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Eden of The East the Movie I: The King of Eden – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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The deadly game that began in Japan now intensifies on the streets of New York City. The rules are the same: Do whatever it takes to win. Die if you lose. Takizawa prevented Japan’s destruction—and then he vanished. Six months later, clues lead Saki to the Big Apple in search of her missing friend. Meanwhile, the remaining Selecao are plotting their final move. Some of them would prefer Takizawa dead and out of the way. Some might even be willing to help him achieve his goals. Unfortunately, some are prepared to destroy everything of it mean claiming checkmate in Mr. Outside’s puzzling game.

While director Kenji Kamiyama’s Eden of the East television series was considered a technical feat in almost every sense of the phrase, the series also faltered under its own ambitious intentions. With a plot that explored the political and social landscapes of a modern Japan, it became increasingly noticeable as series progressed that while these elements of the plot were sufficient in bringing a socially-conscious look into a contemporary Japanese society—and in many instances, a worldly outlook—it became entirely too convoluted for it own good. Events transpired that made very little sense, character motivations were lazily explained and the absurdity of some of their choices rounded out a series that was technically sound, but lacking in providing a coherent plot and resolution. What this decision inevitably produced was an ending that needed to be resolved through the likes of a film(s), wherein the plot dynamics that were introduced within the series were to be adequately brought to a close. With the series running only 11-episodes in length, this was too be a significant problem considering that one would have to essentially watch the film(s) to get any logical conclusion, a move I felt was rather distasteful and overly ambitious on the part of Production I.G. and Kamiyama. But here we are with Eden of The East the Movie I: The King of Eden, a film that is the first of two films concluding the Eden of The East saga, and in may respects could’ve have easily been integrated into the television series.

Going into the film, I was surprised to view the elaborate display of real world politics and social dilemmas that were explored within the original series once again brought back into the fold. These elements remain one of the most interesting aspects of Eden of The East as a series, with The King of Eden returning towards addressing such issues as the youth of Japan, terrorism and the current state of the world. While these are elements that are deemed appropriate considering the grounded premise of the story, The King of Eden looks more intently into our modernized society—and its ills—even more so than the original series did. Working as the backdrop towards the plot, it’s very interesting to see Kamiyama address such issues in a manner that isn’t too far removed from our very own current globalized climate. While certainly more miniscule in its attention towards looking specifically at Japan, the film offers a wider dialogue on the current state of global affairs through the societal condition of Japan, with Kamiyama seemingly advocating towards resolving some of the problems plaguing our world through Takizawa’s endeavors. While the film is heavy on the exposition in this regard, it once again returns towards developing a world in which we as viewers can find relatable in some fashion and not too far alienated from the perspectives that the characters expressed throughout the original series.

While I do appreciate these finer examinations of contemporary Japanese society throughout the film, once The King of Eden directs its attention towards its characters and their troublesome quandaries, the film—like the original series—isn’t entirely too clear on explaining what is exactly going on. Many of the characters within the film are given little-to-no involvement in the larger scheme of affairs and are simply deemed as superficial extensions of the plot leftover from the original series. Yes, they are given more screen time and presence this time around, but their actions are once again too obscure for the viewer to truly understand their motives. Considering that the plot is incredibly dense in this regard, this may be understandable, but the film also doesn’t designate much towards advancing its plot in considerable fashion. With the character of Saki being more of the central character within the film, she is not nearly as engaging to watch compared to that of Takizawa. As a more focal character within the original series, Takizawa was viewed as an individual with an intriguing past and ideology, which in turn created the suspense needed to keep the show interesting to watch as a viewer. With the film following the endeavors of Saki, the plot established in the television series is drastically underutilized as the majority of the film is dedicated towards her searching for Takizawa. This doesn’t necessarily address many of the serious issues raised within the original series, with Kamiyama seemingly determined to prolong providing any satisfying conclusion until the next film. This direction was viewed in the likes of original series as well, in which the ending didn’t necessarily resolve much that was covered in the preceding episodes. One shouldn’t expect a solid conclusion given the fact that this film is the first of two films, but elaborating on the plot would have greatly improved the storyline of the original series and provide at least some warranted insight.

What ultimately comes to fruition is that the premise of The King of Eden is somewhat of a retreading of the television series pertaining to its narrative structure. There really is not that much that happens within the film that wasn’t already accomplished in the original series, which perhaps makes the film less interesting than its predecessor. In fact, the film is more akin to an elongated episode from the original series more than anything else, which may or may not be favorable to every viewer. While the film follows such a path, I feel that so much could’ve been addressed to resolve the various plot dynamics addressed within the original series. With the decision to allow the character of Saki to take the lead here, it’s interesting to see that her character gets a substantial amount to time to showcase her development as a character. One can’t deny that the original series consisted mostly of the Takizawa’s search for his memory, with Saki following his lead. Seeing that her situation is neither as desperate nor as interesting as Takizawa’s, having the film primarily following her may aggravate some viewers, but it does admittedly provide some new direction—even if the many elements of the plot remained unresolved by the ending of the film.

As a sequel the original series though, The King of Eden is conflicted in what it wants to achieve. With the cliffhanger ending of the original series, which left us at a crucial moment in the development of its characters and plot, one would expect the film to offer some answers to the many questions explored throughout the original series—which is sadly doesn’t. How does this choice play in the grand scheme of things? Since the plot of The King of Eden could’ve easily been addressed within the final episodes of the series, dedicating an entire film to essentially an extended episode may seem as a shortcoming on part of director Kenji Kamiyama and the Production I.G. staff. Besides the obscured direction of the narrative, the film still remains a visual treat. All the technical elements that culminated into making Eden of The East such a memorable television series are present within The King of Eden—whether for its aesthetic values or uniquely designed characters, its sustainability as a promising technical achievement in animation is ever present. But while those elements do indeed complement the series, the film also carries over the rather perplexing nature of the plot of it predecessor without successfully providing very much supplement towards addressing such plot issues. Viewers of the series may find this rather confusing, which inevitably makes The King of Eden a film that like the television series in which it stems from, is excessively efficient in its technical prowess but leaves much to be desired in terms of its plot.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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