Eden of the East takes place in a world that is so close to next to our own that it wouldn’t be difficult to see some of these people walking right next to us (well as long as one is in Japan anyway). In this world there is a certain cynicism that has become somewhat common place among many of Japan’s youth who are faced with either trying to find post college jobs or who have chosen to abandon society altogether and become not all that different in practice from hermits (which is a real problem in Japanese society and has prompted the creation of a term for the behavior- Hikikomori). A few months before the begin of the series a set of missile strikes on some Japanese cities occurred but failed to capture the public’s attention. Seemingly by chance there were no casualties from this event as the areas had been evacuated beforehand which has lead to no small amount of conspiracy theories as to who was to blame but overall has allowed the populace to slink back into their complacency and become numb to the event. The thing is that while most people aren’t even thinking of the event anymore there is a secret plot afoot which even the conspiracy theorists can’t begin to imagine.
Initially the audience is introduced to a young college graduate who is visited Washington D.C. in part due to her uncertain feelings about the state of the world she lives in. Things get a bit wild for her as she has some minor law enforcement entanglements but is saved by the appearance of a young, naked man who is holding a gun. Through a bit of accident rather than distancing herself the young woman finds herself becoming sociable with him though this may turn out to be a problem as even though he has amnesia he also has a cell phone with 8.2 billion Yen linked to it and clues to his previous life- a life which it looks like is linked to the terrorist missile attacks.
With the production staff that the series has it is not surprising at all that the series tends to bring a rather cerebral approach to things as the staff (which was also responsible for the Ghost in the Shell television series) has a tendency to bring some rather complex ideas and situations to their series. Throughout the early parts of EotE there is information given in the background that comes across at times as almost noise used to establish an environment but which are actually parts of the plot hidden just off to the side. In order to explore these events and make them work a field of characters complete with their own life issues and idiosyncrasies are used to draw in the viewer and give them someone to attach themselves to and through which to view this world. The staff has created an incredible world where money and a powerful system can make just about anything happen for a small group of individuals who have been chosen- seemingly at random- to try to save modern Japan from a current appearance of malaise or possibly the early stages of degeneration. The premise presented is a rather interesting one as a small number of people are granted the chance to use any idea they can think of- as long as they still have money anyway- to try to reform the country.
Unfortunately the practical application of this idea for the story doesn’t quite work as well in its final form as one might hope from some of the particulars. The biggest problem is that while the animation itself is spectacular in catching the eye, the story largely fails to bring in the sense of urgency to events until rather late in the run despite some of the foreshadowing to be found earlier in the stories run. The series relies very heavily on the connection that the audience makes to the main two characters to carry events and while they are likeable enough I didn’t find them up to the task of making me care about some of the earliest portions of the narrative as they didn’t care either. On top of that a number of secondary characters are introduced whose job is to either provide some comedy or deepen the sense of danger that is swirling around Akira but the short run limits the amount of time dedicated to developing them, which in turn limits the impact they can have on the audience emotionally. In the final measure what one finds is a beautifully animated series that asks some really thought provoking question but which doesn’t always connect on an emotional level. Perhaps some of this is due to the series story leading to a pair of feature films for its finish but it just feels that in the final measure it is a series that needed either more time to play out events or a draconian knife taken to it to cut out some excess to bring out the full potential that seems to exist just beneath the surface but which never full materializes.