Tuesday, April 14, 2009

First Impression: Eden of the East

This is the one series I'm so looking forward to this season and I'm very, very glad that it delivered. 4.5 out of 5!
EPISODE 01: I Picked Up A Prince!
More Screencaps from Eden of the East 01
OP: Falling Down (Oasis) [YouTube]
ED: Futuristic Imagination (School Food Punishment) [YouTube]
The series opens with protagonist, a 17-year old girl named Saki, talking about her childhood friend who left and never came back. In retrospect, she wonders if this childhood friend has become the "prince" of her life. At this point, a photo of a young man with Saki flash on the screen. Back to the present, Saki, who has just graduated from college, is in Washington D.C. on a sight-seeing trip, when she gets into trouble with some of the guards . Whether it is her fortune or not, she is saved in time by a guy -- rather, a naked Japanese guy (the same one in the earlier photo) -- who has no memories and no clue about his past except for a cellphone charged with 10 billion dollars and a gun. Later, he finds out that he might actually be an international spy named Akira and he decides to accompany Saki back to Japan for reasons yet unknown.
I already had a good impression about Eden of the East when I saw the promotional video. That initial impression just got cemented. But let's start with the first thing you will notice about the first episode of Eden of the East: the character design.

I mentioned in my earlier posts that the character designs are by Umino Chika, the manga-ka of Honey & Clover, whose soft, rounded stationary-esque style I, at first, imagined would look out of place in a futuristic-slash-political intrigue setting. And indeed, the characters initially look entirely cartoonish against a vastly detailed, semi-realistic background of 3D buildings and cars and such real-life places like the White House. However, after a while and especially after you get blown away (as I did) by the opening sequence, you will soon forget about that insignificant snag and just enjoy the show for what it is, which is AWESOME.
Judging from the first episode, Eden of the East is a pretty good-looking series. I liked everything I saw in it from the shot of the American flag with a jet flying over it to the faces of the extra characters, including even the wacky expressions and humorous SD faces that the main characters made. And don't get me even started with the opening and ending -- art, dude, A-R-T! Just about the coolest opening and ending video sequences I've seen since I don't remember.

Based on the series' promo info, I quite expected a dark, serious tone to the story. So when the humor hit, I was quite unprepared but pleasantly surprised and I think I actually LOLed more than once what with the whole "at that time, I was very cold" (Don't worry. You'll get it once you watch it). Granted, this episode is light in tone but what I really liked about it is the delivery. Despite the obvious political angle, the humor fits right in and does not detract from the main thing.

Of course, it helps that the main characters are extremely likeable. One would expect Akira to be brooding and mopey for having had his memory erased but the storytellers have not fallen into that stereotype trap and instead made the character accept his situation with an easygoing attitude and even make some tongue-in-cheek references to Taxi Driver and Leon (the potted plant by the window is a dead giveaway), both of which are films about assassins by Luc Besson, and also to the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. Saki also turns out to be a potentially great leading lady. A bit naive, maybe, but certainly no shrinking violet and no helpless damsel. While seeing a naked man standing in front of her does give her the creeps, she is not afraid to go after the same naked man in order to get back her passport and wallet, which she needs in order to get back to her home country.

And finally, I already said a lot about the intriguing storyline. It's the perfect formula actually: a past shrouded in mystery + chance encounters x political intrigue. While the first episode did not set everything into motion right away, enough points have been established for a decently set up plot. And with only eleven episodes, I doubt they are going to waste much time before they get to the goods.

Eden of the East is a good-looking series, has an intriguing plot, likeable characters and overall a fun series.

Production I.G. (Animation Studio) (JPN)
Eden of the East @ ANN
Eden of the East @ Wikipedia
Eden of the East Promo Video
Eden of the East Trailer [YouTube]