Eureka Seven AO (Astral Ocean)
Ao Fukai is a teenage boy growing up in Okinawa- an Okinawa that has become an independent nation thanks in part to a particular unnatural resource. Through a chance series of events he winds up the pilot of the Nirvash, an IFO (mecha) that originally belonged to Ao's mom. His quest to discover more about his past- and the present world, which seems dominated by the twin threats of Scub Corals, and mysterious automata called Secrets- leads him to join Generation Bleu, an internationally-staffed group of mecha flyers targeting the Secrets for destruction.
"There are no absolutes anymore"- Ao Fukai
And THAT is the major problem with this installment of the saga. Storytelling generally tries to impart some logic on the apparent chaos of reality (as science also tries to, though quantum physics DOES concede a bit to the chaos), while Astral Ocean largely just surrenders to chaos.
To illustrate, I'll start where the series starts, in its setting. You may recall that the original series featured a world ravaged by Scub Corals, with the humans mostly living under a military dictatorship. Sky-surfing using Trapars (antigravity particles released by the Scubs) was nevertheless a common pastime. The world of Astral Ocean, by contrast, seems merely a near-future version of our own, geopolitically- all the major players we are familiar with (including Japan and the U.S.) are there. (The U.S. gets portrayed as a bit of a "heavy", by the way.) There are a few interesting exceptions- Okinawa, as noted, is an independent state; while only certain mecha still sky-surf, flying cars are in some use; and, strangest of all, Scub Corals (and their enemies, the Secrets) have been showing up for hundreds of years. Frankly, it's hard to understand how a world under alien attack for hundreds of years could have grown to look anything at all like ours in its geopolitical structure. And how does Eureka's son fit into all this? (NOT really a spoiler; we're pretty much shown Ao's background from the beginning, and the connection is formally confirmed within the first few episodes.)
Then there's the business of the Secrets. In THIS world, the appearance of Scub Corals is accompanied by the appearance of the Secrets, giant, somewhat featureless flying machines that take a variety of overall forms. (One of them resembles an amusement-park ride, of all things.) They reminded me of Evangelion's Angels to an uncomfortable degree; this installment of Eureka is less original than the first one in many ways. The Secrets seem to want to destroy the Scubs (immolating themselves in the process), but they always cause tremendous collateral damage to humans and property in the process, and some of that might actually not be unintentional. As to their origin, we're just told that they appeared "in time" as some kind of response to the coming of the Scubs, an "explanation" that is exactly the same hand-waving used to account for the monsters in This Ugly Yet Beautiful World. Really, this sort of excuse simply doesn't pass muster as good Sci-Fi.
In any event, much of the show is occupied with the question of which one the humans should back- the Scubs or the Secrets? The default position that has been adopted (especially by Generation Bleu) is to destroy the Secrets. (Gen Bleu at the same time quietly takes action to render the Scubs impotent, but this creates even greater problems further down the line- it's always SOMETHING, as they say.) Ao's turncoat girlfriend Naru (I may have more to say about her later) is a Scub-fan, and urges Ao to help the Scubs. On the other hand, Eureka herself, when she finally DOES appear (and in a couple of different versions; didn't I SAY it was confusing?), tells Ao that the Scubs are the enemies, which seems a little weird for her to say given her OWN background. Explanations for all this are sometimes offered, but those explanations get endlessly amended as new developments constantly pop up, and if our cast winds up completely confused and uncertain what to do, I can't criticize them; I can only sympathize.
The characters this time around seem awfully weak- there are no equivalents to the marvelous process of self-realization (and self-esteem recovery) that Talho went through in the original series, nor is there anyone here that quite captures the maniacal-yet-pathetic quality that Anemone had. The show HAS a major villain, who simply calls himself Truth, though given his own origin (from two warring parties, plus the ideology of a third), he really should be called Confusion, or, more accurately, Madness. Ao himself seems a much more cynical male lead than Renton was, though he does have an obsession with two females- his "missing" mom, and Naru, that aforementioned traitor who was his close friend in Okinawa. (He SERIOUSLY needs to get over her, by the way.) Ao becomes friends with his two fellow Generation Bleu mecha pilots, Fleur Blanc and Elena Peoples. Fleur is the daughter of Generation Bleu's CEO; she hates her dad for something OTHER daughters might be grateful for. (Go figure.) Elena is an apparent airheaded otaku; we're given some background info on her that indicates there's more to her than that, but it's told in such an inept manner that her past basically comes across as a few giant puzzle pieces that don't really fit together, and all I could be certain of is that "Elena Peoples" is NOT her real name. I NEVER understood why she imagined she was connected to a certain other character, for example. But hey, given the chaotic nature of everything here, maybe she IS, somehow. Astral Ocean has, behind and beneath all this, certain concepts familiar to readers of science fiction, but to make this sort of story work you need a kind of logical discipline that the show lacks. An author like Isaac Asimov could have made all this work just fine, but the show's creators aren't in that league. At the end, I pondered the same thing I did for that poor guy at the end of the movie The Quiet Earth- "What happens NOW?". And for some of the same reasons.
Weak characters and an uncontrolled storyline do NOT an epic make. Nor do contradictions and excessive complications.The OVA included in the DVD package really adds nothing but Ao dressed as a girl, if you're curious. In his Mom's outfit, apparently. I guess he kept it. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Mild fanservice involving Elena and Fleur. Quite a bit of mecha combat, of course, but even less explicit violence than the original series had.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (25/25)
Eureka Seven AO (Astral Ocean) © 2012 Bones
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