Three months after ten missiles strike Japan, causing widespread devastation but no casualties, Akira Takizawa wakes up outside the White House, completely naked and possessing only an unusual looking cell phone and a handgun. Moreover, Akira has no memory of who he is or how he came to be in his present location in his present circumstances. Encountering a young Japanese woman named Saki Morimi, Akira manages to avoid the authorities and travel with Saki back to Japan. There, he not only discovers that his amnesia was self-inflicted, but that he might be responsible for both the missile attack and the subsequent disappearance of 20,000 “hikikomori” (recluses). As Akira and Saki attempt to unravel the mystery of his identity and the extent of his involvement in past events, it slowly becomes evident – through the agency of Akira’s mysterious cell phone – that he is an unwilling participant in a game devised by a sinister figure known only as “Mr Outside”: a game in which a select number of people have to demonstrate their capacity to be Japan’s “saviour”, or suffer execution at the hands of a shadowy nemesis called “the Supporter”.
Created and directed by well-known anime identity Kenji Kamiyama, and produced by anime powerhouse Production I.G., “Eden of the East” premiered on Japanese television in 2009. Visually in keeping with Production I.G’s noted commitment to realistic animation styles, “Eden of the East” belongs to an established anime sub-genre that includes such works as “Btoom!”, “Darwin’s Game” and “The Future Diary”. In “Eden’s” case, the characters are confronted by profound moral questions relating to means and ends, and the consequences that flow from the starting assumptions that underpin their worldview and decision-making framework. The story-arc does have some suspension-of-disbelief issues in its early stages, and the inconclusive ending is a transparent pretext for the two feature-length sequels, “The King of Japan” and “Paradise Lost”, that premiered in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Nonetheless, “Eden of the East” is an engaging and above-average conspiracy theory/stuck-in-game adventure that also explores such significant terrain as the distinctly Japanese social phenomena of “hikikomori” and “karoshi” (death by overwork), the legacy of Japan’s post-WWII reconstruction, and the economic collapse of the early 1990s that has so deeply scarred Japan’s collective psyche.
© Text Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020, All rights reserved.