On a visit to Washington D.C., Saki Morimi (voiced by Saori Hayami) bumps into another Japanese teenager outside the White House, the exuberant Akira Takizawa (Ryohei Kimura), who happens to be stark naked, holding a gun in one hand and a cell phone in the other. He has no memory of who he is or how he got here. Months ago, six rogue missiles struck Japan, miraculously leaving no casualties but causing widespread devastation. No-one knows who was responsible for the disaster nicknamed “Careless Monday”, but photos found on his cell phone make Takizawa think he was involved. Sweeping a besotted Saki along on his breakneck journey of self-discovery, Takizawa learns he is part of Seleção, a group of twelve individuals chosen to partake in an ambiguous game by the mysterious “Mr. Outside.” Each player is equipped with a hi-tech cell phone called the “Noblesse Oblige”, connected to a chatty artificial intelligence named Juiz (Sakiko Tamagawa) and an online account with ten billion yen. Their cryptic task is to use this money to “save Japan”, but those who fail in Mr. Outside’s eyes or transgress his strict rules are executed by a player dubbed “The Supporter.” Sure enough, all the other players suspect Takizawa of being the Supporter.
Widely acclaimed as the most ingenious anime serial in recent years, Eden of the East is a true original. There is nary a giant robot or cyberpunk cliche to be found, but this incredibly smart techno-thriller is as taut and suspenseful as any action movie. Beautifully designed it has a vivid sense of place, a gripping story and charming, multifaceted characters. It is also rare for an anime to encompass so many topical issues. Post 9/11 politics, the global financial crisis and the rise in social media as means of enacting political change, are all grist to the satirical mill turned by writer-director Kenji Kamiyama. Eden of the East is the name of a search engine-cum-social networking site created by Saki and her friends: cute techno prodigy Micchon (Ayaka Saito), stern team leader Hirasawa (Motoyuki Kawahara), vivacious den mother Sister (Kimiko Saito), closeted geek Kasuga (Hayato Taya), and Osugi (Takuya Egushi) who is hopelessly in love with Saki and thus insanely jealous of Takizawa. Together they aim to establish a network that will enable young people across Japan to overthrow the cynical, corrupt old order and build a brighter future, and Takizawa decides to invest his newfound wealth in the project. The series has a beguiling faith in the positive aspects of technology and social media that would seem naive were it not for recent events in the Middle East, so instead proves fascinating.
Evidently as much a movie buff as his charismatic hero (who actually makes his home inside a multiplex in a deserted shopping mall!), Kamiyama peppers the plot with an array of in-joke references to the likes of Taxi Driver (1976), Dawn of the Dead (1979) and the Meg Ryan time travel rom-com Kate and Leopold (2001) of all things, but mostly draws from the master: Alfred Hitchcock. His methodical pacing allows for deeper character development while the labyrinthine intricacies of the fiendishly clever plot coil themselves around the viewer like a boa constrictor. Takizawa and Saki’s search for the truth encompasses a corrupt cop, a sexy serial murderess (Rei Igarashi) who lures rapists to her hotel room where she castrates them, a group of Seleção who want to stage another missile attack and finally, in what becomes simultaneously the most hilarious and suspenseful sequence in the series, a shipping crate containing twenty-thousand angry naked men!
At its core Eden of the East proves an affecting love story between two lost souls trying to make sense of an uncertain world. Early on, Saki admits she went to the White House in the hope of making some vague prayer that America can sort out the world’s problems. But given governments are floundering all over the world, Takizawa argues the real force for change resides within themselves, and that is a very heartening message.