From grade school through high school, Japanese anime, manga, and music were probably my most passionate interests. I collected DVDs, graphic novels, posters and figurines. I got up early to watch Sailor Moon on the USA network before school and spent all my allowance money on Neon Genesis Evangelion, one DVD at a time. In college, I studied Japanese language and literature and even studied abroad in Tokyo, but by then my interest in anime and enthusiasm for keeping up with the latest series started to wane. It seems harder to find series that bring anything new to the table and aren’t ridden with the same exhausted tropes and stereotypes posing as plot lines and character development.
It really takes something special to grab my interest anymore, and one series has certainly earned that description: Eden of the East. Why am I talking about anime on a mystery and puzzle blog? Because more than as a fan of anime, I appreciate Eden of the East as a fan of intriguing stories full of twists and turns that keep me guessing, and it is from that perspective that I recommend this series to you.
On a sightseeing trip to Washington D.C., Saki Morimi, a young Japanese woman, meets Akira Takizawa, a young Japanese man who has lost all memory of his identity and past. Akira begins discovering bits and pieces of his past in the form of fake passports, incriminating photos, and an uncomfortably robust arsenal of guns and ammo. A movie buff, Akira himself even mentions that he appears to be some sort of Jason Bourne character. But Akira’s most curious possession is a cell phone that connects him to an all-access concierge and 8 billion yen to spend in any way he chooses.
The rest of this short series follows Akira and Saki discovering more about Akira’s past as he learns how he’s been spending this money and why it was given to him, all in the wake of a seemingly unrelated recent missile attack on Tokyo. Things get complicated as Akira finds he isn’t the only player in this strange game, and that others are willing to do whatever it takes to keep playing. I don’t want to give too much away, because half of the fun of this series is in discovering each piece of the puzzle along with the main characters.
The series deals with a tense political and social climate in a Japan where mysterious missile strikes leave characters like Saki reflecting on thoughts of terrorism and 9/11, with Saki even verbalizing the uncomfortable but likely common feeling of excited anticipation about the future in the wake of a devastating event like a terrorist attack. Eden of the East addresses current events and American culture and society in ways I never imagined an anime series could. (D.C. residents will especially enjoy the extremely detailed backgrounds of the first episode)
The material is fresh, the plot moves at the perfect pace, and each episode leaves you thinking. In fact, now that I’ve given it some thought, I would say that Eden of the East is the anime series I recommend most highly and believe is the most worth-watching out of everything I’ve seen. It’s intellectual, accessible, and entertaining. It has a specific story to tell, and tells it masterfully without sprawling out over several lengthy seasons. With just 11 engaging episodes and two movies, this series requires little investment but gives a huge return.
Warning: this show definitely has some adult themes/episodes, so mature audiences only. It also has a lot of the quirks and elements that can make anime off-putting or less accessible to viewers outside the fandom, but I would definitely give it a chance even if you aren’t into anime.
All 11 episodes and the first movie are available on Netflix Instant Queue. The episodes are also available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video.