In a dystopian world, the teenage son of a famous man winds up joining rebels against a repressive regime, becoming the co-pilot of a strange young woman's mecha.
And now, on the heels of Stig and Tim's review of Captain Earth, here's its predecessor from the same studio (BONES), and while it has some of the same weaknesses as its descendant- and both share certain weaknesses with other mecha and sci-fi shows- overall, I enjoyed Eureka Seven a great deal, mainly on the strength of its supporting cast and some of its underlying themes.
As for that cast, I found its eccentricity a delightful change of pace. In so many shows (e.g., Last Exile) even the rebel forces operate in military uniforms and under military discipline. Eureka's cast is actually trying to get away from that (you'll see why), and is in fact about as motley a crew as you'll ever meet. (An A+ for Eureka's character art; the characters' faces and physiques are very distinctively rendered.) They dress however they please- mostly extremely casually, though when one character wants to be taken more seriously she actually adopts military dress. (Gotta confess I liked her original outfit, too- I guess one never quite outgrows being a fanboy.)
In fact, most of the crew dresses in "surfer casual", and the show's use of surfing and surfer culture is a core concept, a silly one yet undeniably distinctive. (Characters even have surfer names like Gidget and Moondoggie.) The world of Eureka is one of "seismic shifts", where "trapars" generate currents in the atmosphere that allow "lifting" (flight by sky-boarding.) The saturation of the show with a plethora of poorly-explained concepts (poorly explained despite a ton of verbal exposition, I might add) sounds a lot like Stig and Tim's take on Captain Earth, so bad habits die hard, apparently, and there are numerous logical problems here; for example, (1) if there are lifting currents in the atmosphere, wouldn't it affect the surface atmospheric pressure?, and (2) not only the people, but everyone's mechas (both good guys and bad) also ride on sky boards, which would seem to be a big problem in a wipeout. Only a single pair of villains has come up with the obvious solution, it seems. (A digression: that pair of "villains"- the Beams- are two of the most nuanced "evil" characters I've ever seen, and I can certainly understand our teenage hero's difficulty in deciding who was the better ethical choice- them, or the rebels he had been previously traveling with.) And yet for all its improbability, I still preferred Eureka's surf culture (the rebels even publish their own fanzine about their exploits, nice touch) to the steampunk style of, for example, Last Exile. (Steampunk is Sci-Fi as the Victorians might have imagined it, but those Last Exile troops dressed in 18th-Century military uniforms firing muskets (!) from the decks of airships somehow strained my credulity even more than Eureka does.) But one would nevertheless STILL prefer to have certain of Eureka's issues and concepts more completely addressed, especially the ones connected to the mushy metaphysics of slovenly priest Master Norb. What the heck IS the "Limit of Questions", and why does reaching it cause the end of the universe? What is the exact cause of the hallucinatory stuff that our young hero and heroine (still not gotten to them, but I'm working on it) experience, and what does all the symbolic imagery in it mean? Again, there's PLENTY of talk about all this, and yet for all that it's much less efficient in actually orienting the viewer to the history, culture, and mechanics of its world than what other shows achieve with much less exposition (but even more bizarre settings!), like Simoun and Noein.
Our crew of rebels, calling their ship the Gekko, and collectively referring to themselves as the Gekkostate, nevertheless DO have a leader, named Holland. He's driven by stubborn pride and self-righteousness (in other words, he's a complete jerk), and physically violent as well toward our young hero, who is just waiting in the wings for me to describe him. But Holland is often under tremendous pressure to alter his (frequent) bad calls by other members of the crew- the Gekkostate's crewmembers apparently are more like independent contractors than military subordinates (as I've heard was actually true of the crews of pirate ships.) Holland's apparently had (and continues to have) some difficulties with women (must be his charming personality), though he has a long-standing casual thing with the ship's pilot, named Talho; she sleeps with him, but there's some longstanding dispute between them, which we'll eventually learn the substance of. It's made her generally cranky and sometimes harsh, and she takes it out on our young male hero, who I've so far mainly mentioned as a target of abuse without naming him. But I LOVE Talho; she's had to be an Iron Lady type to endure her situation, and sometimes had to actually take command when Holland was incapacitated- or when he'd made some particularly boneheaded decision. Things get better for her as one issue finally gets publicly aired (and settled), and as she comes to terms with the settlement of this, and with another personal issue of hers as well, she begins to blossom as a character. She's become one of my favorite anime females of all time. And I really love the show's recurring theme that NO ONE is too old to grow.
(Just thought I'd throw this in: the Gekkostate mainly gets by through smuggling and doing mercenary work for various parties persecuted by the government, particularly the Vodarac, a religious sect. One episode has some very still-timely things to say about persecuting whole religions for the actions of some of their members.)
I thought I'd NEVER get to Renton Thurston, and I bet you thought I never would, too. He's 14, his parents are (supposedly) dead, and his elder sister departed on some journey long ago, leaving him in the care of his grandfather, who's trained him in his trade of mechanic. Renton had been following the Gekkostate fanzine, and when a young woman from Gekkostate named Eureka wants Renton's grandfather to fix her mecha, Renton winds up with Holland and company. Things turn sour after a while, partly due to a matter related to the bad blood between Holland and Talho, and partly due to an epiphany Renton has about the business he's become involved in, and this leads to Renton going adrift, being unable to find the best path to follow for a time. But he finally does find a path to follow- the one trod by Eureka. Renton struck me as an interesting contrast to Evangelion's Shinji. To be honest, my knowledge of Evangelion is based on the first few chapters of the anime for the beginning, The End of Evangelion for the end, and the manga (I know, different from the anime) for the middle part; I've not seen the reboot, etc. Yet from what I DID see, Shinji seemed like a character who had almost no "arc", a kid who was unable to grow and overcome the flaws in his own character despite the examples, and sacrifices, of others. Renton, on the other hand, comes onto the Gekko with an idealistic personality, and still manages to find something to believe in even when his idealism gets stomped several times. Of course, what he comes to believe in is Eureka.
Eureka herself (the Japanese VA's pronounce it more like "Erica") is drawn with short green hair, is alone among her Gekkostate comrades in almost always wearing a uniform (hilariously, the one time she wears a dress, it exactly matches the colors and styling of her uniform), and comes across as someone with very poor social skills- she's very reserved, never seems quite sure how to react in human conflicts, and in fact seems kind of lost a lot of the time. She relates much better to machines (and to her mecha, the Nirvash, in particular) than to other humans. Fans of Evangelion (and of a lot of other Sci-Fi animes) will immediately recognize these red flags that There's Something Weird About This Girl. And indeed there is. Even though we receive more than a hint of just what that weirdness is, I was still somewhat surprised when it was formally revealed. One of the interesting things the show does is create, on the villains' side, exact counterparts of Renton and Eureka (you could call them the anti-Renton and anti-Eureka) in Dominic Sorel, and Anemone (she's a literal "red" to Eureka's "green.) There's no telling what will become of you if you cast your lot with a weird girl- and this applies here on BOTH sides of the divide between good and evil- and I was watching in anticipation of what would become of our guys and their "troublesome ladies", as Dominic aptly puts it. There's plenty of growing strangeness ahead (particularly for Eureka), and a more general threat to their world also vexes our young couples and their allies.
Some will find the show's slow pace exasperating (it's especially dilatory toward the end), it gets maudlin in places (again, especially late in the series), has too little real explanation in spite of its verbiage, and the whole "surfing" concept is a bit goofy; on the other hand, some of the characters, and their interactions, are nearly perfectly conceived, and the show is often "adult" in the GOOD way (even if Renton, and even more so Eureka, are ingénues.) It's also a bit less grim, maybe even more optimistic, than many similar Sci-Fi shows, and that's not a bad thing either, as far as I'm concerned. In the first version of this review I expressed concern that by "marathoning" the series I might have missed some things, but discovered that others found that with its slow pace, marathoning the show helped them keep their interest. In any event, l loved so many of the people here and so much of their story that for me it's Four Stars. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Quite a bit of bloodshed; many dead bodies (and parts of same) are depicted. No actual nudity that I can recall, but Talho and Holland's arrangement is pretty obvious, and Renton walks in on another young couple apparently getting ready for a necking session. Mid-teen and up probably OK.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming On Netflix
Review Status: Full (50/50)
Eureka Seven © 2005 BONES/Project Eureka/MBS
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