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The world's greatest shopping spree

So last week while exiled to my grandmother's place, I watched a couple of anime series and one of them was Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East). It's actually funny how I decided to watch HnE considering I've got lots of different series all backlogged and frankly, I didn't even remember why I had snagged HnE in the first place. I was actually watching the latest episode of Bleach and where the fansubber groups usually add their one funny message on the eyecatch they had written a message saying how great HnE was. Since I had nothing better to do I took the recommendation and it really was a good one.



So let me start with a general overview of the series. It's basically about a competition between 12 individuals to 'save the country of Japan'. Each person is given a special cell phone by a mysterious Mr. Outside and onto each phone is loaded 10 billion yen (Around 125 million dollars) in digital currency. It might be something pretty new to the US, but in Japan you can use the RFID chips in your phone to make all sorts of purchases at scanners located throughout the country. In addition, the phone can be used to contact your own personal concierge, Juiz, from whom you can make requests. She can do just about anything for a set price which will be deducted from your account from having a person in front of you murdered (around 5,000 yen) to making the country's prime minister cry for mercy on live tv (for some reason only 60 yen, which probably tells you something about the general view of politicians in this series).

With this vast fortune, the 12 competitors all have the goal of saving the country. No more information is provided than that, and each contestant is allowed to interpret that goal in their own way. For instance, one woman decides that the best way to do that is personally murder every abusive man she comes across, hacking off their 'Johnnys' with a cigar cutter and using Juiz to help locate these men and then clean up their bodies. Another feels that the best way to save the country is to build a huge hospital complex where the elderly can receive care for free and also find work. So basically, it's up to you in what way you think would best improve the country. Only Mr. Outside can decide who the winner is however.

At this point, you should be wondering where's the downside. After all, being handed 125 million dollars and a magical cell phone from which you can make wishes sounds pretty freaking sweet. Well, it is a competition and there can only be one winner. If any one of the 12 'Seleção' wins the competition all the other players lose and will be eliminated by the "Supporter", a secret member of the 12 whose job it is to enforce the rules and remove loose ends. There are also rules. If you use the money for purely selfish reasons or if you ever use up all of your money without saving the country, the Supporter will also come and eliminate you from the game.

So that's basically the background for the series though it's a while before you actually piece together the plot. The series actually begins with Saki Morimi, a girl in her early 20's who has just finished college and is visiting Washington DC on a celebratory trip. She manages to bump into Akira Takizawa, Seleção #9, in front of the White House in what might be one of the most unusual intros to a generally 'normal' anime.



Akira has apparently wiped his own memory for some reason and comes to in front of the White House stark naked holding only his cell phone and a gun. Now, if this were even close to reality, something like this should immediately lead to a Bad End. But luckily, because it's an anime our hero is able to dodge the police with some ninjitsu and still meet up with the girl long enough for her to offer him her coat so he's no longer flapping in the wind. The winds of fate throw the two together even as the local police put out an APB on crazy naked man see at the White House with a gun, along with a photograph from the security cameras. It's here that something I've never seen before in anime makes it appearance.



Yep, he drops trou in front of the cop and escapes being arrested because of shrinkage. Apparently it was a very chill day outside and he no longer resembled the security footage in one vital area. You can see Saki's reaction to this and that pretty much says it all.

Saki and Akira decide to return to Japan together and thus begins their journey to figure out why Akira erased his own memory, what's the deal with the 'magical' cell phone, and how all of this is related to the spate of missile attacks on Japan. Wait, missile attacks? Well, it seems that a while back a bunch of missiles smashed into various urban areas in Japan but miraculously no one was harmed. The attack was dubbed 'Careless Monday' and now, weeks latter, more missiles seem to be handing but actually taking victims.

So what does missiles, magical cell phones, and 20,000 naked NEETs have to do with anything? Oh, I didn't mention the 20,000 NEETs? NEET is a term used in Japan meaning Not in Education, Employment, or Training. Basically it's like the official acronym there for loser, or what we would know as the person who lives in a one-room apartment or their parents basement playing World of Warcraft 24/7. It seems that a couple months ago, 20,000 NEETs from around the country of Japan disappeared. I won't spoil for you how they tie into the story other than to say it's hilarious.



Rounding up 20,000 naked men and taking a picture of yourself mocking them? Priceless.

This also sets up for what must be one of the funniest one-liners I have ever run across in anime. Frankly, I can't think of anything more hilarious as a shot to NEETs and otaku. The setup is that 20,000 pissed off NEETs flood a shopping mall. Saki and her friend need to transverse the mall to get to their friends who are barricaded inside. The thought of making their way past 20,000 naked men is a bit daunting to them so they just decide to go for it.



Cue screaming and bedlam, on both sides. They finally make it past the general crowd and reach the top of an escalator when Saki's friend utters the greatest line ever.



Hahahahahahaha!!

Okay, a quick explanation for those of you who don't get it. Among a certain faction of hardcore Otaku are those who claim they're only interested in 2-dimensional girls. They want nothing to do with real women and often use the acronym 3dpd (3-dimensional pig disgusting) to describe them. These are usually the same guys with rooms covered in creepy figurines, anime posters, and x-rated bodypillows.

Anyway, back to HnE. The initial anime series runs 11 episodes and then the stories are continued in 2 full length movies. There are some major plot holes and oddities, like why you couldn't simply ask Juiz to kill all 11 other Seleção and carry out your plans without interference from others. Really, if you think too hard about it the plot holes are large enough to drive a tractor trailer through. That said, it's really an entertaining work with really beautiful art beyond that of the average anime series. It also provides for a nice thought experiment. What would you do if you had 125 million dollars and the goal of saving the country? While some of the characters are a little angsty about their likely terminal end if they fail, it's really the best deal in the world. Even if you completely blew off the mission and would eventually get whacked for it, you still have 125 million dollars to spend in your last days. We might argue theoretically that a life is priceless, but I'd happily trade mine for 125 million. Hell, I'd be willing to be bargained down quite a bit to be honest.

I haven't watched the last HnE movie, Paradise Lost, yet but I think this is definitely one of those animes where the journey is more important than the end. I am sort of curious how it'll all wrap up but I'm not exactly expecting genius. While the writers try to make it seem like the Seleção are playing 3-dimensional chess, it'd really be a compliment to call it checkers. It's just what happens when you give the characters too much power....it becomes hard to really restrain them in a realistic way or provide explanations why they don't take easy shortcuts. I'm still not sure how to explain #11's winged succubus thing. If you ever get to that point in the series and have a logical explanation, I'd love to hear it. FX, my ass.

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