While we’re on the subject of otaku, let’s dip into a discussion of their also-oft-denigrated cousins, the NEETs.
“NEET” is a Japanese acronym for “Not in Education, Employment, or Training” (yep, it’s Japanese, even though it’s in English), and is basically a way of saying someone is a jobless bum. It is not a kind term. It’s also not particularly embraced by those who fall under the category, the way ‘otaku’ can be–however, there are exceptions, and Eden of the East is one of them.
Eden of the East is a mystery/thriller with a dash of romance and several handfuls of comedy thrown in, set in a slightly futuristic (everything happens in 2011, though it was created in 2009) Tokyo. Saki Morimi visited Washington D.C. with a group of friends to celebrate graduating college. When she tried to throw a stone into the White House fountain to make a wish, she got noticed by the Secret Service–but they promptly forgot about her five seconds later when a stark naked Japanese guy started waving around a gun. Saki later lends him her coat, then has to chase him down to retrieve her passport in the pocket, and comes to find that the guy had erased his memory and consequently has no idea why he was on the street, or naked, or had a gun. All he knows is his name, Akira Takizawa–picked off of one of the many passports he discovered in his apartment–and that he has an insanely high-tech phone that can contact a woman named Juiz. The phone is also tied to a bank account with over 8 billion yen on it (remember, it’s ¥100 to $1, so Akira has the equivalent of $800 billion+ on there), and Juiz calls herself his concierge and is capable of arranging literally anything Akira wants. “Within reason” not necessary.
Akira takes this in pretty impressive stride.
The explanation for all this is that Akira is a Seleção, one of 12 people selected by “Mr. Outside” to play a game: they were all given one of these phones, each with a total of 10 billion yen on it (and therefore all the power that wealth can buy), and told to spend it all in the quest of becoming the ‘savior of Japan.’ Because Akira erased his memory, he has to learn not only the details of the game from other Seleçãos that he meets, he also has to determine what it was he did before–because going through his walk to try and recover his memories, it looks like he disappeared 20,000 NEETs. Not the greatest thing to ever learn about yourself!
But on the other hand, he wasn’t the Seleção who ordered a missile strike on Japan three times in a row, so at least he’s got that going for him.
The basic plot follows Akira as he struggles to unravel everything behind the game and his past role in it, aided by Saki and her friends, and then tries to prevent the third missile strike against the country using some very impressive crowd-sourcing. The plot never quite fills you in on all the details–fitting, considering most of what we’re seeing is from Akira’s POV, and he never does regain his memories; he just works with what he’s told or what the data of his past actions imply. But it does make things a little more complicated to understand.
Eden of the East ran for 11 episodes in 2009, and was licensed for English by Funimation. There are also two movie sequels, The King of Eden and Paradise Lost, which came out in 2009 and 2010 respectively and were both also licensed by Funmation. The animation of the series is gorgeous, which is no surprise, because it was produced by Production I.G.–those brilliant folks behind other equally stunning series like the Ghost in the Shell series, The Sky Crawlers, CLAMP’s xxxHolic and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, and Ghost Hound.
(You mean I haven’t talked about Ghost in the Shell yet? I’ll have to rectify this!)