Eden of The East the Movie II: Lost Paradise – Review
Takizawa returns to Japan and hits the ground running. As he makes his final move against the Selecao, he fights to uncover the secrets of his mysterious past. The deck is stacked against him; he faces accusations of terrorism, and the truth behind his ties to the Primer Minister could be his undoing. Takizawa’s not the only one feeling the heat. Saki’s high-tech crew is in the crosshairs too—along with every citizen in the nation. Truly, this is it. Win or lose. Live or die. Either way, Mr. Outside’s game ends now. But just who is Mr. Outside? How did Takizawa become a pawn in the mastermind’s hidden plan?
Eden of the East has always remained a series that while superb in many regards, has seemed less that satisfying in terms of its directorial choices. With the television series ending on a rather disappointing note, and the with addition of the first film not really providing much in terms of solving many of the mysteries established throughout its predecessor, the final film would appear to be its saving grace in terms of effectively offering a solid resolution. Notwithstanding the fact that Eden of the East addresses many social issues that are prevalent within contemporary Japan—the problem of NEETs, terrorism and the youth specifically—the overall series has often times seems convoluted given its substantial cast of characters and intricate plot dynamics. For some viewers of the series, these decisions have lessened the impact that Eden of the East has had for offering a keen eye towards the societal and political issues faced by modern Japan today, but with many of its hindrances stemming from it awkward television series ending and the odd decision to retread common ground as seen in the first film.
As a fan of the television series despite its flaws, I was less than flattered by the approach director Kamiyama had taken in regards to the first film, The King of Eden. I would certainly go as far to say that the film was unnecessary as a theatrical extension of the television series and was deemed as an elongated television episode. While such a choice may not interfere with a viewer’s enjoyment, it doesn’t do entirely too much in terms of resolving much nor presenting any new ideas. In this regard, Paradise Lost has much to live up to in terms of wrapping up many of the unsolved mysteries that were present throughout the series and first film. And while Paradise Lost does accomplish this in many respects, it too falls into the similar trappings offered in the first film. Presenting a narrative as vast as the one proposed consistently throughout the television series, one should expect a proper resolution given the magnitude of the situations faced by these characters. With the focus of the film now being on the endeavors of Takizawa instead of Saki, the shift towards elaborating upon his past is essential for us as an audience to better understand him as a character and how he fits in relation to that of the plot. Kamiyama does this in a matter that both addresses Takizawa’s past—one of the primary motivations in the television series—but then surprisingly presents it as an irrelevant factor as it nears its conclusion.
This decision on part of Kamiyama just seems chosen as a way to lazily conclude a series that was conflicted in adequately addressing both its social critique of contemporary Japanese society and its substantial cast of characters. As an evolving series though, one can understand that focus would eventually shift from that of its characters towards that of the larger societal issues as it concludes, but the problem here is that Paradise Lost attempts to address both rather unsuccessfully. Most of the discourse on the social issues that contemporary Japan faces is allocated to segments of exposition that do little to expand the force behind the ideas that the discourse is offering. For example, while the series discusses the problem of NEETs (an acronym for those who are “Not in education, employment, or training”), it delegates it as a passable element of the plot that never really impacts the overall decisions of the characters. Considering the abstract social framework that is ascribed to the phenomenon of NEETs found within Japanese contemporary culture, there is an abundance of material in which Kamiyama could’ve utilized for the benefit of elaborating the scope of the series. While the issue of NEETs is just one of the many instances of social dilemmas explored throughout the film, Kamiyama just seems complacent in glossing over the importance of such issues for the sake of addressing the film’s characters. This is where the previous film, The King of Eden, could have provided an ample opportunity to implement some critique of its characters or social relevancies more effectively, thus allowing Paradise Lost to nicely conclude what remained.
Essentially—and this includes both the series and films—Eden of the East is a drama about looking into the dilemmas that face a modern society, but never providing a plausible solution towards them—even when it has a chance to do so. There are times within Paradise Lost where the focus remained intently on one or two characters, casting aside the remainder of the cast that were so prominently integral towards the plot in previous showings. One example of this is the proposed importance of the other Selecao within the television series, but here they don’t seem to factor much into the plot as the film progresses. This conflicts with the fact that the film also focuses intently on certain social aspects of modern Japan, but never providing much commentary on them. I understand that these issues are very difficult to address and suggest solutions for, but they just seem as though they are merely plot devices to cover up for the lack of character development throughout. I believe Kamiyama is correct in addressing such issues within his work, but it would appear that his execution of such ideas weren’t substantial enough to carry the remainder of the film. As such, Paradise Lost is a film that attempts to address and conclude every mystery found within its narrative, but in its wake leaves a void that might be disheartening to some viewers.
Since Eden of the East is a series that presents a rather serpentine outlook regarding its narrative, one would expect that a strong resolution would benefit the viewers’ appreciation for such directorial choices, but Kamiyama delivers a concluding film doesn’t seem to resonant much with the exceptional direction viewed in the television series. While the film presents the notion of Japan’s political and social ideologies shifting from that of the older generation to that of the younger generation—which again is a point Kamiyama reserves to that of scenes of expository dialogue—it’s simply far too late in the film to make much of an impact on the plot or characters. The vividly realized world that was envisioned in the television series is speedily brought to a close here, and in many respects is not what Eden of the East should deserve as a series of such creative presence. Similar to the first film, Paradise Lost is a work that could’ve effectively concluded the vast narrative that is Eden of the East, but instead sorely falls short in a majority of the key areas that would’ve made it a superbly momentous series, instead resorting to simply being a notable series for what ideas it strives to achieve.
Author: Miguel Douglas
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