CAUTION: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE SHOW "EDEN OF THE EAST", AS THIS MOVIE IS THE CONTINUATION OF IT, THEREFORE IMPORTANT PLOT POINTS OF THE SHOW, PRIMARILY THE ENDING, ARE VITAL TO DISCUSSING HOW THIS FILM BEGINS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Eden of the East is one of the most interesting anime I've seen, but not for the same reason I usually find anime interesting. Usually when I really remember shows as interesting it's because it was really weird or over the top, but Eden of the East is actually fairly down to earth and subtle. Yet, in a sea of same-y anime, it felt very unique, being a very self contained series centered around a mystery, with realistic and likable characters, and a strange blend of the realistic and the bizarre.
Eden of the East's premise put in simple terms isn't all the original, our protagonist has lost his memory. Seen that done a million times, right? Have you seen it done starting with said protagonist finding himself naked with a gun in front of the White House holding a mysterious phone containing an account with8.2 billion, and said phone contains an order for his own memory wipe? I doubt it. The show was actually focused around Saki, a Japanese girl who, due to meeting Akira (the memoryless guy with an elusive past), was caught up in an adventure full of conspiracies and intrigue as they try to solve the mystery of who Akira was, what he did, and what it had to do with the strange occurrences happening to the country of Japan. What they uncovered was that Akira is a part of a game started by "Mr. Outside", who had given 12 people (called the Selecao)10 Billion, along with a phone connected to an operator named Juiz who'd fulfill they're needs, to "Save" Japan. If a player used money selfishly, they'd be taken out by "The Supporter." As the plot thickened, it was discovered Juiz is actually a computer program, one of the Selecao was responsible for a missile attack on Japan, that same Selecao than ordered another missile attack on Japan but Akira stopped it by ordering more missiles to intercept the incoming missiles, targeting them using using Eden of the East (an image recognition system social network created by some of Saki's friends). Akira tells Juiz he wants to become "King of Japan" and erases his memory yet again. And that brings us to King of Eden.
Must resist making "swag" joke.
King of Eden begins with Saki in New York, looking for clues on where to find the now missing Akira, and although you could be tricked into thinking with Akira's memory lost once again, they were planning on rehashing the same things the original show did, this is not the case. Very little time is spent on the memory loss side of things, after all, nearly everything about Akira's past has now been found out, and when he's found he believes everything Saki says very quickly. The main focus of King of Eden is moving forward with the plot solidified in the show, and it does this well. Just like with the show, you're always kept guessing, as you never quite know where the story is going next or what they're doing with certain plot points.
Plus, in some ways King of Eden improves over the show, primarily in pacing. If there was one flaw that stood out in Eden of the East, it was its pacing. It wasn't horrible, but disjointed to be sure. There were often major twists with no build up, changing the focus of the plot sloppily, and so on. As it turns out, the film structure works pretty damn well for Eden of the East, as the plot flows much better in this than it ever did in the show. On the other hand, the plot in King of Eden as a whole seemed a tad uneventful. When you consider how many shocking revelations and twists the original show had, it's a bit disappointing to see the movie didn't have too much of that. There were a few small twists and new factors added to the story, but it would have been nice to see a bit more of the game changing twists we saw later in the show. When you think of movies, you think of movies, you expect to see what the show did but bigger, but it felt less like the plot was escalating, and more the plot was just being continued, which is disappointing.
This movie has a homage to "Catcher in the Rye." No joke.
The characters that were so great in the show are still great here. Saki and Akira are still as interesting as they are likable. In addition, some characters that didn't get too much depth in the series feel a lot more three dimensional in this, such as Juiz getting some more personality and Kuroha gets a chance to be the good guy (or, girl I guess) as opposed to hunting "johnnies". On the flip side of that, some characters get shut out as a result of the shorter running time of a film compared to a TV series. Satoshi for instance, is basically a non-character in this, standing in the background and having nothing to do throughout the film. But, a few shut out characters is a sacrifice of a shorter running time, so at least the characters who did get screen time were as good as ever.
The studio behind Eden of the East is none other than Production I.G. of Ghost in the Shell fame, and just like with their work on Ghost in the Shell, they show off some terrific 2D animation and some god-awful CG. Luckily, unlike in something like GitS 2.0, CG is not all that prevalent, only used for minor details such as cars and background civilians (but sheesh when they use it, it really stands out more than it should). Luckily, as previously mentioned it does have some damn good animation for all the non CG, characters are well animated, the locations are beautiful, and it has all the detail and quality a film should have as apposed to a series. One of the quirks of Eden of the East, was it's odd character designs, it's really a preference whether you liked them or not, but the large mouths and flat noses of characters often bothered me. These designs are still present here, not really a complaint (it's not like I expect them to completely change the designs), just something I wanted to make note of.
As crazy as it may sound, you do NOT want to spend a night with her.
There's one final thing I'd like to talk about, a simple question: Should this film have been made? What I mean, is Eden of the East ended on a open ended note, it could have ended right there, or they could have continued it. Now that they've chosen to continue, I asked myself if they made the right call. I think they did, after some thought. Eden of the East had so many fascinating ideas and potential, and to me it felt like the show only scratched the surface. By the end, the game was still going on, many Selecao were still out there, and the fate of the country was still up in the air. So in the end, I'm excited by the fact they continued it rather than leaving it where it was, because if King of Eden is any indication, they still have plenty more cool places they can take this story and these characters.
King of Eden may not throw enough curveballs to change the Eden plot the as much as I'd like, it's still a worthy continuation of the story. The plot stays interesting, the characters likable, and the presentation high quality, all wrapped up in a better structured story than the show often delivered. Even in movie form, Eden of the East is still worth watching.