2009 in anime: #9 erf ~ a tale of head-scratchings.

by Grungi

(Fourth post in the “12 days in anime” 2009 project led by Mega Megane Moé. Other participating blogs include Shameful Otaku Secret!, Continuing World, Fighting for Nippon!, We love maids., Bokutachi no BLOG, Anime Profiling, Desu ex Machina, Blogging about Anime, I Will Show You Terror in a Handful of Flans, Pontifus, Open Your Mind, ∑Xce7ion, Ganbatte Forever!, Mikotoism, wat u say, Memories of Eternity, Simplicity, Gabrielino Anime Club, UNMEI KAIHEN, Nigorimasen!, Mainichi Anime Yume and We Remember Love)

I already mentioned last year the fact that I like anime that screw with my head. The more I’m completely lost, trying to grasp the meaning behind all that is happening, the more I usually like the show. Not to say I can’t enjoy a simple show, that would be very far from the truth, but I need my regular fix of convoluted storytelling or symbolism.

It’s a good thing that I don’t actually scratch my head when I don’t understand something and ask myself questions, because I would probably be bald by now.

Of course, there is this other way some series make you “scratch your head”. The way that makes you go silent for a bit, because of the sheer “WTF” power they hold. In general, those two kind of head-scratching aren’t shared by the same anime. Or at least they don’t intend to, even though on a personal level, you can switch from the “OMG this is complex” to the “OMG this is dumb” if a show exceeds your tolerance.

But anyway. Let today’s reminiscence take us back to an anime that managed to merge the two kinds of head-scratching, and which had one of the weirdest first episodes ever.

An by that I mean Eden of the East.

Eden of the East and its first episode already appeared on several other lists of moments accross the anime blogosphere, but with good reasons.

The previews had hinted at a pure mystery/thriller series, on the whole quite serious. And as you sat in front of that infamous first episode, you were greeted by a young man running around Washington naked. And making fun of/using that state to boot ! I guess many viewers won’t be able to look at someone called Johnny anymore…

Yet, in between all the crazy antics of that young man (and the girl that follows him), the foundations of the plot are laid down. And at the end of the packed 25-or-something minutes, you want more. At least I wanted more, that’s for sure. But more of what ? When does Eden of the East exactly goes from being an “WTF” show to becoming a gripping story ?

I don’t really know when, but it sure does. For one, the plot is complex, yet easy to follow. I spent a lot of time pondering each protagonist’s intentions, but never did I struggle to remember who did what. Which is the good way to go for a “complex” plot. Then, the characters, without being masterpieces or the most rememberable ever, are very well developped. It didn’t take long for me to care about them, and it will be a delight to join them again in the conclusion of their adventures. Because Eden of the East is concluded by two movies that are supposed to bring an end to the plot which ends on a cliffhanger (of course, they want people to buy tickets for the movies, what were you thinking ?). The first movie aired at the end of last month, while the other has not been released yet.

I suppose that one Eden of the East’s strength is that it manages to stay focused on its characters and their “normal” side even when they’re thrown into events of epic proportions. It doesn’t let go of its lightheartedness even when “the plot thickens”. And that is something I really appreciated from this series. If you take Mai-HiME for instance, once it starts its descend into despair-land, it’s powerful, but the silly beginnings are but a thing of the past. The change is irreversible, and may seem a bit too overdramatic for some.

By mixing different “moods” throughout the whole series, Eden of the East becomes more than the sum of its parts. And it creates many memorable moments along the way. I could easily have chosen the epicness of Akira shooting down missiles, the silent understanding when he takes Saki with him on the boat, or half a dozen great scenes, but what the heck, I guess episode 1 just takes the cake with its completely over-the-top weirdness.

And I couldn’t leave without touching on the “technical part” of this show. The animation is top-notch, the backgrounds are detailled and the character designs are awesome. The ending also deserve a special mention, and I recommend everyone to watch it, if only for the excellent song by school food punishment, a band I can’t say enough good of. Also, it’s probably the first show where I hear native english speakers playing the parts of American characters in a Japanese anime. A nice touch, even if the voice actors aren’t particularly good.

Well, there you go, the 9th moment of 2009: the crazy start of very, very intriguing show.