Alright, let’s bang out this quickie in 30 minutes tops.
UPDATE: Somehow or another, the score which I assigned was off by a point. This has since been fixed.
While I am not nearly as well-versed in the mystery anime compendium as others due to largely dissuading mystery series such as Kamisama no Memochou and Another, I’d be a fool to completely dismiss the genre when some of the most intricate and fascinating shows are spawned from the pool. A mystery series done right, Eden of the East is a captivating watch from start to finish. What starts off as a simple, yet wonderfully romantic encounter on the side of the street, later evolves into a vicious struggle for technology, Japan’s future as a country, and the identity of a single man. The evolving narrative, which is carefully laid out and supremely paced, is riddled with themes along the lines of terrorism, the problems of traditional corporate structure, and leaving the fate of a country into the hands of the few. Every twist and turn is compounded over and over, leaving the viewer reaching out for the next episode immediately. While Eden of the East is not without its fair share of problems, namely the hanging ending and lack of progression within the main couple, it still remains a tantalizing watch.
You can’t say Production I.G. without astounding visual polish and here, Eden of the East delivers in spades. Eden of the East succeeds on a number of fronts in the visual spectrum. While the animation is fluid, bold, and gracefully dynamic, Eden of the East also retains a unique visual style, courtesy of both Umino Chika and Kamiyama Kenji. Umino Chika’s cute character designs, which retain her stylistic touches in Honey and Clover, allow director Kamiyama Kenji to fully utilize the light-hearted aspects of a what is otherwise a rather serious show, while retaining the humanity of the characters. The looks of the cast members also mesh perfectly with Eden of the East’s unique style; when in the nude, men will have their Johnnies covered by white scribble lines and oftentimes some will have their emotions outlined with tiny emoticons which fly by their head. The backgrounds are also gloriously realized, bringing to live many of the environments which pop-up in the show.
However, minor complaints do exist for the series’ visuals. A fairly sneaky move by those sly bastards at Production I. G., some side characters moving in the background will be on occasion completely made up of CG. And while this may be some serious nitpicking on my part, the first episode, which takes place in America, has a fairly minor, but noteworthy flaw: the serious lack of people walking about in New York City (yeah, yeah, a really shitty nitpick, I get it). Itty-bitty problems aside, Eden of the East is a spectacular visual feast.
Throughout the story, the tone manages to shift effortlessly between cheery and gritty without any real problems. The atmosphere always, always accompanies the scenes fabulously and lacks any stunted transitions. With this, Eden of the East manages to be both part ball busting sci-fi mystery and part lofty romantic-comedy with relative ease. Neither of two barbarically intrude each other’s separate realms, allowing viewers to swim in the intended magic of each minute scene. Further enhancing the mood every minute is a phenomenal score, which, composed by Kawai Kenji, always keeps up an air of mystery and wonder in scenes appropriate. And while on the note of aesthetic values, the OP and ED of the show are brilliantly realized, with the former set to a fast-moving blur of words, patterns, and arrows, while the latter, set to School Food Punishment’s “Futuristic Imagination,” solemnly foreshadows future events with stop motion paper sequence so creative that it just screams to be seen after each episode.
The entirely likable cast and complicated script, which is inexplicably (and hilariously) obsessed with “Johnnies,” both support each other in more ways than one. The characters are more than just fun people to be around; they support and even embody various recurring themes within the series. The NEETs in Saki’s posse aren’t just a group of eccentric quacks; they’re representatives of how even some of the most creative and clever innovators and geniuses can be cast aside by corporations for financial success. While the Selecao are indeed a powerful group of differing individuals, their existence also calls into question the idea of leaving the future of our world in the hands of the powerful few. And Akira, perhaps the most sympathetic of the enigmatic bundle of John and Jane Does that are the Selecao, brings up the constant struggle for identity in a world where everything is truly anonymous and yet, connected through technology. The script even manages to take advantage of our times, a generation where all information is received and relayed to us through a glass screen. Still, there are parts where the series’ falters, namely Saki’s and Akira’s relationship which progresses in a slightly disjointed fashion and starts to stagnate in the middle. Regardless, much of this is soaked up by the main mysteries of Eden of the East, which will keep you guessing and guessing until the very end.
Unfortunately, the ending leaves much to be desired from the viewer, with several unanswered questions left hanging at the end and are left up to the movies, which I have yet to see, to explain them. On the bright side, the journey through Eden was an absolute delight. While there are few needles and patches which tickled at my nerves, they’re minor in comparison to the scope of the series. I may not be as big of a fan of Eden of the East as much as some, but just know that I’m desperately seeking the time to watch those movie sequels.