Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Heads Up on Higashi No Eden, a Terrific New Futuristic Anime with Religious Elements

"The King has come to save us from the dark! Who could ever doubt? We have faith!"
--quoted "Scripture" from opening theme of Higashi No Eden

Well, futuristic being a couple years on (2011). Higashi No Eden translates to Eden of the East, and since we quickly head to Japan during the first episode, there ya go.

Here's the plot summary from Anime News Network:

On November 22, 2010 ten missiles strike Japan. However, this unprecedented terrorist act, later to be called as "Careless Monday," does not result in any apparent victims, and is soon forgotten by almost everyone. Then, 3 months later... Saki Morimi is a young woman currently in the United States of America on her graduation trip. But just when she is in front of the White House, Washington DC, she gets into trouble, and only the unexpected intervention of one of her fellow countrymen saves her. However, this man, who introduces himself as Akira Takizawa, is a complete mystery. He appears to have lost his memory. and he is stark naked, except for the gun he holds in one hand, and the mobile phone he's holding with the other hand. A phone that is charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash.

It only recently premiered on Japanese telly, but I've watched three episodes online and this is a high-quality anime that has that Bourne Identity vibe (ie, main character has had his memory wiped, however it seems he did it willingly to himself. Mebbe.) However, there is a gentler quality to Akira than there was to Jason B, which makes him likable, even winsome. There are moments when the artist(s) capture a particular look by making minor adjustments to the features that really affects how we perceive him. Very well done.

What the viewer might covet most--or be most interested in at first--is this neat special cellphone that essentially gets whatever the user wants done and done RIGHT AWAY (but it is fingerprint-keyed to a particular user). Want a car, a boat, a person killed? Done.

Of particular interest to me is how the religious element is developed. We see twelve "messiahs" hinted at (the main character is called this, and he's only the number IX of XII). We see psalms-like "verses" or prayers in the opening sequence. We hear Saki talk about how Japan needs to help itself in episode one. We know there have been terrorist attacks, and by a later episode, it's clear that Akira may have committed an atrocity (or not, who's to say just yet, I'm guessing). He even calls himself a terrorist in his amnesiac state. The voice that answers the wondrous cell phone is a "judge" (Juiz) and the XII are the "Chosen" or the "selected ones." If there is to be an EDEN in the East, then are these "messiahs" supposed to bring it to fruition via acts of violence? How are they chosen? Who foots the humonmgous bill? Who is their "God"?

The animation is terrific. The voice actors do a very good job. There is a certain romantically appealing chemistry in the blossoming friendship of the lead characters. It's got a mystery-thriller vibe with a bit of sci-fi, some odd, possibly religious/cult-based well-funded organization/conspiracy, and a bit of manga-ish humor tossed in to keep it from being suffocatingly paranoid and tense. Clues are given, and it's fun making theories about what is the deal with the phones, the huge bank account, the immediate wish-fulfillment, the danger, the murders, the implications of the religious elements, etc. Images that will recall 9/11 purposely are rather haunting. There is something very, very dark afoot, and it's a great hook.

The opening theme song is FALLING DOWN by Oasis, and man, is that a terrific song. The opening itself is a delight to watch. See it here.

The episodes are up at Youtube (in parts) and entire episodes can be found (subbed, not dubbed) at AnimeFreak.tv, where I caught them.

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