9 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

Returning to Eden of the East

Eden of the East - 01 - Large 10In 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.

Eden of the East - 01 - Large 25Turns 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.

Eden of the East - 11 - Large 13I 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.

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  1. Posted September 5, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I just don’t talk about the show because I don’t have a reason to talk about it. I enjoy it. I own it. Didn’t think its problems were that bad. What else is there to say?

  2. Ultimatum
    Posted September 5, 2014 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Eden of the East was a really great show. I didn’t love it at the time, but going back to it really made me appreciate the show. And certain scenes resonated with 18 year-old me way more than with me as a younger teen.

    It also has the (dubious?) honor of having one of the most nuanced, most complicated dick jokes I’ve ever seen in its first episode. I was confused the first time I got it. I thought I maybe understood it the second time a year later. By the third viewing it came to me in a glorious flash of insight. Or something.

    Noitamina hasn’t been all bad since 2008. Princess Jellyfish was very good, and Samurai Flamenco was amazing after it got past the middle section. I didn’t know the timeslot was originally made for older women. Can we see some more of that, please, Noitamina?

    • Good Taste
      Posted September 6, 2014 at 1:58 am | Permalink

      The Tatami Galaxy, House of Five Leaves, Shiki, Ping Pong, Psycho Pass, Silver Spoon

    • Fifteenth
      Posted September 6, 2014 at 4:56 am | Permalink

      Except Noitamina still has lots of good anime after 2008? Like the one you and Good Taste said and more. It’s just 2011 that was obviously a bad year for Noitamina, but since it also had Wandering Son, I won’t complain.

      • Ultimatum
        Posted September 6, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        Woops, forgot to mention those. I just listed the two that popped into my head.

  3. SiberDude
    Posted September 6, 2014 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    > “A frustrated college graduate travels to the White House to throw pennies at it, …”
    I lol’d; a general Japanese opinion of America. Throwing bricks would’ve cost more.
    *Plays Terror in Resonance and throws a penny at the monitor.*
    The series were very enjoyable and the ED is one of all-time-favorites.

  4. ANON
    Posted September 6, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    All that I can say about it was that it was fun seeing what people would do with huge amounts of money when it’s handed to them with no strings attached. oh and also making apocalypse causing missiles look like fireworks and I still consider making a phone call to everyone in Japan one of the most colossal waste of money ever conceived.

  5. Nagisa33
    Posted September 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    When I was watching this back in high school I was like, “What’s up with this whole NEET thing? and “Why don’t they get jobs?” (lol) It wasn’t until now that I have a better understanding on what being a NEET is like. I just graduated from my university and I experienced feelings of hesitation, worry, and excitement about moving in to the “real world.” The first few months after graduation I thought, “Now what?” Well, it took me a bit but now that I’m moving forward again with a job, some volunteer work, and studying to go to grad school. I’m no longer drifting though a sea of uncertainty, rather I feel more fulfilled and focused. At least for me, being a NEET had a feeling of loss associated with it. I lost a part of what I loved doing (learning at school and experiencing the culture) so I had to do some “recalculating” as GPS’s frequently say. I was only a NEET for a short period of time but it seems that staying in that state only makes it more difficult to move forward again.

  6. Posted September 9, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    JoJo review.
    Me want!
    Update good!
    Wait! BAD!

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