Andrew Osmond searches for hidden links in Eden of the East
Production IG’s political-romantic-comedy-thriller-borderline-SF saga Eden of the East concludes – perhaps! – on November 21st with the film Paradise Lost. Continuing the story from the King of Eden film and the preceding 12-part TV series, it sees protagonists Akira and Saki return to Tokyo for the last acts in the game to “save” Japan. There are bonus prizes on offer, like Akira’s backstory, and perhaps even the unmasking of the game’s enigmatic sponsor. In keeping with Eden’s copious cinephile references, here’s a clue for you; think Martin Scorsese.
If you’re chewing over the plot, bear in mind that one of the deep conflicts in modern Japan – perhaps even more so than in other countries – is between the old and the young, especially in the workplace. Japanese society had a terrible shake this March, but many of the country’s youth still perceive Japan Inc. as run by entrenched old men – the “gerontocracy” denounced at the end of the TV series. But Paradise Lost is complex enough to contain multitudes; stay around for a vital last scene after the credits, which up-ends what’s gone before.
Some viewers may complain that a few big questions remain unanswered, especially about Akira’s tendency to flush his own memories as casually as a Star Wars droid; though it’s arguable that his reasons are implicit in Eden’s central theme of a pure-hearted hero playing humanity’s most corrupt power games. But there’s another question left hanging at the film’s end, one that was set up at the very start of the story.
In the second TV episode, there was a passing reference to a plane crash in which a 6-year old boy and girl were the sole survivors. Now, bear in mind that Eden of the East is the creation of Kenji Kamiyama, who also directed Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex… and that in the second series of SAC, we learned that Motoko Kusanagi survived a plane crash as a child, together with a little boy. Is this just a tease, or an indication that the changing Japan of Eden is actually the same world as Stand Alone Complex, only a few decades earlier? If you’re not sold, then consider Eden’s dulcet-toned A.I. “Juiz,” voiced by the same actress as the ever-evolving Tachikoma robots in SAC…
Interviewed last year, Kamiyama seemed slightly cagey about whether Eden had finally ended, though he said that Paradise Lost concluded the “save Japan” game. The mind boggles at the prospect of a series bridging Eden and SAC, though any such venture would presumably need the blessing of Masumune Shirow, creator of the original Ghost in the Shell. Then again, Shirow seems happy to see very different interpretations of his world running in parallel, from the Salinger-inflected themes of Stand Alone Complex, to the art-house musings on dogs and dolls in the Innocence movie.
If you’re interested in following Kamiyama’s criss-crossing motifs, then watch his fantasy series Moribito Guardian of the Spirit, which features another steel-strong woman warrior who physically resembles Kusanagi but has a quite different psychology. And then there’s Kamiyama’s current project, which is a fantastically glossy-looking movie remake of the vintage Cyborg 009 science-fiction manga by Shotaro Ishinomori. Just watch the trailer and see if it doesn’t remind you of something...
Eden of the East: Paradise Lost is out on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.