Eden of the East: Movie 2 – Paradise Lost Review
Arriving at its conclusion after an 11-episode series and two feature length films, Eden of the East doesn’t so much step up the pace and action in Paradise Lost – as you would expect a typical anime series to do – as much as close it down. It’s almost like a reversal of type, where it was the earlier episodes of the series that offered unlimited scope as the nature of Akira Takizawa’s memory-loss and the scale of the activities of Mr Outside and the Seleção became apparent, the series taking in events of potentially global importance from Washington to Tokyo. If the series ends then by closing off these avenues, it’s nothing to do with running out of steam or an admission of defeat, but rather a reflection of how life operates, and particularly in this case how it relates to the young people in Japan who are at the centre of the storyline.
Little of this will mean anything if you haven’t already viewed the previous 11-episode series and the first feature length part of the conclusion, The King of Eden. In summary however, Takizawa is a Seleção, one of twelve ordinary citizens who have been selected by a mysterious individual known as Mr. Outside, and charged with coming up with a solution to the crisis facing Japan. Given ten-billion yen to spend and a special mobile phone, there is a concierge at the end of it, Juiz, who will attempt to carry out whatever instructions they are given, no matter how bizarre the request. What is meant by the crisis facing Japan however is left up to the Seleção to interpret. Inevitably, some use the money to further their own personal interests and obsessions, while others set about solving the crisis by dangerously direct methods, one even creating a missile crisis as a way of drawing the attention of the nation to the threat that faces them. Potentially just as dangerous however is the in-fighting that develops between the Seleção, each of them battling for supremacy, countermanding the instructions of the others in order to win the challenge they have been set.
Even with all the high conspiracy drama going on throughout the series and the extreme behaviour of one or two Seleção, Eden of the East has however always been about the little people – the NEETS, the youth of Japan, the new generation who feel disenfranchised and treated like outsiders by an old conservative ruling establishment out of touch with the realities of the modern world and Japan’s place within it. In many ways, Paradise Lost brings everything back down to earth, scaling these huge concepts down to a more personal and human level. On that level, the fundamental question of how to face the crisis that the nation faces is brought down precisely to the opposing views of humanity expressed by the two Seleção, Number 1 and Number 9 – the two candidates most likely to bring about the change. For Number 1, it’s a mistake to take into consideration the selfish interests of a cynical population, who need strong decisive new leadership to bring about change. For Number 9, it’s important that they are treated as people, with families, lives and genuine concerns who deserve to have their voice heard.
That still treats the subject at a somewhat notional and theoretical level, but through Takizawa, Paradise Lost aims to tackle those questions more directly. There is an attempt made to explore at the personal background of the enigmatic and charismatic figure of Takizawa, who at this stage is believed to be the illegitimate son of the former Prime Minister. Whether that is true or whether it’s just a fabrication of the immensely powerful and far-reaching activities of the Juiz concierge service, makes for an interesting twist, but the identity of his parents proves to be less important as a driving force than his actual early experience of life. It’s no coincidence then that Takizawa has already had his memory wiped twice in the series, creating a blank slate that enables him to look at things freshly and with a different outlook from those who can’t see beyond the limits of the prevailing social order that dictates how things are “supposed” to be done.
Eden of the East’s exploration of these issues through Takizawa leads it to conclude that it can only be the ordinary people with creativity and ingenuity – like the NEETS and the Eden of the East team, with their fresh ideas and new outlook – who can change direction and save the nation by wiping the slate clean and starting again. It’s not surprising then that such an extreme response is viewed with suspicion by the establishment and even considered as “terrorism”, and the series even takes that question of whether to build on what we have or destroy society and start anew as a serious option. It’s the humanitarian view of Takizawa however that prevails, and his strange actions at the end of the movie here sum up his position with regards to the people of Japan and their ability to pull themselves out of the crisis they face. It comes down to one word. Trust.
That’s perhaps not the kind of ending one might have expected or hoped for from an anime series, treating its subject realistically rather than just blowing everything up at the end (although, as I say, that was definitely an option considered here), which might suggest that the second feature-length conclusion of Eden of the East is something of a disappointment, or at least lacking in drama and tension. It’s certainly not a series that is full of the usual anime action and adventure – although there are certainly plenty of explosive moments and tense stand-offs that occur over the whole series – but rather the series, and particularly the feature length films, are treated more like live-action features. Production I.G’s art design for the series has been amazing throughout. It’s not particularly flash, it’s rather static and lacking in dynamic movements but it’s perfectly suited to this more naturalistic approach, and always attractive to look at. The character designs are strong, and characters with a real sense of humanity are essential for the purpose of the story. You have to believe that they represent real people, as much as you have to believe that their actions and motivations are played out credibly and realistically, and everything comes together perfectly in service of the story. Not a typical ending then, but definitely the right one.
Eden of the East: Movie 2 – Paradise Lost is released by Manga Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray. The Blu-ray disc, reviewed here in BD50 checkdisc format, is presumably Region B locked, but hasn’t been tested for other region compatibility. The disc is encoded at 1080/24p.
As with the previous releases of the original series and the first feature film The King of Eden, both image and sound quality are impeccable. The film is presented with an intentional diffused softness and lightness of colouration that is in keeping with the content and it comes across beautifully in the transfer. There is not much detail and not too much movement in the animation for the most part, but the full range of tones are evident in the more deeply saturated night-time scenes and the CG animation sequences have a wonderful smooth fluidity, blending in well with the overall look. This transfer is every bit as good as it should be. Japanese and English language audio tracks are provided, both are Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I didn’t listen to the English dub, but the Japanese track is subtle and naturalistic.
Subtitles are white and in a thin font with no real border, so they can be quite difficult to read in places. Attempting to be as complete as possible, the captions translating phone text messages can be difficult to follow, but there are considerably less of them in this particular film.
Extras include a US Cast Commentary, which I didn’t listen to, and a Director Visual Commentary which I sampled. Using Eden of the East-style overlays on top of a full-length English subtitled version of Paradise Lost, there appears to be some interesting comments and facts imparted by director Kenji Kamiyama. (Although 1080/24p, the quality here doesn’t match the actual feature, the slightly juddering image suggesting a standards conversion of some kind). Interestingly, the overlay captions can be switched between Japanese and English through the subtitle button. At the end of this feature, after the film, there is a 5-minute interview with the director, where he discusses the creation of Takizawa and his thoughts on the conclusion of the series. The remainder of the features are all standard issue – a Movie 2 Preview, TV Spot, Series 1 Trailer, Movie 1 Trailer, Movie 2 Trailer, and Trailers for other Manga Entertainment releases.
Eden of the East is clearly one of the most ambitious anime series for years, tackling very relevant social issues, as well as raising philosophical and moral questions about the rapidly changing modern society we live in and how we can better adapt to it. Other anime series would more typically find this topic a good excuse for plunging the storyline into an apocalyptic science-fiction drama, but Kenji Kamiyama takes a more considered approach, balancing the probabilities and the realities of human nature, with less cynicism about the self-destructive urges that other writers find in the Japanese people, while at the same time finding a thrilling means of exploring those concepts through the premise of the Seleção. As the concluding feature, Eden of the East: Movie 2 – Paradise Lost manages to resolve many of the outstanding issues of the series exceptionally well. It might not have all the answers to hand and might not deliver the big bang, but following its premise and the nature of its characters through realistically, it clearly points to an optimistic direction where those answers can be found.