What They Say:
Akira Takizawa wakes up naked outside the White House with no memories. He’s got a gun in one hand and a cell phone in the other, and he doesn’t know if he’s a good guy or one of the worst. He doesn’t remember that the phone gives him instant access to ten billion yen and a woman who can make his most outlandish requests a reality. He doesn’t recall his connection to the ongoing missile attacks terrorizing the Japanese people, or the part he played in the sudden disappearance of 20,000 shut-ins. He doesn’t even remember he’s supposed to save Japan and will be murdered if he fails. Whatever it is he’s tangled up in, Takizawa’s definitely in deep – and that’s not even scratching the surface.
Eden of the East contains a pair of very solid audio tracks with the Japanese and English language mixes in 5.1 encoded using Dolby TrueHD. The series has a good strong feeling to it and both mixes capture it really well as there’s a good sense of placement across the forward soundstage. The music is one of the standout aspects of the show as it mixes the loud and subtle moments well but doesn’t overwhelm the dialogue in general. Both tracks have a good balance to them and we do have some solid use of the rear channels. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. The one downside to note with this release is that the Oasis song used in the opening sequence was only able to be licensed for the first episode (as they would have to pay for each episode). The other episodes use a Japanese vocal piece though I don’t think it fits anywhere near as well. The first episode clicks beautifully however.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episode series is spread across two discs with eight on the first and three on the second. Production IG has created another top notch show here with its visual design and the transfer captures the detail of it all beautifully. The native HD transfer here, which has some upper limit peaks with the bit rate, and the result is a transfer that’s very clean and crisp with some excellent colors. The encode here has little to really complain about as the show overall is free of problems and present the source material in a strong and appealing way.
Eden of the East comes in a standard Blu-ray case inside a cardboard slipcover which mirrors the case artwork. The front of it has a good image of the two leads, Saki and Akira, in front of a small full color sea of trash surrounded by a lot of items in black and white ringing around it. The cover has a significant amount of white space which feels a little off with this cover, but with the character artwork in full color it draws you to them nicely. The sea of trash inside can throw you off, though. The logo is clean and simple and there’s a nice little tab to the left side noting the episode count while the bottom has a look at the creative staff behind it. The back cover is almost the opposite in the amount of black space here and the additional details to it. The left side has a look at the key phone in the show and part of the city while the right side provides a good rundown of shots from the show and a brief summary explaining some of the basics. With the soft blue text on the black, it’s a bit hard to read at times depending on the lighting. The technical grid on the left covers the high definition data nicely and accurately. The release also includes some reverse side artwork that’s laid out similar to the front cover but with different characters while the other panel goes for an in-show technical piece. No show related inserts are included in this release.
FUNimation has gone and given this release a little extra bit of style that’s definitely appreciated, though not without some mild issues. The bulk of the menu is given over to the clips playing from the show with a vocal piece playing along to it that gives it a fairly energetic feeling. The right side has the top flip up section of the main characters phone with the navigation made through there. It’s really nicely setup and gives it that little personalization that makes sense and gives you that touch of immersion. Submenus load quickly and access times are solid throughout, making it easy to move around in. Surprisingly, the pop-up menu is just a standard green strip that comes up, fairly in theme, instead of the phone itself which I thought would work better and keep you in the show in a way. The only real issue (besides player presets not being taken into account) is that the extras section has a rather small text size for its selections, even on a 70” set you might have to squint a bit to make sure you’re reading it right. On smaller sets and with a bit more distance, they’re harder to read.
Listed out at a hundred minutes total and done in 1080i with stereo TrueHD, we get a good selection of extras here for those that want to see what the creative side of it has to say. Kamiyama and Umino have an interview segment together that runs just over twenty minutes and goes into how they worked together, experiences and more. It’s amusing to watch since Umino keeps her identity secret, since she uses a pen name, and she doesn’t actually appear on screen nor is it referenced why at the start either. Using a close-up of a garishly colored stuffed animal adds a bit of surreality to all of it.
The other interviews are a bit more traditional, such as with the two main Japanese voice actors which runs just under twenty minutes and both are actually on screen. Their views on the series are covered and there are a few amusing anecdotes along the way and discussion on the auditions and the like. Similar is done with the shorter interviews with the directors and Kenji Kawai gets a piece as well. I definitely appreciated the copious amounts of chapter stops included in here, usually at individual question points, which makes it easy to move about in. The rest of the extras are fleshed out with the normal items such as the TV spot, the original promotional video, and the clean ending sequence. With the issues surrounding the opening, I’m not surprised we don’t get a clean version here though I would have liked it even if it was the substitute song.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on an original idea by Kenji Kamiyama, Eden of the East is an eleven episode series that further cements his position as one of my favorite creators. Original works continue to be few and far between as companies want to go with what works and known quantities, so when original works come along it’s usually worth taking notice. With Kamiyama having established himself well with the Blood: The Last Vampire OVA and then on to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex before banging out Moribito, Eden of the East was pretty highly anticipated. The fact that the TV series has also been done as a compilation movie that also goes into two other movies only adds to the allure of it as has a definite path it wants to take. Which is good as the TV series is certainly a curious work.
Eden of the East is a show that I really hate to say it, but it’s like the marketing materials for The Matrix. You have to see it and you have to go into it with little knowledge. The big hook of the show has been the opening as we’re introduced to Saki Morimi, a young college graduate to be who has come to the US with her friends but broke away from them to go to Washington D.C. to see the things she wanted to see. What she didn’t expect to see there, after tossing a few coins past the gate at the White House, is a young Japanese man holding a gun and a cell phone with no clothes on. Events end up putting the two of them together and they end up making their way back to Japan together.
The young man, Akira Takizawa, has lost his memories and hasn’t a clue who he is but knows plenty of things including a whole lot about movies and the world itself. 9/11 is referenced, other events and one involving this timeline called Careless Monday when a series of eleven missiles hit inside Japan but nobody was killed. Saki finds herself drawn to him and tries to keep herself near him while Akira tries to discover what he’s involved in as the phone connects him with a woman who will do anything he asks and notes that he has under ten billion yen with which to try and change Japan for the better in order to save it. Akira finds himself in a strange game that’s filled with quite a few layers as it plays out and a small but interesting cast of characters that adds a lot of little accents to events as it plays out.
Eden of the East has a very distinct story it wants to tell though it’s very much a first chapter kind of story when you get to the final eleventh episode. That’s not a bad thing though since there are two movies that follow it up after the compilation form. Because it’s an original work, it doesn’t take a standard episode by episode structure to get to it though where you can plot it out easily from the first episode. Every episode adds a new little twist and some intriguing ideas as each new nugget comes out. Even better is that the show is very Western culture away as Akira’s knowledge of movies is used regularly, but not in a way that’s annoying, as it gives him a bit of flavor outside of having no memory. The inclusion if dialogue about 9/11, the time spent in DC and similar elements lets the show stand out as very much taking place in a familiar world, one where should events like this happen, people would obviously make cultural references rather than being completely surprised by such things happen. There’s a good commentary on these elements in the show and the way a population handles conspiracies and events that go beyond normal everyday life.
This series has a really beautiful look to it for a couple of reasons. The character designs fall away from the standard cookie cutter style a bit with Chica Umino of Honey & Clover fame providing them. There’s a very distinct look to them where they feel so very personalized. It’s one of the few shows where I felt like I could feel the intentions of the designer really shining through. What helps with it is that there’s a very striking look to the show with Production I.G. Involved. It’s a rich and vibrant city we have here when it moves to the main arc and they did a really good job of capturing the other areas as well. Details are strong throughout with a very rich and vibrant look as it deals with the world that they inhabit. So much so that when the appealing character designs move throughout it, they truly feel like they belong. It’s the kind of world you want to step into and experience.
Eden of the East is a series I knew almost nothing about when I started watching it and ended up falling quite in love with it. It’s the kind of show I wish there was more of, but know that if there were it’d be common and we’d complain about that. The show takes a fairly linear approach to things, but it introduces a lot of interesting elements along the way and keeps you from being certain about everything. What it gives you is a show that doesn’t treat you like a child or an idiot, has a lot of good ideas in it and tells a fascinating story with great visuals, solid character designs and excellent music through and through. This is the series that defines the year it came out in.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, TV Spot, Promotion Video, Director Kamiyama & Original Character Designer Umino Interview, Kimura (Takizawa) & Hayami (Saki) Interview, Directors Kamiyama & Oshii Interview, Art Director Takeda Interview, Composer Kawai Interview, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 19th, 2010
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.