Friday, 2 April 2010

Eden of the East: The Movie I - The King of Eden

I don't think it's over-egging the pudding to say that last year's Eden of the East anime was one of the most breath-takingly original and enjoyable to watch shows of recent years, and it was certainly thoroughly deserving of its continuation in the form of a pair of feature-length movies. So, with Akira Takisawa wiping his memory a second time and leaving his Seleção phone and to Saki come the end of the series proper, where does this franchise go from here?

After joining Saki in a rather fraught visit to New York at the start of the movie, we then take some time to rewind and see exactly what's been going on in the world of Eden of the East since the end of the series. In short, both Akira and Saki were hauled away by the police never to meet again, while Akira became a cult hero, gaining the moniker of "Air King" and seen as a revolutionary hero and saviour of Japan for his role in preventing the missile attack which closed out the show. That said, his actions did anything but save the Japanese economy, which has since gone into free-fall and brought about what was effectively the death of the nation as a political force.

With all of that out of the way, much of the movie deals with Saki's hunt for Akira (now known as Akira Iinuma) in New York - A hunt which is being watched over and interfered with by other Seleção with more than a keen interest. Indeed, this first movie instalment re-introduces us to a number of familiar faces as regards rival Seleção, while also bringing some new and interesting competitors into the game as the heat gets well and truly put under the situation at hand, largely centred around Akira's final request before his memory loss which saw him seeking to "become a King".

If you're expecting a theatrical version of Eden of the East to be full of thrills, spills and explosions, then.... well, there are a few explosions, but prepare to be disappointed. As per the original anime series, The King of Eden takes a decidedly slow-burning approach, building things up and revealing layers of the picture slowly but surely and only stepping things up a gear into any level of tension, excitement or huge revelations in the final fifteen minutes or so.

That said, this steady approach suits me fine, as Eden of the East still has plenty of other tools in its arsenal to rely on beyond simple thrills and spills. Once again both Akira and Saki's characters are fantastically played in their own right as an unlikely hero and heroine respectively who somehow manage to get things done while also holding a wonderful yet virtually unspoken dynamic between them, offset against some decidedly oddball support characters and other Seleção who work well to add an extra flavour to things. When all is said and done, simply the concept of Eden of the East as a whole is enough to keep my interest - It's a brilliant mixture of the kind of day-dreaming fantasy we've all had (being able to phone someone and request whatever you want with a shed-load of money at your disposal) with mystery, intrigue and political machinations which have an obvious nod to present-day Japan (and arguably even the wider world) and could be the subject of long-winded debate in their own right.

If there's one criticism to be had of The King of Eden, it's that it feels more suited as a couple of normal TV-sized episodes rather than a movie in its own right, serving as it does as more of a precursor to the second movie than anything that would catch your eye as a standalone offering in itself - It moves slowly and builds its scenario carefully, while revelling in its nods to old movies not just in Akira's discussions but also within the story itself. The again, the feature-length cinematic treatment makes for the most breath-taking rendition of Eden's world yet in animation terms, with a fantastically detailed treatment of New York at the heart of much of the story which looks both authentic and really quite stunning.

When it comes to the crunch, I'm just thrilled to see more of the concept harnessed by Eden of the East at all - It's imaginative and thought-provoking (both politically and technologically), and that coupled with some truly marvellous characters is enough to hold my attention here for ninety minutes with absolute and majestic (with every pun intended) ease. I can only hope that the second movie instalment will allow Eden of the East to continue to be a messiah amongst modern anime series.


Shinmaru said...

One of my favorite bits of character development is Juiz bitching out the new Selecao agent. I love that she is not required to care about every agent and actually shows bias toward those she likes (since she pretty clearly bends the rules for Akira's benefit). Hilarious.

JW said...

I liked it too. :)

Hanners said...

Initially, I found Juiz's attitude makeover a bit jarring compared to the original series (where she seemed far, far more impartial), but I have to confess that it grew on me, especially her obvious delight at hearing Akira's voice again. Bless her virtual little heart.

Anonymous said...

There isn't one Juiz. She's an AI that adapts to each of her users, and her personality becomes a reflection of that user. I liked that, and it reminded me of how different the Mentats in the old Westwood game Dune 2 were, depending on which faction you picked. That's sort of what makes the end sad; each of those trucks that was destroyed was a separate intelligence.