If you’re more interested in general impressions/thoughts rather than tinfoil pope hattery, I direct you to the bottom of the post [->] where you might find a few words to that effect.
Has anyone figured out, really, whether Eden of the East is a pure political suspense/thriller with the working title The Akira Identity [->], a giant Biblical allegory cleverly disguised as a political suspense thriller [->], or a noitaminA love-love romance series cleverly disguised as a giant Biblical allegory cleverly disguised as a political suspense thriller [->]? It’s all three, as far as I can tell; however, my schooling background of spending far more time reading the Judeo-Christian scriptures than is normally healthy somewhat leads me to get all bouncy and giddy about the onslaught of Biblical allusions that are either helpful in figuring out the deeper meaning and significance of Eden of the East or are just intellectual fanservice put in to excite people such as myself.
The central mystery in Eden of the East revolves around the Selecao System and the Twelve who were Chosen in Japan. It is, quite obviously, a very much Earthbound political conspiracy, one that enjoys wrapping itself in the ancient mythological mystique of Biblical allusions and Messianic imagery. Their purpose, so far as we can tell by episode 3, is to designate twelve Selecao in Japan–twelve, of course, being one of those ridiculously important numbers in Judaic numerology–give them ten billion yen a ridiculously obscene amount of money on a cell phone, charge them all with the task of becoming the Messiah of Japan, and set them against each other. The catch: when their balance hits zero yen, they are unceremoniously dispatched by their attendant agents of Juiz. As a thriller setup, you can’t get much more exciting than that.
Sounds like it’s time for a HISTORY LESSON!
“Messiah” means “one anointed by God”, generally to carry out a specific task (the term was most frequently applied to the priests, prophets, and kings of Israel); the Greek translation is, of course, christos (or χριστός because Greek is a cool-looking language, and because it will please at least one person I know of [->]), and from there to Christ. It is a title more than it is a name, and Jesus of Nazareth was far from the first or only one to bear the title–Cyrus the Great of Persia was even given the title after he conquered Babylon and freed the Jewish people (by “freed” I mean he said “You’re from where? That dinky place next to the Mediterranean? You gonna pay me taxes? Yeah? Okay, whatever, go there, I don’t care.”).
The everyday usage was different from the late Roman Republic days where apocalyptic/eschatologic fever caught hold and stories spread like wildfire of the Messiah, who would come to save all the children of Israel and deliver them from evil (i.e. the Romans, who really just wanted them to pay taxes and shut up). This Messiah was the agent of God in the world and would either bring about the kingdom of God, the end of history, just smite people a lot, or, more frequently, all three, in whatever order they felt like. One of these (for a pronoun preceded by “the” there were an awful lot of them) was Jesus of Nazareth, and…you know the rest.
I remain fairly convinced that there is not currently a Jesus-analogue in Eden of the East (if there is, I’m going to guess it’s Juiz, on the basis that 1) Juiz = Judge and 2) it just sounds like the word “Jesus”), but if we think of the twelve Selecao as the Twelve Disciples (never mind the fact that we have at least sixteen individual names for the Twelve Disciples) then some interesting (and probably made-up and/or superimposed by me) analogues rise. The most infamous of the disciples is Judas, of course, who betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Romans and caused him to be executed. The orthodox view on this is that Judas is the Betrayer and broke from Jesus for personal gain (and then, legend goes, committed suicide). The relatively recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas, though, tells a different story: one where Judas was Jesus’ most beloved disciple, and the one who loved Jesus the most…and the one to whom Jesus trusted to betray him in order to bring about the Passion and Resurrection. Has anyone told you recently that the Gnostics were utterly insane? Now you know!
This, then, is my tinfoil pope hat theory: Akira is not supposed to be a Jesus analogue, but a Judas analogue. Unfortunately I only have the vaguest evidence to offer and most of it is merely me hypothesizing the direction of the direction the series will take. The best (and also the most hilariously insane) evidence I have is Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper [->]. Judas is supposedly the fourth from the left in the painting, and (discounting Jesus as a disciple of himself) the ninth from the right. The Fourth Selecao (now deceased) treated himself as a failure to fulfill the requirements of the Selecao System and entrusted Akira with the task of becoming the Messiah of Japan. And what number is Akira, again?
Even assuming that the numbering (at least for the lamented detective and Akira) is drawn from The Last Supper, the only way to be sure that right-to-left is the right way to count numbers (versus left-to-right) is 1) Eden of the East, and the east is traditionally associated with right in the standard compass rose and 2) Japan and their wacky backwards reading. Whether this is intentional or one of those odd (conspiratorial?) coincidences I cannot say, but the idea of Akira as a Judas figure (or at least as a betrayer) can’t seem to leave my mind, pulled further that he wiped his memory (as if his former self wanted to betray but couldn’t, and so he mindwiped himself instead to give himself a second chance). If you watch the ED, you see Akira doing the Juiz-assisted finger-gun at the Careless Monday missiles and destroying them–assuming, as those with abundant supplies of tinfoil are wont to do, that the missiles are also the doing of the figures behind the Selecao System, then this is a form of betrayal.
What does it all mean? Am I right or wrong, or am I just making up a lot of nonsense? Unfortunately, it’s only episode 3 of a 11 episode series + movie (which I am assuming was intentional to keep the “episodes” of the story down to 12), so there’s no way of telling what’s going to happen and how it’s all going to fit together. I still can’t figure out why Eden of the East, other than the obvious Akira and Saki being Adam and Eve, but that might take until the conclusion. The idea of Akira as a betrayer-saviour is highly tempting, though, and even if you remove all the complicated religious imagery and gross assumptions he’s still possibly being set up for that narrative purpose. But then, of course, Judas was the betrayer, not the saviour, so if all Akira ends up doing is betraying (but not saving)…who, then, will be the savior? That might be the bigger question.
A bit of a bibliography
I don’t make any claims as to the scholarly accuracy of anything mentioned above (cobbled as it is from my recollections of books read for class and class lectures a year or so ago), but books such as E.P. Sanders’s The Historical Figure of Jesus [->] and Bart Ehrman’s Lost Christianities [->] should at least give you a starting point into the mind-melting world of historical Biblical scholarship, and Backgrounds of Early Christianity [->] is a pretty good source (read: my professor made me read it) for simplified but important background information, if you should be interested in an historical look at early Christian times. You certainly don’t hear some of this stuff in Sunday School, anyway.
And in case you’re wondering, yeah, I probably just wanted to play history professor for a bit. I do have a B.A. in it, after all. A man can dream.
Enough with the pseudointellectual babble, I say!
The appeal of Eden of the East stretches much further than pseudoscholarly allusion/allegory nitpicking. Akira and Saki (their status as Romantic Partners and BAKA TAKIZAWA notwithstanding) are charming, sweet, and have chemistry. Some have said that they could watch an entire series of just Akira and Saki casually talking and they’d still like the series, and I heartily second, third, and fourth that motion. Part of the allure is the fact that they’re both so calm and accepting; indeed, there’s a definite air of calm acceptance (bordering occasionally on sheer naive innocence.) that permeates the entire series. Female police officers hardly blink at being unexpectedly flashed. Careless Monday isn’t worried about because no one’s dying and there’s nothing anyone feels they can do. Akira is pretty nonchalant about the whole “I mindwiped myself” thing. Granted, that does seem to tie in to the whole Eden theme, but the effect it has at the moment is like an odd combination of slice-of-life with a suspense thriller. I expect the mood to be upended by the end of the series, of course (especially if the calm mood is thematically significant), but I must say, I quite enjoy the Mrs. Pollifax “relaxed suspense” vibe I get from these early episodes. [->]
The short of the long is, it’s a series that works equally well on multiple levels, and many of the levels are only peripheral to the comprehension of the narrative, and simply add extra layers, either to aid understanding or to excite giddy intellectual tirades. (one certainly doesn’t need to bust out the education hardcore like I and some others have gone to enjoy the narrative and its complexities) It’s a simply-told (but not simple) story with background layers working and revealing themselves for different audiences. Perhaps that is one of the secrets of its popularity, too: something many can enjoy for different reasons.