Monday, 27 June 2011

東のエデン 劇場版 I+II / Higashi no Eden Gekijouban I+II / Eden of the East movies I+II: The King of Eden + Paradise Lost

I loved the Eden of the East anime series, but with a proviso – that the unfinished story would reach a satisfying resolution with the two movies that followed. Unfortunately, these two feature film sequels have not provided closure, nor more depth to its characters, nor even a visual spectacle. The ultimate feeling has been of two protracted episodes of the anime that stalled and went nowhere.

The first movie, The King of Eden, follows on from the slightly difficult situation left behind by the series: trying to direct all suspicion against the NEETs who helped him onto himself, Takizawa has once again erased his memory. However, he has also become something of a celebrity, the image of him pointing at the missiles iconic, making him seem like something of a revolutionary. The first part of the film is devoted to Saki searching for Takizawa, some false drama is created by another Seleção targeting the couple, and then the enigmatic number 1 decides that the best way to attain his ever-changing goals is to destroy everybody else’s Juiz supercomputers. The somewhat throwaway temporary antagonist ‘Johnny Hunter’ from the series saves Takizawa’s computer, and the film ends with Takizawa about to go back to Japan with his plan to become the country’s king – something Juiz might just be able to accomplish.

If all this sounds like half a film, it feels very much that way. There’s a lot of prevarication and not much action. The whole thing could easily have been truncated to half an hour, but instead is spun out. There’s not even much in the way of character development for anyone beside Saki, and if the viewer isn’t attached to her from the series, they’re likely never going to be, so it doesn’t feel too necessary. But of course, there is another film to come, another chance at resolution.

In Paradise Lost, the odd set-up finally comes to a head. Takizawa goes back to Japan, where he is considered either revolutionary or terrorist. Juiz has been leaking information that suggests he’s the illegitimate son of the ex-prime minister, with the undertones of him being groomed as a successor – as close as the computer can get him to being a ‘prince’, and then a king. He is immediately whisked off to be confronted by the wife of the ex-prime minister and lightly interrogated, Surprisingly, this sparks not an action-adventure where Takizawa becomes centre of attention for the world, but a slow quest for Saki to uncover who Takizawa’s parents are. Systematically, the film removes all interesting plot strands without developing them in an interesting way. Takizawa’s memories soon creep back, and Saki spends most of the film away from him, so the interesting direction the romance might have taken goes nowhere. The mysterious other seleção can do nothing, and the two most interesting antagonists end up taken out of the picture in a very artificial way at the end. And Takizawa’s loose plan is never revealed to be something that will manage to work brilliantly in the end. The final resolution is the desperate gasp of a writing team who need an ending, and the muddle of threats, gifts and misdirected social commentary not only doesn’t ring true for a second, but with its aftermath totally trivialises the previous explorations of younger and older generations, the social fears of Japan’s disaffected twenty-somethings and concepts of hereditary privilege within capitalist societies. It could all have been so interesting, but it was presented in such a pat, simplistic way.

The dénouement leaves things open for a final story or two, but after this, my enthusiasm has waned so much. I thought that the story would have links and parallels to King Lear. In the end, if anything, the ideas of the older generation bequeathing their kingdoms to the young could have been the seed for a fantastic story here; the fact that we had nothing but a shadow of it at the end reduced this to one of the biggest disappointments of recent years.

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