In winter 2009, Nodame Cantabile Paris Chapter was making headlines on ANN about how it was blowing apart records for audience figures watching late night anime in Japan (despite not being as good as the first season). I was still a pretty new anime fan at the time and was only vaguely aware that anime was shown on television in Japan, so to educate myself I did a bit of reading to find out why Nodame was doing so well. It was part of this fancy Noitamina TV timeslot that was showed mostly anime targeted at 20-something ladies, aiming to produce anime outside of anime’s usual target demographic of the 20-something dude. I was writing a season preview at the time and saw that the show airing there next season was something called Eden of the East, which looked like it could be pretty good. Then Eden came out and it blew my 18-year-old mind so since then I’ve always kept a very close eye on the timeslot.
Over time though, stock of both has fallen off somewhat. Noitamina went and aired Guilty Crown and Black Rock Shooter at the same time and quite frankly has never been the same since. But this isn’t a post about Noitamina. This is about Eden of the East. A year or two later after the TV series proved to be favourites amongst critics and fans, two sequel movies came out. They were originally intended to be part of the original airing run but had to be cut out to fit into the TV airing. Those movies were not so well received. They’re not actively bad per se. In fact I’d call the second one actually quite good. But almost everyone was so lukewarm on the movies that Eden of the East, so highly regarded a year previously, suddenly dropped off everyone’s radars and I barely see it talked about today. Returning to Eden was a little scary, as it always is to return to old favourites you’re not sure will still hold up. So much of Eden is its potential. With the knowledge that it doesn’t deliver, I was not sure whether it would hold up at all.
Turns out it totally does hold up. The story of a man randomly showing up in front of the White House naked with nothing but a gun and a phone with 8 billion yen on it is still as brilliant an opening gambit as ever. That whole opening scene is still right up there as one of my all time favourites. A frustrated college graduate travels to the White House to throw pennies at it, trying to get into the fountain but can’t reach, while also feeling a little unimpressed now that she’s there and it seems much smaller. An underlying frustration on the part of the youths of Japan and trying to find the centre of where that all comes from leads to her throwing pennies at the White House. It’s clever, it’s funny, and it says a lot about what the show is trying to do right there (also random other note: I just visited the White House last week so of course I threw a penny at it. Surreptitiously of course so I didn’t need a random naked dude to rescue me).
Eden of the East is centrally about frustrated college graduates stuck without a job and wondering who to blame or what they can do. How the baby boomers fucked up the country but young adults today are not sure whether there’s more they should be doing. It’s fitting then that the main character is some vintage jeans, overcoat wearing hipster. What’s more remarkable is how well they pull him off as a genuine human being while also being something close to a saviour. I didn’t remember how much the show leaned on Takizawa Akira being modern day hipster Moses, saving the NEETs by transporting them all naked on giant freighters to Dubai. If done badly Takizawa could have come off like Tatsuya from Mahouka: A smug, self-important godlike character the writers spend the whole show sucking his dick. Takizawa instead feels like a human who had the messiah label thrown upon him unwillingly. He’s incredibly angry at the whole Noblisse Oblige shtick he’s been given and wants nothing more than to punch the person who gave him that role in the face.
I don’t think there’s an area Eden of the East is weak on. The animation and directing is fantastic. Despite its very heavy, deep themes, it never loses its sense of humour. It’s an actively very witty show with fun characters. It never stops being a cartoon with its goofy reactions. The humour doesn’t detract from its messages and story, which shows the general strength of the writing. The characters all feel suitably human and unique. No Yuji Everylead the Bland in sight and they all serve their own purpose in the story. The music is great, OP ED and insert music. It’s also generally cool with Takizawa sporting a black turtleneck sweater with trenchcoat and actually making it work. With its random references to Taxi Driver and Jason Bourne, it’s something you could quite happily show to a Normal and say “look at this hot cool anime stuff” without having to explain away anime bullshit.
Not everything works as well as it wants. The whole Johnny snipper arc is a little haphazard. But it attempts much more than 99% of anime that I can forgive the small problem for a much more fascinating broader picture. And as I said earlier, there’s no one area that keeps cropping up as a problem in a directing/animation/overall production point. The only real issue is it doesn’t end completely with the TV series and you’re left with the movies. But upon finishing my rewatch of the TV series, I came totally to terms with that. I don’t need the movies. I don’t need to see the end. The first Matrix movie isn’t ruined as a spectacle by itself because the sequels exist. You don’t feel angry because it didn’t finish its story. That’s how I feel about Eden of the East.