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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.

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!

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.

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.

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