Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East): the best conspiracy 10 billion yen can buy

Boy meets Girl.

Here is an anime whose plot is like a ripoff out of a Robert Ludlum novel: On November 22, 2010 ten missiles strike Japan. However, this unprecedented terrorist act, later to be called “Careless Monday,” does not result in any apparent victims, and is soon forgotten by almost everyone. Fast forward three months later, a guy wakes up in Washington D.C. with no memory. He is stark naked, he has a gun in his right hand and a phone on his left – a mobile phone charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash. Who is he, really?

Jason Bourne has an anime lovechild.

This is not your typical anime series.

Higashi no Eden opens with Saki Morimi on a graduation trip in the United States. She takes a detour and heads to Washington DC where she makes it a personal mission to throw a coin to the White House fountain. Problem is, the fountain is several feet away from her, there is a huge iron gate in between her and the fountain, and it is the White House. But she endearingly tries so we forgive the absurdity. This sentiment is however, lost on the two burly policemen who has spotted her. They approach her and in the midst of her panic she is saved by a nudist with a gun and a cool cellphone.

yes, this scene had me going “WTF!?”

i think all three of them had the same reaction too.

Grateful for having saved her, Saki lends the man whose only cover is a distracting white squiggly moving lines  her coat, he accepts it and leaves. It would have been her last meeting with him, but as belated realizations would have it, her wallet and passport are in her coat. Saki ends up chasing him who has, because of his cellphone, now found his apartment.

It is a charming opening scene. But when we later see the numerous passports the man has in his apartment, the number of weapons he has, his highly specialized cellphone that is connected to a computer who calls herself ‘Juiz’ (Portuguese word for ‘Judge’), his suspicious looking documents, how easily he blew an entire room by using a toaster, and how he can effortlessly dodge the police, the show is quick to remind us that this is a mystery thriller. And so when Saki finally catches up with him and asks him his name, he takes one of the names in his passports and says ‘Akira Takizawa’. And we wonder, who is Akira Takizawa?

Higashi no Eden boasts, among others, the best opening episode I have ever seen in an anime series. NihonReview said it best when they wrote: “When it’s done right, the mystery genre can produce some of the most absorbing and unique stories in anime. Eden of the East is a fine example of the mystery genre done right, and it’s utterly captivating from its first few minutes. ” Indeed, it proves to be a remarkable original, never once diminishing its quiet charm and charisma, its sweet innocence and subtle humor as the story progresses. We smile at the not-quite-friendship friendship between Akira and Saki, and we smile over the other supporting characters as well: Saki’s friends and family, Akira’s allies and even his enemies.

Production I.G., the studio that brought us anime series such as Ghost in the Shell, Blood+, and FLCL, has never failed to give us quality-driven shows. It continues to do so now. Feature it with Chika Umino’s (Honey and Clover) character designs and you’ve got an unlikely match made in heaven. Generally, the mystery thriller genre can never be perfectly mixed with the words ‘charisma’ and ‘sweet innocence’ but in Higashi no Eden it takes an exception and mixes them in a way that no one has successfully done before. Its character designs reminds us that these are well-meaning characters with a heart and Production I.G. was finally able to do what it had tried to do before: give us characters with such humanism it is impossible to not like or soften up to them. Its visuals is, in one word, disarming.

Higashi no Eden is one of the best anime series I’ve seen. As the story progresses, it strives to be more than just a mystery thriller that could be straight from a Ludlum novel. As it mirrors the daily realities of current events of our world we see that it struggles for political and social significance. It is one of the very few anime out there laden with movie references and parodies, most notable of which is when Akira imitates Taxi Driver‘s infamous line “You talkin’ to me?” and at one point, he even has a poster with the phrase “The World is Yours” (Scarface) printed on it. It is a smart anime.

Noel Gallagher. Oasis. Seeeeeeeeeeeeee.

… Aaannd its opening song is “Falling Down” by the Oasis. (I don’t know about you but that garners plus points for me.)

Later, we are introduced to the very core of the series’ plot: the 12 Selecao (Portuguese for ‘Selected’) (Akira is the 9th). Who are they? What is their connection with these missile attacks? Are they terrorists? If not, then why do they each have 10 billion yen in digital cash? Who is Juiz? Who is Mr. Outsider?

What is going on?

– A good question that sprouts more questions. It takes eleven episodes and two movies to answer each of them. But as NihonReview puts it: “My only major complaint can almost be seen as a good thing: with the hanging ending, comes confirmation that there’s still more to come.”

the cooool Selecao cellphone that answers with a “This is Juiz and I will be your conscierge.” And ends with a “Noblesse Oblige. Please continue being a messiah.” I want one.

akira takizawa and saki morimi

 

A line from Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar, “The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” behind the icons of the 12 Selecao . In other words, there’s a connection.

.: I believe I once quickly ranted about Higashi no Eden and promised to do a review. well self, here it is.

Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East)

 
 

“The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” – William Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar

 

A guy wakes up in Washington D.C. with no memory, stark naked, with a gun in his right hand and a phone on his left – a mobile phone charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash.

Jason Bourne has an anime lovechild.

Higashi no Eden: The best conspiracy ten billion yen can buy.

  1. I love the story. Best opening episode I have ever seen.
  2. I love the characters.
  3. I love the art style.
  4. I love the Oasis opening song. (The fact that the song was sung by Oasis is amazing by itself.)
  5. I love the Selecao phone.
  6. Somehow, the show has quite an interest in johnnies. (‘Johnny-Taker’. “My johnny gave you a reply.”) 

I feel like I there’s nothing more to say. The fact that it’s The Bourne Identity‘s lovechild is more than enough to make me watch it.

But I love it so much I can’t help but put this comment from NihonReview:

When it’s done right, the mystery genre can produce some of the most absorbing and unique stories in anime. Eden of the East is a fine example of the mystery genre done right, and it’s utterly captivating from its first few minutes. However, as the story evolves, it not only becomes more intricate, it also strives for relevance, making commentaries on politics, society and the corporate structure in Japan. All this is done with production values that are simply gorgeous: the animation is technically proficient, but Umino Chika’s character designs also lend it a quality of sweet charm and charisma. My only major complaint can almost be seen as a good thing: with the hanging ending, comes confirmation that there’s still more to come.

P.S.: I’d like to write an actual  review after a few daysweeksmonthsnear future one day. My laziness stops me from writing further than a note.

Amelie Poulain, she’ll change your life

“Amelie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many people are having an orgasm right now?”

This was my introduction to french movies. And it was smart, funny, memorable. It was lighthearted, witty, charming, absurd, ridiculous. It was each and every one of those.

Amelie Poulaine is a heroine apart from the rest. She takes pictures of bunny clouds and when she finds old letters on the floor of her apartment, she meddles, schemes and helps. When she sees the old man who wrote those letters happy by what she had secretly done, she promises herself to make everyone happy. And so Amelie becomes a secret matchmaker, a guardian angel, and an adorable meddler to the people in her life. Nobody knows this, save for that painter she has befriended. She delights in her meddlesome ways, she likes how she helps people.

She delights in this so much that when she sees a man who takes discarded photographs from a photo booth, she is intrigued. The second time she sees him she left behind a photo album. We know she’s smitten when she takes it. Amelie realizes this too, but she doesn’t quite know what to do about it. And we see how much she doesn’t know what to do with it during the rest of the movie.

Amelie is quirky, and we are offered an equally quirky love story. And it is quite unforgettable. Do you know the song ‘I Knew I Loved You Before I Met You’ by Savage Garden? I think this song fits the movie quite quite well.

Miss You Like Crazy (kasi masaya ako pag kasama kita)


“I can’t take all the pain that I’ve caused you. But if you will just let me, i will spend the rest of my life making it up to you.”

If someone were to ask me what I remember most about this movie, I would say, partly to scandalize them, partly as a joke, and partly as the truth, “Hagdang-hagdang kahalayan.” (Let’s all be honest, it was among the most forward of love scenes Filipino movies have dared to do. And I still wonder how comfortable that was.)

The movie opens with Allan Alvarez (John Lloyd Cruz) cruising the now-clean Pasig River. He sees Mia Samonte (Bea Alonzo) but he pays no mind. The second time he sees her he is intrigued. The third time he does, he plays the hero and she slaps him in the face. And so they met. And it was love. It was a whirlwind romance. But they are so perfect for each other, they’re happy being with each other, and he has been living with his long-time girlfriend, Daphne Recto (Maricar Reyes). Mia finds out and she distances herself. Or at least she tried to. They had a magnetic attraction, the movie makes sure the audience can’t blame them for what happened in the stairs. Confused, Allan is made to choose (“Isa lang ang puso mo, dapat isa lang ang laman nyan. Kailangan mamili ka. Pero pag namili ka, tiyak may masasaktan. Kung di ka naman mamimili, dalawa silang sinasaktan mo.”) Allan promises Mia he’ll choose her, he promises himself as well. But he never does and we wonder what happened.

Years later, Allan arrives in Malaysia. He knows Mia works there. He still loves her. She still loves him. But he’s hurt her, and she has a boyfriend.

We know this formula. We know how it ends, it ends with them together. We know what happens. Yet despite all that, the movie works. As one writer had pointed out, it’s not always the destination that counts, sometimes a movie works not because of its predictability, sometimes what matters is the journey. Miss You Lika Crazy works because it was delivered in such a way that makes it poignant, memorable, and angsty. It works because of how it was presented.

My favorite Filipino actor is John Lloyd Cruz. No, I don’t find him attractive, but man can he act. And contrary to most people I know, I prefer the John Lloyd-Bea pairing. Where others rely on one-liners worthy of being pick-up lines – John Lloyd and Bea does not. One look is all it takes. And that’s better because it’s more realistic.

I obviously love the movie. I cried halfway through it until it ended. I cried the whole time. I have branded this as my personal cryfest movie. Everytime I want to cry, Miss You Like Crazy never fails me. Although, I have to say, one thing that I didn’t like is its reliance on time and fate too much. Still in spite of that, the movie works. And it will be remembered.

Titanic – the king of the world

“Like a great iron Sphinx on the ocean floor, the Titanic faces still toward the West, interrupted forever on her only voyage.” – Roger Ebert

When I was a kid, I had watched Titanic on more times than I care to count or to even admit. It is not the best movie I ever saw, nor is it my favorite. Still, I liked it enough to watch it again and again. Maybe it was Leonardo di Caprio with his dirty blonde locks falling to piercing green eyes as he sketches. Maybe it was Kate Winslet with her vibrant eyes and auburn curly hair. Maybe it was that iconic scene where he draws her, naked, save for that beautiful diamond. Maybe it was their tryst in that car. Maybe it was them both. Maybe it was everything. Maybe it was their love story, suspended by an iceberg in the freezing Atlantic sea, and continued by death. Jack and Rose met and fell in love in the Titanic, they got separated in the Titanic, and they got together again in the Titanic. It was an epic romance.

But there was always something that makes me frown whenever I watch the movie. It would be years later when I find out what it is: it was the script.

I had a huge problem with the script. I did not enjoy the whole Jack!” “Kate!” “Jack!” “Kate!” line exchange. I have a pathological dislike for scripts requiring calling out lover’s names more than once followed by being reunited in each other’s arms. I found it cheap, and I still find it cheap now. I suspect that it was because of that horrendous script that a lot of my peers commented that Leonardo di Caprio can’t act. (I also entertain the idea that said comment was borne out of the fact that Leonardo di Caprio is a household name, forever attached with the word beautiful, and said peers are mostly boys.) Now we all know that cannot be true. He just didn’t shine in the movie. I blame the script.

But, apart from the script, Titanic transgressed the bounds of technical achievement. (James Cameron has such ambition.) It was a visual excellence at its most heightened. It was camera techniques and editing at their most superb.

Despite the many criticisms Titanic bears, no one can deny that Titanic is iconic. It made household names out of its two stars. It made a millionaire out of its director. It is among my most memorable epic romances. The movie wasn’t kidding when it made Jack Dawson proclaim “I am king of the world!”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button who was born under unusual circumstances

Young Benjamin Button, poised up in his wheelchair, replies “I’m eight, but I look older.” And indeed he is.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button should be applauded for its amazing script. And of course, the make-up. Heaven forbid we not mention the make-up, that magical ingredient which can turn Cate Blanchett older and Brad Pitt older and younger.

Decades ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a short story about a boy who was born old and died young. As the rest of the world grew older, Benjamin Button grew younger. F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, defied Mark Twain when he wrote that story. He also made the rest of the world think twice about wishing we age the other way around.

F. Scott Fitzgerald made me wonder what drug he was into when he wrote Benjamin Button. The movie made me wonder how incredibly lonely it must have been to live such a life.

But live Benjamin Button did. He lived life even more than most of us did. He had gone to brothels, traveled the world, met a lot of people, and fell irreversibly  in love.

Daisy: I figure you were born in 1918…49 years ago…I’m 43…we are almost the same age. We’re meeting in the middle.

Benjamin Button: We finally caught up with each other. Wait I wanna remember us just as we are now.

It is a truly beautiful story. It is heart wrenching, but it never tries to be. – And that is its greatest appeal. It has the ability to touch the hearts of the viewer even if you have not been paying attention to the movie for half an hour already. (You see, I think that its downside is that it was too long.)

Yes, I may have a problem with the fact that it was told in an I’ll-tell-you-a-story-listen-to-me way (like The Notebook), and that I felt like the part about the clockmaker was unnecessary, but overall The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was excellent. It was moviemaking at its best, and storytelling at its richest. In my opinion, it is Brad Pitt’s and Cate Blanchett’s best movie to date.

What a story. And what a beautiful script.

Benjamin Button: Some people, were born to sit by a river. Some get struck by lightning. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people, dance.

Benjamin Button: For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

Enchanted (and the power of True Love’s kiss)


When I was a kid, I’ve always wondered what it would be like when Peter Pan and Wendy and the Lost Boys and Tinker Bell and Cinderella and the X-Men will somehow get to this world, like, you know, be actually here in their cartoon bodies without the aid of T.V.

I would find out years later that someone else had this same childhood fantasy and made it to a movie. (Is it the universe’s way of telling me that great minds think alike?)

Enchanted has been deemed by RottenTomatoes as ‘the best family movie of 2007.’ In my opinion, this is one of Disney’s best movies in recent years. In other’s opinion, Disney revived itself with this movie. And family movie it is, and revived Disney it certainly did. The movie is a for all ages entertainment. It is delightful and charming, the kind of which the Holywood movie industry has lost for a long time and has been trying to revive in recent years. They got it right with Enchanted.

The movie opens in Andalasia (a place beyond the Meadows of Joy and the Valley of Contentmentwhere Giselle, in her house-tree (not the other way around) sings of true love’s kiss as her animal friends eagerly listens. Suddenly a troll appears. Giselle and her friends flee. As she hangs on the farthest branch of her house, Prince Edward of Andalasia comes and saves her. With the troll defeated, the Prince takes one look at her, asks her her name, and declares, “Oh Giselle! We shall be married in the morning!” And they sing once more of true love’s kiss and ride off in his white horse. But the happy ending doesn’t come in the next sentence. It comes after a lot of sentences ninety or so minutes later.

We finally meet the evil stepmother on their wedding day. She is Queen Narissa, Edward’s stepmother, and a sorceress. She hatches up a plan to break the wedding off and uses the servant Nathaniel, who is more than in love with her, to be her henchman in her evil plot. And together, they send Giselle off to the real world. Pip the chipmunk, Giselle’s closest animal friend, is with her. Nathaniel follows. Prince Edward follows. Queen Narissa follows later.

And so our story starts. Giselle, thrown in the real world, with her huge wedding gown in tow. She’s trying to enter a picture of a castle when dashing (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it) McDreamy – Robert Philip and his daughter, Morgan, sees her. Robert helps her when she tells him of her plan to sleep inside a tree. And you can immediately tell that he is her Prince Charming and she is his Princess. But they don’t know that yet, because there is no love at first sight.

I would like to write more on the story, but it seems to me that I’ll only be doing an injustice. So I just won’t.

Enchanted is a smart movie – and that is something for a film with such a screwball, (childhood fantasy?) plot as this. But oh how it showed how awkward it was when the Disney fairytale world clashes with ours. And yet it was done without violating a single element that distinguishes one from the other. And I love it for that. Finally, a movie that has charm and delight. And, as one critic has said, the glue that holds it all together is Giselle, disarmingly played to the heart by Amy Adams.

A person who can poke fun of himself is fun, a movie which can do so is ten times more. And Disney poked fun of itself here, and it did so well. Sure, I had a problem with the Evil Queen turning herself into a dragon. But, I guess that’s forgivable.)

Monsters vs. Aliens: the fight for Earth begins

It was supposed to be Susan Murphy’s wedding day. She would be wed to a man with the unfortunate thumb-length whom she thinks she loves (the whole time I wonder what she sees in him so I refuse to acknowledge that she was ever in love with him). And so she stands there outside the church with her beautiful wedding gown billowing atop grassy grounds when Pixar decided to play a trick on her and plummet her with a radioactive meteorite from outer space. And beautiful, petite Susan Murphy grew to such height worthy enough to earn her the name of Ginormica. Fortunately, she isn’t the only unique creature in this Earth, there are others too. Unfortunately, being a unique creature, she was captured and sent to a top secret prison facility. These all happened in less than ten minutes.

There in this top secret prison facility (where no one is someone else’s bitch), Susan Murphy a.k.a. Ginormica, meets B.O.B. the blob, Dr. Cockroach, the Missing link, and Insectosaurus, a butterfly-ish unique creature that is larger than Susan. They, along with other unique creatures are kept locked up in this massive prison facility so the rest of the world can sleep soundly and unknowingly. (By now you should be able to get that said unique creatures are the gentle words I use in lieu of  ‘monsters’.) But then peace didn’t last (the movie requires it). Alas, an alien robot deployed by an alien has landed on American soil (“where U.F.O.’s always seem to land”) and, having not been pleased to the Close Encounters-like piano greeting (in addition to wanting to invade Earth), the alien robot started destroying everything. And who else should Earth call to defend itself but the unique creatures they locked up in some top secret prison facility. (Hence, the title.)

 Just so you would know, I watched this the same week it opened in the theaters. And boy, am I glad I did not spend a cent of my money to watch this there. (I downloaded it, I never said I watched it in the cinemas). It may be enjoyable, it may have a moral lesson nobody does not already know, but I felt like it’s not worth spending Php 170-ish of your money for.

Monsters vs. Aliens failed to give much. It lacks a captivating plot, appealing characters and an overall charm that is a characteristic of movies like Finding Nemo, Toy Story and Wall-E. It suffers from being emotionally closed: there are world-threatening incidents but they are trifling, there are different personalities but no real character, there is a heartwarming wish but it does not have a soul. Its inability to reach the viewers is its ultimate downfall. I felt like I was just watching a movie, instead of being told a story.

Bottom line: It is enjoyable, but it is forgettable.