Saki Morimi is a young lady who has just graduated from university, and is taking a trip to the USA. In Washington she accidentally gets in trouble with the police, but they are distracted by Akira Takizawa, who is naked and has lost his memory. Saki gives Akira her coat, forgetting that it still contains her passport. By the time she has tracked him down, he has found the apartment where he was staying, which is full of possessions that suggest a criminal background, such as multiple fake passports. The two form a friendship and head back to Japan together, while Akira tries to figure out who he is. Also in his possession is a very unusual mobile phone, which contains 8.2 billion yen in credit he can spend, and connects him to a “concierge” who can use his credit to carry out his instructions. As Akira starts to piece together his past, he discovers a troubling connection to a terrorist incident.
This is a fascinating series to watch, and there are many mysteries, which cleverly tend to misdirect you to the wrong conclusions before you learn the truth. At first it seems likely that Akira is a dangerous criminal and possibly a mass murderer. He even finds a photo of himself with 20,000 victims of… well we don’t really know what’s going on, but Akira has clearly orchestrated something big. Three months before Saki left Japan there was a missile attack, and yet miraculously there were no victims. Akira seems to have been involved in some way. So there are many questions. Who launched the missiles? How were there no victims? What was Akira up to in that mysterious photo, in which he appears to be a hostage-taker? Who is on the other end of the phone, and where did all that money come from? As the series progresses, Akira meets more people with the same kind of phone, also incredibly rich. What is going on here?
I have seen very few anime series that could be described as a thriller, but I was hugely impressed with Eden of the East. It is an original story rather than an adaptation, and perhaps because of that it is efficiently structured across its twelve episodes. A huge amount of story is packed into this short series and, despite the complexity of the plot, nearly all of those questions are eventually answered, with a few threads left hanging for the two films that follow the end of the series. There is a strong element of danger throughout the series, and the characterisation is brilliant. Saki and Akira are instantly likeable, and have a lovely, understated romance. As the series progresses a team of friends assemble around them, mostly a group known as the “East of Eden Club”, and most of them are great characters too. I particularly liked Micchon, who doesn’t say much but when she does she speaks her mind, and also Pantsu, a genius social recluse.
I was amazed how much was packed into this series. It’s not just the complex but coherent storyline that impressed me, but also the way issues that affect young people are addressed. There is a strong emphasis on fighting against the need to conform to society, and the value of being different and being yourself, but the series doesn’t sell a selfish philosophy, because it is also about using money to better society rather than for personal pleasure. I was constantly impressed by how a middle ground was found for each issue that is raised. Being a societal outcast is shown to have value, but living in isolation is shown to be an incomplete existence, with the importance of friendship also at the heart of the series. There is excitement, emotion and food for thought here in abundance. I can’t fault it.
I do have one slight gripe about the animation though: the censorship. This is done with moving scribbles and is highly distracting and irritating. It was a decision on the part of the animators (i.e. there is no uncensored version and it wasn’t just done for the DVD release), which baffles me. If you feel the need to censor something, why draw it in that way at all? The nudity is essential to the story, but could have been drawn from different angles to avoid the need for censorship. I think it was supposed to be a running joke, but it’s just a running annoyance. Don’t let that stop you from watching Eden of the East though. In order to avoid too many spoilers I’ve only scratched the surface of the complex storyline here. You’ll want to join Akira on his journey to rediscovering his past, and find out for yourself. RP