So. You're given a cellphone, pre-loaded with essentially unlimited funds, and told to save your country - with the definition of "save" being left annoyingly undefined - or die trying. You're one of twelve people on the same mission, and only one will survive. Tough mission, yes? It's doubly so when you have no memories of your past - and that's Akira Takizawa's problem...
What They Say
Akira Takizawa wakes up naked outside the White House with no memories. He's got a gun in one hand and a cell phone in the other, and he doesn't know if he's a good guy or one of the worst. He doesn't remember that the phone gives him instant access to ten billion yen and a woman who can make his most outlandish requests a reality. He doesn't recall his connection to the ongoing missile attacks terrorizing the Japanese people, or the part he played in the sudden disappearance of 20,000 shut-ins. He doesn't even remember he's supposed to save Japan and will be murdered if he fails. Whatever it is he's tangled up in, Takizawa's definitely in deep - and that's not even scratching the surface.
Audio comes in English and Japanese versions, both presented in 5.1 surround. Dialogue comes across well, with good use made of the forward soundstage for both vocals and effects, while the soundtrack - one of the key points of the show - is well-treated. This is a show that simply sounds good. There were no obvious problems with the encoding.
Video is presented in 1.78:1 aspect, enhanced for anamorphic playback. Like the audio, the video transfer is pretty damn good, with the show's background detail captured very nicely. There are no obvious encoding defects.
Np packaging was provided with our review copy.
The menus for this release are fairly typical for a Manga release. The main screen features Saki and Akira off to the right, looking rather cheerful and set against a grey background. Options are provided for Play All, Setup and Episodes (plus Extras on Disc Two). There are no transition animations between the screens, which makes them quick and easy to use.
There's a decent selection of extras here starting with a 30-second Japanese TV spot for the series. Add a 2-minute promotional video and two video interviews - one with Kenji Kamiyama (author, screenwriter and director) and Chica Umoni (character designer, who never actually appears on-screen), the other with VAs Ryouhei Kimura (Akira) and Saori Hayami (Saki) - both clocking in around the 20-minute mark - and you have enough material to keep you going for a while.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
On 22nd November 2010 Japan is struck by ten missiles, which incredibly land only in uninhabited areas and claim no victims. An apparent terrorist attack, the event is dubbed "Careless Monday" by the media and is quickly disregarded by most of Japan�s populace. Three months later, Saki Morimi, a Japanese student visiting Washington DC as part of a school graduation trip, is almost arrested during a misunderstanding outside the White House but is rescued by a mysterious and completely naked young man, Akira Takizawa, who shows up out of nowhere with no memory and carrying a gun and a cell phone credited with 8.2 billion yen to its account...
The two quickly strike up an unlikely friendship, that develops through the process of Akira working out who he is, and his ties with the Careless Monday attacks and the mysterious disappearance of 20,000 NEETs - young people, "Not in Employment, Education and Training", who vanished in the aftermatch of Careless Monday. That he has no memories never seems to worry Saki unduly - she comes across as a naive, trusting sort, who never seems to realise that the memories that Akira's missing could be of him committing untold violent crimes - 20,000 missing people is no small number, after all - and, to be honest, hormones seem to have struck both Akira and Saki: from the start they're quite clearly taken with each other, although whether their relationship moves on to something more formal is an issue the series steers well clear of.
Instead, it focusses primarily on Akira's quest to learn about his missing past. The phone he's carrying identifies him as a Selecao, and Juiz - the concierge he's able to contact at any time using his phone - is able to tell him that his memories were deliberately wiped through his own choice. After that - why he had the memory wipe, what the Selecao are and how they were chosen, who the other Selecao are - he's on his own. But since knowing what's going on is key to the story, let's let you into the secret:
There are 12 Selecao, chosen by the mysterious Mr Outside for their subconscious desire to change the world - although each has very different methods in mind, legal and illegal. There are a number of rules to being a Selecao, and breaking any of them will result in the death of the "player": you must take part, you must keep spending your allotted funds, you must not try to run or hide from your responsibilities - and, most importantly, once one of the 12 is deemed as having met the victory condition, any other Selecao surviving at that point will be killed. Plenty of incentive there, then. Akira, prior to his memory wipe, had already spent nearly 2 billion yen of him allocation, so he'd clearly been a busy man - but the details of what he was up to remain a mystery until later in the series.
The secondary focus, though, does get into relationships a little, with the feelings that Saki's friend Osugi has for her coming to the fore. He's been trying hard to get her to notice him in the romantic sense (although everyone else around them seems to realise he has no chance), and when he realises that Akira, a new arrival on the scene, seems to have captured her attention, his response is to aggressively dig into his past in the hope of finding something that will scare Saki away from him - although even he's not prepared for what he eventually uncovers.
It's a little hard to get a finger on precisely what label to stick on the show. It feels like slice of life, although what's going on around the main characters is hardly normal; it's not quite romance, as while the feelings between Akira and Saki are there as an undercurrent, they're very rarely touched upon; "conspiracy" is probably the closest to the mark, but even then it doesn't quite catch what the series is trying to do. There's also a large dose of political commentary there, with the attitude of older generations towards the young (taking them for granted and underestimating their potential) combining with an interesting take on the NEET "plague" - that withdrawing from society & the economy in the way a NEET does is an act of defiance and terrorism against a society that doesn't value the young - that does make you stop and think for a bit.
It's the conspiracy side, though, that really caught my attention - finding the other Selecao (the TV series doesn't let you meet all twelve), learning what they've been up to and seeing what sort of characters they turn out to be is a large part of the show's appeal - and while some of the other Selecao are fairly normal, there are some real nutcases in there as well, most notably serial killer Shiratori, whose grudge against men (her modus operandi is to cut off her victim's "johnny", which leads to a great deal of concern when it appears that Osugi has fallen into her clutches) and habit of often wearing nothing more than her underwear (sometimes with a trenchcoat for outdoor modesty) makes her... interesting, to say the least. The problem with most of them is that you don't usually get to see much of them before they're either killed or left behind as the story moves to another stage - the eleven episodes that the series runs for is barely enough to tell its story, and the development of the other Selecao, and perhaps a more detailed look into their plans, is what has been jettisoned to make the main thrust of the story fit into the time available.
Despite that, though, I loved this one from beginning to end. I have a sneaking feeling that if I took my time to watch it, I'd also have more time to pick holes in it - but to be honest, it's best blitzed as quickly as possible, as the way the series is structured lends itself to being raced through, with there being a constant urge while watching to find out what happens next, and how event A plays into event B. And it does all this by simple, good storytelling, with no need to fall back on gore or fanservice to supplement its appeal in the way that, say, Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne did - no small achievement.
Eden of the East is the last full series that I watched and reviewed in 2010 (even though it won't be posted until January10, and it's almost a case of saving the best for last - there are very few other shows released in 2010 that could top it. Highly recommended.
English Language 5.1, Japanese Language 5.1, English Subtitles, TV Spot, Promotion Video, Interview with Director Kamiyama and Original Character Designer Umino, Interview with Kimura (Takizawa) and Hayami (Saki).
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.