Continuing with my spring 2009 anime impression posts is the latest work by the director of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Seirei no Morbito, Kenji Kamiyama – East of Eden. As an original work, it’s impossible to accurately gauge the quality of East of Eden before it aired but from the previews, it looked very promising. So the 64,000 dollar question is will this show buck the trend of mediocrity this season (as a whole) has shown or will it be just be another underwhelming work?
Rating: episode 1 – 11/12A+
Rating: episode 2 – 11/12A+
Anticipation Level: very high
In an event known later as “Careless Monday”, the country of Japan was attacked with 10 missiles. There was a fair amount of property damage but the odd thing about this attack was that apparently no one was killed in these attacks. After this November 2010 attack, the country was on edge but when nothing else happened, the citizens quickly went back to their normal lives and this is where the series starts. Saki is in her last year of college and, in February 2011, has traveled to America with some of her friends to see the sights. She decides to visit the White House but the local cops don’t like it when she tries to throw a coin into the White House fountain. She’s saved from trouble by a fellow Japanese citizen, Akira, who does something a little more threatening – walking around naked with a handgun and a cell phone. His memory has been wiped so he doesn’t know why he’s there but he’s still able to evade capture. He will later learn that the cell phone has been charged with 10 billon yen ($100 million dollars) and by clicking a button on it, he’s connected to a woman named Juiz. Juiz tells Akira that – per his request – she was the one that pointed him to a memory wipe service that is responsible for his amnesia. Juiz also tells Akira that he has a duty to spend the money that’s on the phone.
Wow, count me as impressed.
Much like Studio Bones’ anime Xam’d: Lost Memories from half a year ago, this showhas a feeling of being of the highest quality from the moment it started. Also like Xam’d, I can’t quite place my finger on why I get the absolutely firm feeling that East of Eden will turn out to be great. It’s not the gorgeous animation that makes me think this, though it definitely doesn’t hurt. Production I.G.’s other spring work, Sengoku Basara, is just as good, if not better, in the animation department but I get a totally different feeling from that show – it being entertaining and fun but not that it’s great.
Nor is it the characters that make me think this could be a great anime (in the sense of it being stately or sublime). Saki, the female protagonist, is a very normal and plain young woman; the type of person that never has anything interesting happen to them. She’s a very sympathetic character because she is so normal and she’s already one of my favorite characters of the season but people like Saki aren’t supposed to lead interesting lives. By the end of episode 2 the story around Akira, the male protagonist, is very intriguing but at the start of episode 1, he’s just a guy that appears in front of the White House, wearing no clothes and carrying a cell phone and a gun. More like a fugitive from a mental hospital and not someone connected to a very mysterious – and rich – group.
Maybe the slightly near-future setting outside of either high school or college along with the notion that the show has a well thought-out plot has helped make the show feel like it is a great anime in the making. But whatever the exact reason, I feel like I could guarantee that this’ll be a great and memorable anime.
Two episodes in and this East of Eden pretty much has everything needed to make it one of the top shows of the season. I already mentioned the great animation, likable characters, and the plot that feels like it’s been well thought-out. Also in the show’s favor is the mystery surrounding the story of this show. Who exactly is Akira and the people behind the phones? What are the aims of this shadowy group? Why did Akira have most of his memory wiped? And why was the eleventh missile attack the only one to kill people? These are all very good questions and the desire to find out the answers is just another why to keep the viewers interested in the show. I really can’t wait to see how the show unfolds.
And finally, other random reasons to like this show: they actually got native English speakers to play the bit characters in episode 1 while the show was in America. I wish this was done more in anime and over here as well. Also the opening song/animation is really cool.
Watching these two episodes gave me a lot to think about. When a show has an interesting plot and a mystery, I often like to take guesses as to how the show will progress. Since this is an original work, no one knows how this show will end and I can’t look silly by guessing things that a glance at the wiki article would answer.
The most important piece of the show’s puzzle, I feel, revolves around a saying that’s appeared in the show: Noblesse oblige. It’s a French saying literally meaning “nobility obligates”. As a saying it’s been around a long time, a version of this saying appears in the New Testament of the Bible for instance, but most people are probably familiar with a very recent version of the saying, “with great power comes great responsibility”.
Andrew Carnegie, in an 1889 essay known as the ‘Gospel of Wealth’, set out that the new wealthy of the Industrial Revolution had a responsibility to circulate their wealth back into society for the betterment of society but this philanthropy had to be prudently done with the idea to create opportunities for the impoverished to improve their state permanently. This is why Carnegie spent a large chunk of his fortune on building libraries. Known as “Carnegie libraries”, these libraries formed by backbone of the library system not only in America but in many other countries. (For example, even a hundred years later 37 of the 49 libraries in New York City are Carnegie libraries.)
I mention this because I think whoever is behind the phones charged with the 100 billion yen want the 12 recipients to use the money to better society along the lines of what Andrew Carnegie wrote. I think this because the police officer who’s also IV, sneers at Akira’s use of the money to buy gum, pondering out loud how is this supposed to help society. Also because Juiz tells Akira to continue to be a messiah after taking his request for leaving the airport quickly.
I think the fact that there’s 12 phones and thusly 12 people charged with this mission is a clue to who’s behind the missile strikes and the phones. Twelve is a highly symbolic number in Judiasm and Christianity, among other religions. If Jesus was a king then it’s probably realistic to think of the 12 apostles as the princes which would tie into how Saki was saying that Akira was a prince at the beginning of episode 1. As well as make all the text in the opening make a little more sense. So, I think there’s a good chance that a religious cult based in Japan either outside or inside the Japanese government is behind the happenings.
The next question might be why would you give 12 people the ability to possibly better Japanese society. I think this goes back to a conversation in episode 1 where Saki mentions how she thinks Japan has the mindset that they can’t help themselves but need America to do so. Thus her wish when she tried to throw the coin in the White House fountain was for something to happen that would change this mindset and maybe she got her wish.
I have a couple other unconnected thoughts as well. I think if you’re one of the 12 people that are supposed to have a phone then you’re safe from the other 11 people. This makes sense from the standpoint of a group trying to accomplish a mission with these 12 phones and trying to remove the temptation of killing one of the original 12 to get even more money. I think this is why the cop is insistent in figuring out if Akira is the real number 9 and not someone who picked up the phone. If he was a fake, then the cop could have requested the death of Akira and taken the phone.
I noticed in the beginning animation that it shows all 12 badges at one point but then number 4 (the cop we see in episode 2), 5,and 10 disappear. I think this either means that these 3 people will die during the course of the show or maybe these will be people that have spent all their money. The less bloody alternative came to me after noticing that number 4 was down to a measly 7,034 yen left on this balance (about seventy bucks). Though, maybe once you’ve spent your money, you no longer are safe from the other 11.
And the last thought I have is that I think Akira purposely wants to stay together with Saki. Watching episode 1, to me it looks like he choose the moment where Saki is in front of the White House as the one to lose his memories and that’s what the weird static sound coming from Akira’s phone was. I also noted that his expression seems to change from one of anger to amusement after hearing that static. Whatever made him want to lose his memories probably also made him angry and by forgetting whatever this was, he’s become a happier person. What also makes me think this is that Akira picks his passport (from several that he owns) that has a birthday most closely matching Saki’s birthday. Also, he probably didn’t need her help finding where his house was located since that phone most likely has a system in place to do so (and he was eavesdropping on Saki while she was in the bathroom).
That’s about all I have to say right now about East of Eden. I’d love to hear what you guys think about my plot conjectures (either positive or negative) as well as your own ideas about the plot behind this show. If the show continues to interest me at this level, you’ll probably see many more posts about this show. I’m particularly interested to see how 9/11 and terrorism plays into this show after these items where introduced.