Just checking in to let everyone know that I am definitely still very active these days. And in fact, as I type there are a few works being juggled about & evaluated by a trusted ally for a first collaborative project that we'll definitely be sharing online once everything is settled and squared away. What's been completed, I'm for the most part satisfied with. Believe me, as strange as it is, it's definitely something worth waiting for.

In the meantime, what is there to share other than what I've been watching as of late? Aside from my post-AX re-watching some classic anime TV series, I finally had the fortune to run across the latest series from Production IG & Kenji Kamiyama, Higashi No Eden (Eden Of The East).

In the last several years, it became something of a bewildering development in TV land. Despite rampant increase of reality tv, and shows of that ilk, another type of mutant form of prime-time drama began to creep up onto our major networks. Embracing esoteric ideas, unpredictable plot twists, and memorable characters, these shows embraced the cult-like masses whom had since loved shows such as The X Files, The Twilight Zone & others, and offered something akin to a live-action response to Japan's "edge anime" wave in the late 90s. Shows like LOST, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes and others were not merely low-overhead cult shows that used to grace our screens on syndicated rotation as in the past- They were big, almost feature film in scope, and infectious to a tee. If television in the 2000s will be remembered for anything, it'll be remembered as the time geek culture truly went mainstream. And with anime in some regards being responsible for this in no small way, it seemed only natural that Japan would have an ambitious response to these shows, and I find no problem in stating that Higashi No Eden is here, and fans of brainy genre storytelling will have much to rejoice about.

Beginning with a startling change of scenery (in Washington D.C. no less), our heroes meet in perhaps the most audacious first few minutes I've yet to witness in a tv series in quite some time. And as I'm not privy to spoiling too much, the meeting between touristing Japanese college grad, Saki Morimi & our dashing amnesiac protagonist , Akira Takizawa sets the stage for a dizzying ride from America to Tokyo as questions & dangers arise from Akira's possession of a mysteriously versatile cell phone. Turns out that our hero's past might shed light upon a worldwide plot to save the modern world from humanity's folly.(by any means necessary) Saki's run-in with the surprisingly easy-going Akira has led her into not only a deadly & unpredictable world of intrigue, but into a re-examination of her own place in modern society.

Only bolstering problems are the revelations that the phone is in fact one of several existing in the country, possessed by others whom already have assumed their roles in a bizarre game of "Save The Country or Die". A faceless(& obviously powerful) party has selected these souls specifically for the task of taking charge of the populace, armed only with the aforementioned phone, and their own individual visions for a healthier world. Each phone, charged with ten billion dollars, and unleashed onto only twelve representatives of the country- it is only a matter of time that these players would indeed encounter each other. And as the penalty for lack of proper compliance or loss is death, some may think to take out the competition. So think Battle Royale with the emphasis on money as power instead of killer implements & a time limit.

The series' secret weapon is by far how it tackles very real modern concerns, particularly in an alternate universe version of post-Bush. The technology is a little more far along than what we have now, but is totally credible. And even as some environments, notably D.C. is't completely realistic, one begins to realize that Kamiyama & crew, who also took on the daunting tasks of Ghost In The Shell:Stand Alone Complex & 2nd Gig, are creating a sort of bold hybrid of a series. Something closer to a cyberized Lupin III, rather than ALIAS. The show's balancing act between topical, dark subject matter and a happy-go-lucky attitude is amazingly credible, and adds a layer of uniqueness to the proceedings.

And when I made mention of Lupin III, I also mean in terms of character animation. Gone are the totally crisp and realistic takes on characters that made GITS so remarkable for tv, and in its stead are a clever and memorable cross between what we've seen Kamiyama work with before and those of Miyazaki's older works. It's a striking visual and philosophical paradox that reminds us that we're in a different universe than is normal for this type of show. Hachimitsu To Clover's Chika Umino was an inspired choice, and it works startlingly well here.

Also worthy of note is Kenji Kawai's score. Despite what many may say is atypical for Kawai's abilities, I was grinning with the thought that I hadn't heard a score of his this giddy since his days on Patlabor. His cues are more assured than ever, and hopelessly retro.

The show's hook of " If someone gave you ten billion dollars, and you were charged with saving the world with it,...what would you do?", is given a grand glance, examining our modern ennui & suggesting that our very own habits of disconnection are backing into a wall. Something must give for the future to emerge. Higashi No Eden offers more than mere geeky thrills, it also offers a poignancy that has been missing from the anime landscape for quite some time.

At only a scant 11 episodes, the series works as merely all build-up for a much larger conclusion, on a much larger canvas.(Two movies are planned in order to end the series) And even though I've yet to catch all of the episodes, I'm on pins and needles, just hoping that a deal will come down to make this series into a much more widely known one. A part of me feels that this inevitable with what I've already seen. Fans are going to go nuts if they haven't already. It's a show that demands droves of admirers discussing the show's twists and themes, and also some love for its charming protagonists. And as many may not see this as perfect( I count myself among those, there are some pacing issues in the mid-section), it is heartening to know that there are some major animation studios in Japan interested in mature content that doesn't mean dragging that notion through otaku gutters. A refreshing series, and I recommend it highly.