits include the brilliant Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, 2nd Gig and Solid State Society. The show gets its name from a fictional search engine that brings up information via the submission of pictorial queries instead of typing in text. Known in its native Japan as, the slightly harder to pronounce, Higashi no Eden this Manga Entertainment two disc set contains the eleven episode series originally aired on Japanese TV back in 2009. Prospective buyers take note that the series doesn’t fully resolve the conspiracy yarn established in the show. For the complete story you’ll also have to fork out cash on the two Eden of the East movies (The King of Eden and Paradise Lost) which take place half a year after the events of the last episode.
The series kicks off with Saki Morimi celebrating the completion of her school studies with a trip to the United States. Visiting Washington DC sounds like a grand way to relax before having to return home and contend with the hussle and bussle of looking for work. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse when she foolishly decides to hurl a coin onto the White House lawn. The security guards patrolling the premises aren’t impressed at her “donation” towards the financial deficit and head out to arrest her. Thankfully for Saki, a gun totting Akira Takizawa appears on the scene brandishing a handgun and wearing nothing other than his birthday suit. The armed streaker causes enough of a distraction for the pair to evade capture from the authorities.
Saki returns home to Japan with Akira in tow (grateful that the stranger protected her freedom or perhaps impressed by the size of the package he was parading on the streets of the U.S capital.) The Asian country is presently reeling from “Careless Monday” a missile strike on Tokyo, which surprisingly resulted in no casualties. Could Akira have some involvement with the aforementioned rocket attack? He cannot be certain, as his short term memory appears to have been erased, but the possibility that he is a terrorist cannot be discounted. The lodgings he was staying at in America contained a plethora of fake passports and weapons after all.
As the story progresses Akira learns that he is one of twelve “Selecaos” selected to take part in a twisted game were the participants are tasked with finding a way of saving Japan from the financial plight it finds itself in. To aid them each contestant has been awarded the impressive sum of ten billion yen as well as a special mobile phone that can be used to ring up requesting literally anything. Juiz, the operator on the other end of the line, will then make the necessary arrangements and deduct the cost from the player’s balance. Having one of those things sure would make Christmas shopping much easier. Anyway, all this sets up Akira’s quest to save the nation, piece together his broken memories and avoid the dangers posed by his rival Selecaos (which include a crooked cop who wants to swipe his phone and a serial killer who uses cigar cutters to separate males from their “johnnies.”)
In terms of characters both leads are likeable. Saki is perhaps the least interesting of the two, given how she is young and uncertain of what to do with her life. She does however have good chemistry with Akira and does a good job of acting as a vessel which viewers can hitch a ride on to learn about Akira’s mysterious life. Akira himself is a lead that is easy to root for given how he remains composed and positive, no matter what life throws at him. This makes a refreshing change from other anime leads that either get overly emotional during a crisis (Shinji from Evangelion or Vash from Trigun) or remain cool but lack any real personality (D from Vampire Hunter D.)
Overall I’m giving Eden of the East a solid four stars. As expected from the writer of Stand Alone Complex, the story is clever with a conspiracy that hooks you in. The visuals are also impressive boasting life like animation and realistic character designs (although the two leads do suffer from having simian like features.) My problem with the show, which prevents it from attaining full marks, would have to be the ending. As the finale approaches you begin to wonder how things are going to wrap up. Well the answer is, much like other conspiracy shows such as Lost or X-Files, they don’t. Although they resolve the immediate storyline it’s done rather suddenly and in a cheap way.
This tarnishes the series in my eyes, as it doesn’t stand up on its own. You’ll need to watch the follow-up movies for answers to those lingering plot threads. Sadly the movies, although not bad, don’t quite match the high standard of the show’s early episodes. What a shame that the creators didn’t have a phone loaded with a few spare billion yen to touch up the script and produce a few more episodes.