That is the question upon which Eden of the East is built. A dozen individuals have been selected (and thus they are called the Seleção) by a mysterious, powerful individual in the shadows. They have been given a fortune, and an unusual phone with which they can interact with a personal assistant. Everything they do with these tools will cost money, and they must use it to improve Japan, to save it, like a messiah. When they use up all their funds, they are out of the game, and… permanently removed from play.
That last sounds an awful lot like being killed, but it turns out that their memories of the experience are just erased. The puppeteer behind all of this is genuinely interested in saving his nation. He may meddle with people’s lives, but he does not take them. (whew!)
All of this is learned gradually, and my apologies for spoiling this much, but as the show and its two concluding movies began airing back in 2009, I’m not going to feel too bad about it. 😉
Now, into this complex and potent situation, there come two unwitting individuals, and the people around them.
Rather, one of them, a young girl named Saki Morimi, is unwitting. The other, Akira Takizawa, is a Seleção who had his memories erased prematurely because apparently he couldn’t deal with some people thinking so badly of him, or something like that. Considering that his first apparent “plan” was to mobilize the NEETs (adults who are Not in Education, Employment, or Training) of Japan by kidnapping them, stripping them naked, and locking them all up together, followed by, for their safety, shipping them out and back into the country in shipping containers… yeah, I think he ought to have already been beyond what anyone else thought of him. But that version of him is gone, apparently, with the mind-wipe, and in his place is a man with the same outside-the-box cunning, but also a few more scruples.
The amnesiac Takizawa meets Morimi in Washington DC, saving the girl from some potentially severe consequences for spending her vacation time entirely by flying from Japan to DC, and then flying from DC back to Japan, staying just long enough to throw a rock onto the White House lawn. Secret Service and local authorities take that kind of thing rather badly, ya know? So, he is a tall, dark, mysterious (even to himself), handsome man who swoops in and rescues her in a foreign land, and he apparently has more money than he knows what to do with. Perhaps it’s no great surprise that she becomes infatuated with him, but it still felt a little forced, and selfish, even crazy, when he basically swept her up into such a tense, exciting adventure, and she went along with it.
Obviously, it was not their coupling which kept me invested in this show. No, what intrigued me was the setup, the characters in general, the unusual way that Seleção could conflict with or support each other in their various schemes, the overall themes, the surprising emotional weight, the intrigue, and the social commentary. Oh, and the opening song. Seriously, the way it drew me in was trippy.
Speaking on the themes and commentary, however, part of what makes the story so grand is how simple the messages it relays are. There’s an actual point to this show! It talks about the potential of the NEETs, for instance, to do and be more than they are, which speaks to the potential of all human beings to do the same. Almost every wondrous idea has a humble origin, does it not? This speaks to an even deeper theme, about who truly holds the fate of a country in their hands. It’s not the powerful and the wealthy. It’s not some grand, majestic figure who will be the messiah of a country. It’s the ordinary person. You and I and everyone around us, we are the messiahs of our country and our world. We just need to put in the effort, all of us.
That, right there, is absolutely what I love most about this show.
And the message is carried forward with such an interesting story! It has suspense aplenty and interesting humor, and it’s intricate enough to keep us riveted as everything plays out, and with how slowly it plays out, that is quite the accomplishment.
The usual technical praise can be offered, as well. My sincerest compliments on all the crafting that went into this show, including the voice work. It can be a little odd to suddenly hear English instead of Japanese, but that was exceptionally well-done work! Most times, that sort of thing just comes out as mangled Engrish, but not this time. And that is just one example of the attention that was paid to every detail of this anime. It’s very well put together, and carries the story within it quite well.
Eden of the East is a dramatic social commentary with suspense and humor, and lovable characters, though the central coupling could have used a little more work. All in all, I really enjoyed it, and it’s pretty far forward in my favorites. 🙂
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.