Thursday, December 23, 2010

Anime Review: Eden of the East

I remember a really big buzz for when Eden of the East was starting up but I then kept hearing that none of the other episodes managed to live up to the first one and that the movies didn't quite wrap up the series either. I still wanted to watch it though and, having done so, I can say that yes it's a nice series but no, none of the subsequent episodes live up to the first one (but it's a pretty awesome first episode, it probably beats the best episode out of number of other series I've seen).

Eden of the East
 Summary: Saki has ditched her graduation trip to New York City to go stare, and apparently throw stuff at, the White House instead but that's the least of her problems at the moment. She just lent her coat with her passport still in it to a naked, amnesiac young man who thinks his name is Akira Takizawa but all he knows for sure if that he "woke up" in front of the White House with a gun in one hand and a cell phone containing 10 billion yen (or about $100 million US dollars) and an assistant on the other end who can use that money to do literally anything. So now she has to chase him down and eventually get back to Japan where it turns out that Takizawa isn't the only one with this mysterious phone and there is a bizarre purpose to it.

The Good: See? AWESOME opening episode, the right mixture of drama and comedy and the show manages to have both of those throughout the series (often in the same scene, similar to how the Fullmetal Alchemist manga would have a small gag towards the end of dramatic moments). It was quite nice to see literal young adult protagonists and adult protagonist who are trying to save the world. The YAs in particular were intersting since this is the kind of stuff I want to find more books about, now you're in your last year/graduated college and looking for a job, what happens to your life then? Can't say I sympathized with any of the NEETs that much (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) but with the unemployment rates so high these days I do understand where a few of them who have given up on finding work are coming from, even if I didn't get why some of them were so proud to be in that situation. The whole concept behind the story felt new to me and certainly kept me interested in what was happening next.

The Bad: I can't figure out if it's because the story took an usual approach to the paint-by-numbers, let's-save-the-world story that I didn't like parts or because it managed to leave out stuff. Since at this point I can still say that there are two movies to wrap most stuff up I'm not too annoyed at the series yet but they could have put a little more explanation in there which would have made the story a little more filling in the end (at the very least they had room for two more episodes, those would've helped!). And a few side characters could have been cut/combined I thought, again, nothing that really annoys me yet but who knows how I'll be feeling after the movies.

The Art: In case you didn't pick up that Takizawa looks exactly like Morita, the original character designers for this series was Chika Umino who is the manga-ka for Honey and Clover. Also that ending sequence with it's odd multimedia aspect should've been a dead give away (although, upon closer inspection I can't tell if those were designed by the same person or if it's just a homage to Umino's earlier work*). I'd heard about that and I had also heard that the scenes in Washington DC were dead ringers for the city but I wasn't expecting anything this good. I was literally squeeing to see such an accurate portrayal of my original hometown, they even had the odd slogans on the taxi cabs! Unfortunately the cars look rather CG here (and by here I mean in a lot of the series when they aren't detail shots), weird because the animator list over at ANN is huge for this show, but everything else in the show looked spot on.

The Music: I had never heard of Oasis before this show, keep in mind I am musically illiterate, but one day before I watched EoE I was seized with the urge to find the OP and I fell in love with the song. The odd lyrics just fit the images and the images and the beats of the music were perfectly lined up, I can see why it was such a big deal that Funimation got the rights to the song. However the only got the rights for the first episode and apparently that didn't apply to the streaming episodes so I became pretty familiar with the replacement OP. I had heard that it was going to be the song Funi was using in the backgrounds of their trailer and I liked how that sounded so I was annoyed to find that wasn't the case and that it was some j-pop ballad that sounded entirely too soft for the images. In most anime it would have been forgettable but fine, here it just doesn't fit and I wonder what Production I.G. was thinking when they had this be the backup. Also, the first episode had some very good Engrish in it but one point really confused me. The cop and taxi driver in question spoke Engrish yet understood the characters who were replying in Japanese (and I think it was shown that Saki at least wasn't very good at English). But try to ignore that and listen to the song in the background of the taxi car, it's oddly appropriate and pops up again later in the series.

So, I liked this series and really want to love it but I'm hesitant to make it a must-buy on my blu-ray list until I see the movies. I'm guessing that the first movie will be out, here in the US, sometime next spring and the second movie in the summer so it could be a while before I make the final call. EoE is streaming on hulu, youtube, and Funimation's own website so I saw check it out (plus it's only 11 episodes, not a very long time commitment).

*THE PRAWN HAND! I think I can safely say that scared the heck out of everyone the first time they saw that OP.