Eden of the East Review: Quality Mystery that Deserves an Evening TV Slot
Few anime fit the mold of being suitable for Western TV. The obnoxious Panty & Stocking could easily fit into Adult Swim, if Funimation pull the strings right. Eden of the East is a 11 episode series by Production I.G that would also slide nicely into a free-to-air TV slot next to crime thrillers such as CSI. The Tokyo-based studio has been around since the late 80’s and have produced many commercial and critical hits such as the still famous Patlabor (1989-93) films, historically relevant Ghost in a Shell (1995), End of Evangelion (1997) & FLCL (2000). Their impact on anime has been enormous, and those who are not anime-savvy will probably have seen Production I.G in the animated sequence in Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill.
Eden of the East is one of their more recent titles, from 2009. Two films, King of Eden & Paradise Lost, were created to cap off the series, although they have not been highly regarded as retaining the quality of writing present throughout the series. It is difficult to describe the series without clearing the veil of mystery. Eden of the East follows a young girl named Saki Morimi whom unwillingly encounters a naked man at the White House, who has no idea who he is. Wanting to help, Saki lends him a jacket, and the story leaps from there.
Production I.G, much like the recent Kyoto Animation, has maintained a strong reputation for high quality animation, and they do not disappoint here. Eden of the East’s animation looks more like one giant film cut into 11 segments: the background art is beautifully detailed, to the point where you could mistake it for reality. There is an abundance of movement from not only the key characters, but the cars, trees and people moving in the background as well. You only have to look at the opening sequence to get an idea of the scale. The character designs by Chika Umino strike close to home, with an emphasis on realism, yet retaining an endearing cuteness with soft lines and rounded faces. Those with a sharp eye may recognize her work from the Honey & Clover (2005) series. The ending credit sequence is understated, but unique with its choice of imagery – it looks more like photography than animation.
The story, while detailed and elaborate, is executed in a way that captures the viewer – we find out piece by piece as Akira does. The set up is intelligent, well thought out and on the serious side with political and society commentary. It holds a joyful atmosphere with its humour, charming characters and magical, romantic moments. Considering the series was finished with two films, the TV series ends on a touching and fitting note, and can be taken as a stand alone if one wishes. The characters are many, but the main focus is on Akira and Saki, whom are intriguing and charismatic. Saki is a quiet type, but is genuine and honest – while Akira just does whatever the heck he wants and manages to get himself out of trouble… most of the time. The contrast of their personalities create fireworks on screen.
Kenji Kawai produced the soundtrack for the series. He has in the past collaborated with Production I.G on the soundtracks for Patlabour and Ghost in a Shell. His modern tunes provide plenty of atmosphere where required and compliment the visuals nicely. The opening song “Michael ka Belial” is understated and compliments the credits, although the alternate English track: “Falling Down” by Oasis provides some much needed build up and tension for the upcoming episode. The ending song “Futuristic Imagination” is stronger than the opening, with a catchy beat and powerhouse vocals, thanks to ‘School Food Punishment’. The English dub by Funimation is very strong. Jason Liebrecht takes his first lead role since Syaoran in Tsubasa Chronicles, and it matches perfectly with the smooth, lighthearted delivery of the original Japanese by Ryohei Kimura. Saki, voiced by Leah Clark fits the soft spoken performance of Saori Hayami well. The acting comes across as natural and effortless, a must in any English-spoken version. It isn’t littered with some of the bigger Funimation names, which is refreshing to listen to.
Production I.G set a standard in Eden of the East one wishes all anime would have. It is this level of quality that drives fans to watch anime in the first place. It combines flawless visuals, great music, interesting but likable characters into a fast paced, gripping plot – which steps out of a high school setting for once, thank God. If you’ve never given anime an inkling of thought, Eden of the East could be what makes you double take the next time you walk past its usually empty DVD isle.
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