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DVD Review

DVD cover

Eden Of The East
Movie 1 - The King Of Eden/Air Communication


Starring (voice): Ryouhei Kimura and Saori Hayami
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 06 June 2011

Saki Morimi arrives in New York in search of her new friend Akira Takizawa, who has once again brainwashed himself and disappeared after leaving her his Selecao phone and a message to meet him where their original journey began. Following recent events, Saki’s friends at the Eden Of The East project have developed their work into a successful small business thanks to the international recognition of their computer software’s role in preventing a series of missile attacks on Japan. Meanwhile, images of Takizawa pointing at the missiles and determining their destruction have circulated the globe, turning him into a folk hero people are calling the “Air King”...

(Note: This review contains spoilers for the Eden Of The East TV series.)

The TV series Eden Of The East was one of the most enjoyable and ambitious of its year, with Kenji Kamiyama turning the directorial skills and attention to politics and information technology honed on two series of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex to the creation of an offbeat, absurd and charming contemporary fantasy focused on the stagnant society of 21st century Japan. With jaded young everygirl Saki Morimi captivated by the amnesiac messiah-figure Akira Takizawa and his mysterious involvement in the cellphone-based power game created by a shadowy billionaire, the series provided action, comedy, food for thought and romance, leading to a climax that while thrilling, left a great many questions unanswered. Rather than continue into a second TV season, Kamiyama and Production IG opted to end the story with two theatrically released films, The King of Eden being the first. While it's not an altogether successful move, the problem lies with the material rather than the format.

Kamiyama's determined outward-looking perspective and sense of Japan's relationship with other countries, America in particular, gives him an edge over many other anime creators in an era of insular and apolitical shows. The decision to set The King of Eden in New York City - unfamiliar terrain for anime, yet all too familiar for cinema and TV as a whole - exposes the artificiality of the plot and throws the unlikely course of events into unwelcome relief. While the typically gauche anime-esque relationship between the leads is executed with far more sophistication than usually seen in romance series, any attempt at using the American backdrop for realism falls flat, as incidental characters such as taxi drivers and police officers - despite the excellent English voice acting afforded them - react totally implausibly to the proceedings. The continued movie references, done with wit and subtlety in the TV series, also falter as a subplot involving a frustrated filmmaker using his Selecao resources to force Saki and Akira into playing the leads in a real-life thriller fails to ignite. In the light of these shortcomings, the e-concierge Juiz's repeated warnings to her users that they're 'outside the network's effective range' come as an unfortunate comment on the film itself.

While The King of Eden has its failings, its strongest point continues to be the relationship between Saki and Akira - at times frustrating for her evident white-knight complex, yet still cheerful and affecting. Akira's pursuit of his erased past, as he chases scraps of his memories of his mother by working at the cinema where he saw his first movie, is thoughtfully portrayed and it's tempting to think that a second TV season would have found more time to focus on these character moments rather than the simultaneously gripping and absurd plot. The winning supporting cast also have little to do other than sit tensely over computer screens as they monitor Saki's progress and provide exposition; with the movie concluding with Akira's return to Japan and the resumption in earnest of the Selecao game, it's to be hoped they'll have more prominence in the second part.

The movie comes bundled with an optional compilation of the TV series, Air Communication, which does an effective job of retelling the first season's story with a slightly awkward, yet enjoyable voice-over from the characters - note, the English dub has been dispensed with for this disc. Eden of the East is one of my favourite series of the past few years and it's a shame to have to say this movie doesn't match up to expectations, despite many enjoyable moments and the polished production typical of Production IG. I'll be hanging on for the conclusion all the same.


Richard Hunt

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