Eden of the East: Paradise Lost, the second full length spin-off of the popular political conspiracy anime, sees the many loose plot threads of the series and the first film tied up in a largely resolute manner. But for anyone unfamiliar to this series, this film is not the place to start.
Eden of the East is set in an alternative present-day world. A group of 12 people have been given the task of saving Japan, using a ten billion yen budget. Each of the 12, called the Selecao, has access to special phone operators called the Juiz, who can carry out the wishes of a group member for a portion of that person’s budget. What follows is a game of intrigue and double-crossing, which tries to critique modern Japan at the same time as entertaining the audience with plot twists and deepening character arcs.
Starting immediately after the end of the first film, Paradise Lost begins with the main protagonists, Akira Takizawa and Saki Morimi, on board a plane to Japan. Arrested by the authorities on arrival, it isn’t long before Akira breaks out of captivity to continue his quest to save Japan, bringing him into conflict with fellow Selecao member and antagonist, Mononobe. The plot moves at a taut pace, doling out developments in a careful, deliberate way; resisting the temptation to pile twist upon convoluted twist. Without at least some grounding in the characters and context of the story, however, viewers will be scratching their heads, as no time is given to exposition of prior events.
The film, like the series, follows in the same mould as the Mamoru Hosoda’s 2009 film Summer Wars; in creating a world which can both be threatened and kept at peace by emerging technologies. In both stories, young people act as the guardians of the physical world, but their digital battlefronts turns what is a serious war into a videogame. The title itself, Eden of the East, refers to a social networking service which assimilates information about the world into its database. Both Summer Wars and Eden of the East seem to embrace and question this brave new technological frontier, suggesting the younger generation is capable enough of staving off disaster. Conspiracy theories and future technology are not unfamiliar topics for director Kenji Kamiyama, who has worked on Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex series and Patlabor. And like those notable series, Eden of the East neatly poses questions through the development of its characters and their world.
While it seems to lack the lavish budgets of some anime films, such as the recent Redline, the quality of the film shines through in the fluidity of the animation, making it look more like an expensively made series. Production IG impresses again with a pastel colour palette and a softly-drawn characters. The character designs are, thankfully, not generic. Their appearance seems influenced by Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli style of drawing. It gives the animation a nice twist, without looking too eccentric for the contemporary setting and plot.
While the story lacks the panache of Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, Eden of the East 2 remains an enjoyable rollercoaster with an ending that concludes the story nicely. For fans of the series, this film, along with the first, is essential viewing. For all others, begin with the series first.
Words> Adam Gaudry