First Look Fair – Eden of the East

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You know a show is special when it nails the look of DC winter weather, cold.

Eden of the East was my pick for the season, the show I most looked forward to watching. I knew the moment I saw the trailer that, with Honey and Clover-like character designs, a plot that promised intrigue and mystery, and talk about politics that it was going to be my kind of show.

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Episode 1 was all that, and more. It wasn’t just a surprisingly hilarious and entertaining espionage thriller, with likable characters immediately reminiscent of Morita and Ayumi and Hagu. It was a show that cared enough to pay attention to little details so that its depiction of Washington DC was, by far, the most accurate I’ve ever seen in anime (I lived in the area for 15 years and worked every day in DC for 2 of them, within site of the Capitol). Despite a few lapses in believability–ok, major ones at times with regard to the level of security in post-9/11 Washington–the overall accuracy completely immersed me in the environment of the show that is very rare for anime. They even got the mostly-cloudy winter sky over DC right. That’s what it looks like most of the season (and it’s one of the reasons I moved to sunnier climes!). How much money was spent on trips to DC in the research phase of this show? And how much did CVS pay to be in it, especially when there aren’t any of them in Japan? Not much, I hope, considering what happens in front of it!

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But enough gushing about DC: what about the story? Actually, the story seems rather flimsy at this point. Both Saki and Akira, the Morita-like character, get away with doing really outrageous things that clashes with the backdrop’s utter realism. A guy taking off his pants in front of CVS for the naked Akira? (Maybe it’s former Senator Larry Craig with a wig?) A cop being deflected by the sight of his “Johnny”? Being naive enough to throw coins at the White House fountain? The spies and secret organizations that this show promises to feature must be able to operate only because the security is so doubly incompetent in this parallel America. Granted, most of what made this episode funny were the flasher jokes and Hagu Ayumi Saki being all embarrassed. It’s one of the things that made this show…striking.

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What was much more interesting and effective were the character interactions. Both Saki and Akira are pretty winsome characters, especially Akira, whose playfulness and whimsy really is reminiscent of Morita’s best moments. The moment where the two of them are on a startlingly accurate escalator at Dulles Airport–I swear I’ve been there before, though, given this is 2010, they should have finished the tram system by now–bantering with each other, Saki punching Akira’s arm: cute without being cloying. I believe a few have observed that the dynamic is not unlike that of a romance, and well, I certainly wouldn’t mind some romantic elements mixed in with the intrigue.

This is one of those shows which studios only trot out during the Spring or Fall and I’m quite happy to follow this one episode by episode, alongside Fullmetal Alchemist. With only 10 more to go, after all, they are going to have to travel a lot of ground, so hopefully there’ll be plenty to write about for this best-of-breed title.

PS: I ended up buying the track that opens this show, Oasis’ “Falling Down.” It’s a fine song that helps establish the show’s mysterious mood. The use of English in this show in general deserves some kind of award–it’s English, not Engrish for once. Now if only they could take it one step further and hire English-speaking professional actors rather than the amateurs that were clearly on display here…some of the voice acting in English was very stiff. But that they even got native speakers is a coup for anime, for which they are to be commended.

8 thoughts on “First Look Fair – Eden of the East”

  1. Yes on all counts. I was all geared up for criticising the unrealistic aspects when everything around them is so lifelike but DAMN the chemistry between the two leads is so fantastic I couldn’t care less right now.

    I’m worried about the length of the series (unless the planned Eden movie adds to the story rather than summarising the events of the TV run) and how the political backdrop – which looks pretty impressive at first glance – can be addressed in that time.

    But then, who am I kidding? I found every minute of this episode to be tremendous fun – from the impressive Engrish, to the fact that Oasis seem to have got good again (I’m old enough to remember their mid 90s heyday!), right down to the Jason Bourne reference.

    I’ve not seen much Honey and Clover though, so Akira’s character had me shouting “MATT DAMON~!” at the screen instead. :P

  2. I have to wonder why it’s so rare to see native (or at least fluent) English speakers cast in English-speaking anime roles; surely it can’t be that difficult to find an English-speaking actor for a throwaway part. Failing that, it seems like they could do pretty well just grabbing a random (English-speaking) gaikokujin off the street–I’ve heard of this happening with TV commercials and such. Maybe it’s a union issue?

    I’d like to see more anime like Blood: The Last Vampire (also a Production I.G work), where Japanese-speaking roles are played by Japanese speakers and English-speaking roles are played by English speakers. Blood was special in that it was co-produced by an American company (Manga Entertainment) IIRC, and it’s true that big-budget OVAs can do things that TV series can’t, but the bilingual aspect was really neat even though I didn’t much care for the rest of the OVA.

  3. Now that I’ve actually watched the episode, I can see that it was done in more or less the same way Blood was, only there are no English-speaking major characters thus far. Twice, Akira  asks a question in Japanese and gets a reply in English, which weirded me out–is his seiyuu’s English pronunciation just really bad? It doesn’t make a lot of sense for a random DC taxi driver to know Japanese, and even if he did, wouldn’t he reply in Japanese and not English? Other than that one quibble, the use of English is great.

  4. Episode being great asides;  it has the coolest ED I’ve seen a long time… much like the Honey and Clover OP.

    Also its got School Food Punishment!  An up and coming former indie band that seems to be rising in popularity lately…

  5. “A guy taking off his pants in front of CVS for the naked Akira?”

    I thought about that for a while, and I came to the conclusion that the stripper in question was given a large amount of money in exchange for his pants (from the summaries, we know that Akira has $80 million, so…).

    “A cop being deflected by the sight of his “Johnny”?”

    ….shit. I can’t argue with the illogicity of that.  Wasn’t it a bit racist when she looked at the photo and asked “are you Japanese?” o_o

  6. Martin: Akira himself seems to be making the Bourne/Damon comparison anyway! And as for Oasis, I’m old enough to remember their heyday too with their album “What’s the Story Morning Glory?” At the time, I wasn’t too hot on it. I actually like “Falling Down” better than most of the songs I’ve heard from them. The few times an anime picks an actual English song–the Delgados in Gunslinger Girl, “Girls on Film” for Speed Grapher, the OP to Mushi-shi–they do seem to have good taste.

    Andrew F: you’re absolutely right, there is an inconsistency there with the comprehension levels of various characters. I remember noticing it but for some reason forgetting to mention it. And well, unions would be a very plausible reason, though I don’t know exactly how unionized the anime business is compared to Hollywood. I mean, the grunt animators only just got a union last year, and they still get paid below living wages for bringing us all this entertainment.

    smashingtofu: indeed, it’s clearly a tribute of some kind. Let’s hope the character designs and the ED are signs of H&C like quality, too! I think I still like the OP slightly better, but both are definitely cool. This is a “cool” show in general.

    fangzhao: I still think the guy is Sen. Larry Craig, famous for his various escapades in airport restrooms. And, well, yeah probably, though of course in this case it’s a reflection of what the Japanese think of what Americans think of them…

  7. Heh, did I mention that the character designer is the original H&C manga author?

    Eh, I’ve been burnt out on Oasis for a long time but the new song sounds like they have matured as a band… especially since it seems like they’re finally letting Noel sing some of the songs.

    Also if you’re a fan of that brand of Brit Rock in general I think you might like these guys:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD6-FVzWnwg
    They’re a Japanese band that have broken up since 2002 though…

    Also lol at the CAB ASS’N but I’ve heard that exists

  8. Everything I noticed about the ep has been nailed in this thread.  The relative authenticity of the DC backdrop (I nearly pooped myself when I saw Cab Ass’n on the taxi), the inconsistency in the language of dialogue, the fact that the cop used his “Johnny” to identify him, and the references to Jason Bourne.

    This is going to be one hell of a ride.

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