Friday, 10 September 2010

Eden of the East: The Movie II - Paradise Lost

At last, it comes to an end... After dazzling us with its TV series and rather underwhelming us with its first movie, Eden of the East wraps up with a second movie in the form of Paradise Lost - but is this an anime paradise lost to boot?

After a brief but surreal dream sequence, this second film kicks off more or less where the first ended, with Takizawa and Saki landing back on Japanese soil, with the former's request to become a "king" leading to his being labelled as the illegitimate child of the recently deceased Japanese Prime Minister. Needless to say this revelation has brought plenty of interest, if not from the media then from the NEETs who still have a strange love/hate relationship with the "Air King", as well as from parliament and the dead Prime Minister's family of course.

While Takizawa deals with this attention in his own inimitable style, so he sends Saki off to do a little work of her own - namely, tracking down Akira's true mother, who he believes that he saw during the chaos of Careless Monday. This she succeeds in doing, but while the woman seems reluctant to give away any information, Saki and Ohsugi stumble upon even more interesting evidence that suggests that perhaps Takizawa's claim to be an illegitimate son of the former Prime Minister isn't far fetched at all... in fact, it could actually be the truth. With the dead Prime Minister's wife taking a DNA sample from Takizawa, confirmation is forthcoming either way...

As all of this rumbles along, various machinations lead to "Pants" having to abandon the old Eden of the East haunt while Akira steals his own Seleção truck (and I's vehicle for good measure) before eventually heading to the home of the former Prime Minister's wife, where he's eventually met by Mononobe. It's here that Paradise Lost really sheds its skin and shows its (and the entire show's colours), turning into a rich and considered discussion of the current political climate, with a particular eye towards Japan of course. While you could fill a whole book with the theories espoused here, effectively we're faced with Mononobe, already an experienced politician who believes that the people of the country need to be subjugated (albeit cunningly so they don't realised) to do the will of the government and thus improve the country and move it forward. On the other hand, Takizawa believes that the people should be free to choose their own path and that ultimately they will make the right choice and do the right thing if they're given a full and proper opportunity to do so. This belief leads on to Takizawa's final commands to Juiz - to hook him into ever phone in the country to urge the older generation to give Japan's youth a chance to grow into their shoes and thrive, and for those young people to step up to that task and do something with that opportunity, before giving every person in Japan a single Yen as a starting point.

Throw in the discovery and appearance of Mr. Outside at last, as well as why he chose Takizawa as one of his Seleção (a fascinating political statement in itself incidentally), and you have yourself one fantastically thought-provoking second half to Paradise Lost which takes all of the budding ideas of Eden of the East's TV format and allows them to grow and bloom into full-blown ideologies and beliefs.

Sure, it isn't action-packed and as full of twists, turns and intrigue as some might like (although it manages a few of them), but that really isn't what this film is trying to achieve - instead, it effectively sets out to throw the spotlight on the current state of Japanese (and arguably world) politics, deconstruct why it doesn't work and offer possibilities of what the future could, or perhaps should, hold. How well the concepts expressed stack up depends on your own political views, and its ending is certainly an idealistic one, but it crams in so many concepts that to my eyes its a fantastically thought-provoking piece that references the student demonstrations of years past, explores the positives and negatives of Japan's youth and NEET culture, and also queries the responsibility of the older generation when it comes to bringing a new generation into the country's bosom rather than alienating them with simple tags and accusations.

If you have no interest in politics or the machinations therein, then Paradise Lost will likely also be the point where Eden of the East as a whole loses you as it enters its own world of deep thinking to the point where it even effectively loses interest in some of its own characters. If you love such ideological debates and discussions however, and have sufficient grasp of Japanese and world politics to appreciate it, then Paradise Lost in particular is an arch examination of the subject that arguably makes it one of the most important anime creations of the past decade.

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