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.
Fans of K-On! The Movie’s lovely and realistic vision of London may not be aware that in between that film and Steamboy’s loving depiction of a steampunk-era Manchester and London rests a show that is as accurate as either, and yet is also arguably the most English anime show ever made. Yet it still cannot be bought on DVD in the UK itself.
The Net is vast, Major Motoko Kusanagi reflects more than once across the multiple versions of Ghost in the Shell. So, indeed, are franchises. Ghost in the Shell has been going twenty-five years, and seems capable of renewing itself for at least as long again.
Jasper Sharp on the anthology movie currently touring the UK
There have been three Japanese works nominated in the Academy Awards category for Best Animated Short Film over the past ten years or so: Koji Yamamura’s Mt. Head (2002), Kunio Kato’s The House of Small Cubes (2008) – so far the country’s only winner – and most recently Shuhei Morita’s Possessions (2013). For all that, it remains pretty difficult for most viewers who aren’t regulars on the specialised festival circuit to catch such examples of cutting-edge animation.
Spoilers for part one ahead, as Andrew Osmond gets timey-wimey
The show’s finale is squarely in anime traditions, combining heartfelt child-parent reunions, a boy’s resolution to ‘lift the curse’ of his origins, and an orgasmically explosive deus ex machina that lets a character write the end he wants – one that happens to have shades of another Gainax anime classic, Gunbuster. There’s fanservice for you!
Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.
Helen McCarthy reviews Mami Sunada’s Ghibli documentary
Show, don't tell: the mantra of every writer and film-maker, and a particular challenge in documentary film. Every work has its own agenda, hidden or not: for director-writer-cinematographer-editor Mami Sunada, the challenge was immense. And she rises to it with unobtrusive magnificence.
The acclaimed anime born from a controversial manga
Produced for Fuji TV’s late-night, more adult-focused noitaminA slot by the legendary Production I.G, the 2011 anime could have been a disaster, with a first-time screenwriter in charge, a senior staffer debuting as director and a vocal fanbase awaiting it. Instead...
Jonathan Clements on Jackie Chan and the Garden of Gardens
Jackie Chan’s films have often smuggled in the odd political nudge and wink behind the tomfoolery, but Chinese Zodiac puts it all front and centre. Rather nobly, it shies away from issues of race or one-sided nationalism, making greed itself the great unifier – ensuring that Europeans and Chinese can be found on both sides of the battle.