Saki doesn’t know what to think when she sees a naked man outside the White House while on a tour of America. Neither does he, for he doesn’t remember what he’s doing there…or anything else about his life.
So begins Eden of the East, a mystery thriller that doesn’t waste any time getting to the heart of the action. Akira Takizawa had woken up with only two objects to his name, a gun and a phone. Through the phone he learns that he is one of twelve chosen people with 8 billion yen to his name that he can spend by making requests through the phone to a female voice named Juiz. The condition? The twelve people gifted with this phone have been tasked with “saving” Japan from the political corruption that has taken place. They can use the phone however they want, but any expenses deemed unnecessarily selfish will result in their elimination. Whoever is considered the winner will be spared, whilst the other eleven will be eliminated, so the pressure is on. Every phonecall ends with the phrase “Noblesse Oblige, I pray that you will continue to be a saviour”. As noblesse oblige comes from the French phrase “nobility obliges”, the unrelenting reminder that Takizawa can only escape his situation through victory emphasises the stakes at every turn.
Although Eden of the East won’t win any awards for original ideas, it offers a strong, fast paced narrative, with likeable characters. The basic formula reminded me of Doctor Who, with a young, innocent woman thrown into the frenetic life of a mysterious and charismatic lead. Whilst Takizawa’s appeal extends beyond his intriguing life (you don’t give 10 billion yen to just anybody) as he ponders the weight of what to do with his remaining 8 billion yen, Saki’s purpose seems merely to be to represent the kind of goodness and innocence that Takizawa needs to protect and preserve if he is to save Japan.
Saki’s friends similarly seem to represent an exasperation with the current state of Japan – most self employed or unemployed such as “Underpants”, a hikikomori who has lived indoors for years and earned his nickname from refusing to wear any trousers. Underpants helps to hammer home the message of Eden of the East, he is a talented and intelligent hacker whose skillset was never appreciated by Japan, resulting in his recluse status.
Eden of the East gets off to an exciting start and offers some great social commentary to chew on along the way about the treatment of people by public and private corporations, but lets itself down with a disappointing pay-off and not enough time spent fleshing out characters. Saki in particular had the potential to be developed into something interesting and her innocence explored further – one scene early on in which she is invited to a second job interview after missing the first but is treated appallingly by everyone there pulls at the heart strings, especially in light of the show’s coverage of NEETS as overlooked and mistreated by products of society’s corruption, but her character is largely forgotten as Takizawa’s storyline takes over.
With an intricately and beautifully animated city expanse and a fast paced storyline, Eden of the East promises big things. It doesn’t quite deliver, but the ride is so fun and crazy that you might not mind.