Just think about it. You come to awareness buck naked in front of the White House with no memory and the only things in your possession are a cell phone loaded with 8.2 billion yen and a handgun. Naturally that would occasion for a "WTF", but in the case of Akira Takizawa it's just the beginning of a mission to save Japan from itself.
FUNimation's latest release, Eden of the East has finally hit Region 1. This hyped title has been anticipated by many (myself included) and it comes to DVD with all eleven episodes on two DVDs. There is also a Blu-ray release, though we haven't received that for review yet, so a comparison between the two is out of the picture.
Eden of the East is a fascinating show with a story that keeps you strung along right to the end. Basically what it boils down to is a high-profile game that's being played with twelve participants. Each player is given a cell phone loaded with 10 billion yen and charged with saving Japan by whatever means they deem necessary. Failing to save Japan means your death, using the funds for your own personal gain means your death, and when your phone runs out of money you're killed as well. The only way to get out of the game alive is to be the one who brings true reform to the country and turns it around.
Akira Takizawa is indeed one of the players and there's a huge mystery involving his past and how he got to Washington, D.C. Events that led up to that point are revealed much later in the show, but primarily the series follows his attempts to play the game from his fresh starting point. When he appears in front of the White House he does so in order to protect a girl he doesn't know. This girl, Saki, was throwing coins at the White House in an effort to get them in the fountain, and just as some policemen were about to give her a hard time Takizawa appears nude and brandishing a gun.
Saki is swept along for the ride and eventually a relationship forms between them. What's most fascinating, however, is the way Takizawa tries to protect Saki along the way. The two form an unlikely pair and there's a great dynamic between the two. Saki is trying to get a job, but hates corporate Japan, while Takizawa has come to the conclusion that corporate Japan is the reason for the misdirection of the country and resigns himself to take it down.
The story boils down to a political message from its creators about the state of things in their country. It's determined that NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) are the future of the country. Through the show's characters, the writers are able to protest from the sidelines and their message is powerfully presented through the confines of the story. It's subtle at first, but this message grows in volumes towards the end.
Through the eleven episodes here, Eden of the East really takes its time getting from point A to B. It allows things to simmer and play in your head while you watch, and even in the end the show doesn't necessarily give you the answer. Instead it points you in the right direction with enough clues to figure things out on your own, much like it did with Takizawa's initial introduction. It's a smart way to handle the story and it leaves things open for viewers to determine the outcome, which really fit in with the theme of the show.
Eden of the East is a brilliant production. The show keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish and there's hardly a slip-up in the storytelling to mar its flow. The slower pacing and lack of action may turn some viewers off, but I found the show to be a refreshing change of pace. I was hooked and I'm still thinking about it days after I finished watching it. That says something about the quality and because of that I can't give this show anything less than a high recommendation.
Eden of the East is presented on DVD with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show looks fantastic with bright colors, sharp lines, and all around nice level of detail. There's some light grain here and there and the picture can look a little soft at times, but by and large this is a fantastic transfer. It makes you want the Blu-ray release to compare the two images. Unique, charming, and refined are words I'd use to describe how this series looks.
Likewise the audio production is solid with English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 mixes. With regards to the technical presentation both tracks present clean dialogue and sound, along with appropriate mixes for their limitations. The 5.1 track offers a slightly more robust experience, but since this is a dialogue driven show the rear channels aren't used to their fullest. The dubs are both great as well and oddly enough I actually preferred the English track over the Japanese one here. I typically go for the Japanese language, but FUNimation's casting was great here and everyone involved handles their character perfectly.
For bonus features this release offers trailers, clean animations, a TV spot, and a promotional video for the show. There are also two interviews here as well. One features Director Kamiyama and Character Designer Umino, and the other offers up Kimura (Takizawa) and Hayami (Saki). The voice actor interview is by far the livelier of the two, though the former interview offers up some nice insight into the production of the show.
Eden of the East is a unique brand of anime that grabs you and doesn't let go. The characters, story, and world are captivating, and the mystery that's built up around them has a way of keeping you tuned in until the end. Know that you're signing up for a dialogue drive drama, rather than a fan-service packed action-fest and you shouldn't be disappointed. I was hooked from the moment I started watching it and due to that I'm going with a high recommendation.