chaostangent

Why Eden of the East isn't for you - Part 3

The third and final part of why the Production I.G. produced, Kenji Kamiyama written and directed series, Eden of the East, isn't for you. Parts one and two are also available.

5. It's filled with subtleties and symbolism

The title is the first clue that all is not as it seems with Eden of the East, both a reference to the biblical Garden of Eden as well as the book by John Steinbeck (and subsequent movie adaptations) East of Eden, the series doesn't bludgeon the viewer with its metaphors or allegories, but that in itself makes it all the more tricky to discern its true intentions.

The most obvious parallels can be drawn with the well known Garden of Eden story, Akira representing Adam and Saki representing Eve (With Kuroha possibly being Lillith from the Jewish flavour of the story). The issue with this analogy is that beyond superficial similarities, there are no further parallels. Saki does not give in to temptation and lead Takizawa astray, if anything it is the other way around as Akira continues almost oblivious to Saki's overtures. The titular Eden of the East is affixed to the company set up by Kazuomi and includes the Eden image recognition program. The Eden moniker likely applies to the unsullied paradise-like nature of the company, set up by a NEET and employing similarly minded, young staff as seen in the movies.

Numeracy also seems to play a part with varying amounts of series specific concepts: twelve Seleção, eleven missiles, ten billion yen etc. The missiles fell on the 22nd November 2011 which in American date format is 11/22/11, a rather pleasant palindromic date. Ten missiles were originally fired, then subsequently the eleventh, ten billion yen is given to each Seleção and there are twelve selacos in all.

Even philosophy could be gleaned from many different areas, such as Akira's status as a tabula rasa at both the beginning of the series and the movies, essentially reincarnating himself and ensuring that his actions rather than his history define him. Or potential references to Plato's Allegory of the Cave with both Akira and Saki remarking that ongoing events seem like "a movie" as well as Akira's occasional descents into dreamscapes. This could also refer to the idea of modern youth's disconnect with reality. Even the different phrases that litter the openings to the series and movies hint at deeper meanings and implications.

Other small details are dotted around the series, such as the symbol of the sun atop Akira's mall indicating perhaps the light for the twenty thousand NEETs he gathers there, or the globe in Akira's mall "bedroom" that says "The World is Yours".

The list of potential references could go further, but the fundamental question is whether there is a method and reason to the allusions or whether they are simply another fascinating layer to an already onion-skinned production.

6. You're not Japanese

The most firebrand of arguments but one which underpins the phrase "Eden of the East isn't for you". The series is a social critique on a nation that, anecdotally, many feel has over-ripened with one of the most common media past-times to jump on the latest malady seen to be corrupting the nation from within. NEETs, hikkikomoi, an ageing population, political strife, an impotent self-defence force, slavish technological devotion, regression through rampant anthropomorphising, barbarians at the gates; none escape the series' cultural laser. It is an open letter from Kenji Kamiyama to a country and a culture which he, evidently, feels needs rectifying; and though he doesn't have an answer, he has a lot of ideas and tries to ask the right questions.

For people outside of Japan these are academic concerns at best; they do not, and in many ways cannot, fully grasp the influences and pressures that gave birth to Eden of the East; like describing what hearing is, it is impossible to fully convey the innate. The dual stories of exporting of twenty thousand NEETs to the United Arab Emirates and the Seleção's assigned task of "saving" Japan stem from Japanese problems. Those are just the grander narratives though, the sniping at idioms and grievances is relentless: how after days on a ship in cargo containers, almost every NEET goes first in hunt of their mobile phone instead of clothes, food or water; how the mobile phone is the centre of life now achieving everything from buying gum to finding friends; how Kazuomi setting up a business would label him an entrepreneur in the West but still a NEET in Japan; how even after Kazuomi's history, he still scorns his workers for leaving early.

The different Seleção's ways of solving the problem are equally tied to culture. Ryo, the perpetrator of the missile attacks, seeks a return to the militarism of post-war Japan when the threat of death was always close but the result was a unified and focused collective. Daiju turns this on its head by trying to unite the country through a grand terror attack; Jintaro sets Akira up as a commercial icon with focused merchandising much like modern idols; or Taishi's quest to film the "perfect" movie, though how this would fulfil Mr. Outside's stipulations is still unknown.

Rarely has an anime series suffused itself with so many subtle cultural pot-shots, enough to make the series an acerbic critique to some but pass others by unnoticed. That, fundamentally, is why Eden of the East isn't for you. Not an elitist or intellectual condescension but because the messages the series conveys are targeted at a specific collection of people that, like Eden, need to grow and take root from the bottom up to tackle the established order to change things for the better and, perhaps in the process, save Japan.

... What?

Responses to “Why Eden of the East isn't for you - Part 3”

  1. chaostangent

    Many thanks for everyone who has commented on these three Eden of the East posts. The level and quality of the responses and discourse has been well beyond anything I could have expected. I really appreciate everyone taking the time to respond with your thoughts and hope that this series of posts has at least been worth your time.

    Reply to chaostangent

  2. omo

    Thanks for writing.

    It's kind of sad when you finished with segment 2 I could have guessed this post just by extrapolating what you haven't said but should. Still, I agree with most of your points and Kamiyama himself asked this question during his stay in America summer this year: what do you see in Eden of the East? Why do you like it? To his western audience.

    And I think that's the question you should ask!

    Reply to omo

  3. A. Libuelles

    Thank you, as well, chaostangent for an interesting series of posts.

    Upon seeing your first post, I had originally thought of commenting to the effect of disagreeing with your arguments. I'm glad I didn't as I doubt my exceedingly rusty debating abilities would have been on par with the discourse found in the comments; as you noted some are quite well thought out and written.

    I am also glad of staying my hand previously as I cannot help but find now that your arguments over the course of this series, admittedly aside from your first, final points, and a couple of turns of phrase, could instead be construed as glowing praise for the series.

    Aside from this small point, I thank you again for an engaging, fresh look at a series which I thoroughly enjoyed when it was airing. Though I dare say I shall now have to revisit it in Blu-ray form to taste once more. Oh and, a bit late I know, but its good to have you 'blogging once more.

    Reply to A. Libuelles

  4. Taka

    Final post from a great trilogy that really should be read by those who have watched Eden and didn't enjoy it or just didn't "get" it. It certainly has given me second thoughts about the series and how I should approach it when I eventually rewatch it.

    Thanks for writing such great commentary.

    Reply to Taka

  5. Mystlord

    I think the more pertinent question with number 5 is whether the presence of such symbolism detracts from the series itself, and I don't think it does. Eden of the East is just as enjoyable if you don't understand some of the symbolism that's included in there, though you just miss out on a facet of understanding for the series.
    I think you hit 6 right on the head there, and I was expecting that one to pop up here :P

    Nice series of posts. I look forward to more ^^

    Reply to Mystlord

  6. kaei

    I just finished Eden of the East (just the 11 episode series, not the movies) since I saw this headline and felt like it would be a series right up my alley, and while it started off extremely promisingly, tightly plotted and intelligently written, it ended quite disappointingly. The series was not half as smart or complex as it thought it was, its view of societal conflicts and resolutions were immature, and due to possible time and money constraints they obviously stopped trying to "show" the story and just crammed as much exposition as they could in the end.

    In short, this series isn't for me not because any of the points you mentioned in your posts, but because this show wasn't nearly as deep as it tried to be, or could have been.

    Reply to kaei

  7. Solanin

    I didn't actually realize eden wasn't popular in the west. I enjoyed it at least and it all made sense to me. It was probably my second favorite anime last year. Bakemonogatari took first spot for me because I'm a huge fan of Nishio. Anyway, I suppose a lot of it does deal with the current social situation in Japan but some western fans may still be able to grasp what said social situation is. What your saying is the same as saying western fans are incapable of understanding NHK ni youkoso because it deals with hikkikomori. While there are certainly differences in reading about said situations and actually living them, this is the same kind of thing as stating that because you didn't live during the cold war in East Berlin you can't appreciate this novel set in said location. And I disagree. Perhaps, had one lived through these times said novel might resonate more and the same can be said for Eden. Much of the series conveys specific messages about the social situations of Japan and, thus, people who have lived there will have an at home understanding of the series. Since this article is more speaking to the general western audience it is certainly true. But I still think some of the western audience can grasp these situations or at least create their own understanding of them and can still enjoy the series. Your not Japanese; therefore, you cannot appreciate this series actually feels more annoying than elitist or intellectual condensation. Maybe that's just me? But then I did like the series so it was for me so maybe I should just use these points to help gain a better understanding of the series as a whole. Yeah probably. Well I'm done ranting now, thanks for the interesting article. ^^

    Reply to Solanin

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