- A totally original story, one written directly for the screen and not adapted from other media.
- Sports a deliberately-paced but gripping thriller storyline.
- Touches on many key ideas of the modern age, from the disenfranchisement of youth to the ubiquity of information technology.
- Ends on an open-ended note as per the two sequel films.
- Director: Kenji Kamiyama
- Animation Studio: Production I.G
- Released By: Fuji TV (Noitamina)
- Released Domestically By: FUNimation Entertainment
- Audio: English / Japanese w/English subtitles
- Age Rating: TV-MA (action violence, blood, language, nudity, thematic material)
- List Price: $59.98 (Blu-ray), $54.98 (DVD)
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
No memory, no clothes, and 8 billion yen
His name is Akira Takizawa—at least, that’s what he thinks his name is—and he wakes up one morning on the lawn of the White House with no memory and (even worse) no clothes. In one hand, he’s got a gun; in the other, a cell phone of a kind no one has ever seen before. He runs across a girl, Saki, who’s visiting the States as part of a class graduation trip. Against her own better judgment she finds herself intrigued by this man, who might well be a terrorist, a spy, or something else entirely. Who but someone shady would have an apartment in Washington, D.C. full of weapons and false passports?
Takizawa’s phone is even more mysterious. It’s loaded with 8.2 billion yen in digital cash, and by placing a call with it to a woman named “Juiz” one can request absolutely anything. The cost of the request is then deducted from the balance on the phone. “Anything” means anything: when Takizawa and Saki return to Japan together, they use the phone to get through customs without having any interference. It turns out there are eleven other people with phones like his, the “Seleção,” and we see them using their power to do everything from renovate hospitals to commit assassinations.
It turns out the Seleção are all part of a giant game. The goal is to become Japan’s “savior,” but if you run out of cash or break a number of other rules, you are “eliminated.” No prizes for guessing what that really means.
Mystery and controversy
Eden of the East is like an attempt to spin together as many apparently disparate mysteries as possible, all of them ripped vaguely from today’s headlines. How was it that ten missiles struck Japan without claiming any lives? How, and why, did Takizawa cause thousands of unemployed young men (“NEETs”) go missing for months at a time? Who are the other Seleção, and what are they willing to do to win? Why did Takizawa erase his own memory? And how was this game organized and kept running in the first place?
It probably comes as no surprise that a fair number of these questions aren’t answered by the end of the show, but watching how they unfold and come together is fascinating. It’s also clear how the show is meant to serve as a platform for commentary on a whole slew of current issues. Saki and her friends, for instance, are involved in creating “Eden of the East,” a visual search engine that makes Facebook look like a paragon of privacy: take a picture of someone (or something) and you can dig up just about anything about it. Likewise the game itself, which works as a comment on both the power of money and Japan’s decades of complacency and aimlessness.
All of these elements have been woven through the romance budding between Saki and Takizawa, which is sweet and enjoyable to watch. They’re obviously enamored of each other, but each is hesitant: Takizawa doesn’t want to involve Saki in something that might be truly dangerous (especially if he can’t remember most of what he’s done), and Saki keeps getting warning signs from her friends that Takizawa is bad news.
Flawed but fascinating
Unfortunately, the further we go into the plot, the less things become mysterious and the more they become baldly preposterous. Why, for instance, does no one think to try and run Takizawa through Eden until after he’s already deeply involved with them? (He returns a “Not Found” error, which should be hint enough something is wrong.) Why does Takizawa simply leave when one of the other Seleção is about to be killed (and the identity of the killer is supposedly of paramount importance)? Too many things in the story require the mechanisms of the game to be absolute, when all it would take is one person stepping out of line to cause the whole thing to collapse. And the big climax, where the heroes use a crowdsourcing effort to save Japan yet again, produces a result that seems like it would have happened of its own accord anyway.
The paradox of Eden is that despite all these flaws, and many more, it’s still an outstanding show. That the flaws exist at all is because of the show’s ambition; they’re a sign that someone—namely director Kenji Kamiyama (of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)—had more on their mind than just doing a by-the-letters adaptation of a hit manga or something equally lockstep. They wanted to take chances with this story, and they did, even if some of those risks blow up in the audience’s face.
Also note that the show doesn't end conclusively. It leaves the door wide open for the pair of feature films, due out later this year, which are supposed to wrap up the story properly. That for some may be yet another flaw all by itself.