Writing an anime review is often a futile attempt to encapsulate an experience, which simply cannot be done. Ideal animation entices viewers through dream-like visuals and montage, supplemented by music and an engaging narrative that constantly unfolds before us . We become voyeurs peeking into the lives of people we do not know, but grow emotionally attached to once the story is done. A decent anime reviewer might allow readers to vicariously “watch” the show and experience both its highs and lows through writing; of course, with such descriptive writings the reviewer becomes more of a novelist than a critic. I face the challenge of verbalizing my own experience as I write this review on Eureka Seven, a show that took me on a fifty-episode melodramatic epic I hated and loved all at the same time.
Renton and Eureka.
Eureka Seven's narrative can be roughly split in half; there are not two twenty-five episode seasons but one large story that dramatically shifts focus at mid-point. The story is fairly long and complex; a serious attempt will be made to withhold spoiling the tale for newcomers.
We begin at Renton Thurston's hometown, where he is introduced as a youth very similar to the protagonist of FLCL. Renton is convinced that nothing exciting ever happens to him. He aspires to be a famous lifter, a sport that uses "trapar" waves emitted from the ground in order to allow for what looks like surfing on air. His idol is Holland, a pro lifter who travels with the anti-military outlaws known as Gekkostate. Renton is raised by his grandfather; his father Adroc Thurston, a scientist, died saving the world from a supernatural disaster. Renton's sister left soon after to continue her father's research, but she never returned.
One fortunate evening, a unique LFO (military mobile suits that fly on trapar waves) crashes into his grandfather's home. Its pilot is the beautiful and enigmatic Eureka, and she flies for Gekkostate. Renton and his grandfather happen to be mechanics, and they help get Eureka back into the air just as the Federation military come in pursuit of her and Gekkostate. After she quickly enters combat, Renton's grandfather hands Renton the Amita Drive (a device specifically designed for Eureka's LFO by Renton's father) and tells him to get it to her. After getting to Eureka and helping her defeat the military forces, Renton joins Gekkostate.
Some of the members of Gekkostate.
The first half of the series devotes itself almost entirely to building relations between Renton and the Gekkostate members. The crew turns out to be a diverse, battle-hardened group that has forged trust through mutual rebellion against the military. They can also be funny and quite compassionate. Renton, being the neophyte, is "initiated" through various pranks and an occasional beatdown from Holland, who seems to hate him as soon as they meet. Eureka, who Renton immediately falls in love with, doesn't pay him much mind. I had a hard time believing that Renton was welcome into Gekkostate at all. I endured this dynamic of "undeserved Renton hatred" for a long time; the series is without a coherent plot until its second half. While the focus on character relationships is an appreciated deviation from standard storytelling modes, and while many of the episodes are enjoyable, to put off introducing the show's central conflict for twenty-five episodes is inexcusable. For the sake of playing a mediocre Devil's Advocate, I will say that the narrative structure serves as a solid metaphor for the teenage experience: aimless and confusing, with everyone being upset with you for no apparent reason.
Getting through the confusion of the first twenty-five episodes is handsomely rewarded by an amazing (albeit frustrating) conflict that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of existence. The initial hostility towards Renton no longer substitutes for poor writing; instead, a man named Dewey Novak is released from Federation prison and is reinstated into the military. He quickly becomes a threat to Gekkostate, but also on his agenda is a plan to wage war with a native organic species known as Coralians. While a sense of purposeful narrative is much more palpable in this second half of the series, its execution is not too smooth. Information is often delivered in incomprehensible chunks that only make sense a few episodes later. On a related note, there are also many revelations that are "out of left field," so to speak. After accepting the narrative shortcomings of the series as a whole, Eureka Seven turns out to be a touching story unlike any other.
Renton and Eureka
Animation and Music
The animation is decent for the most part. There's never any moments where the style abruptly makes a turn for the worst. On the other hand, there are a few times when the animation becomes very stylized. Moments where Renton experiences extreme psychological distress are illustrated in exaggerated fashion and speaks to the show's sensitivity to character emotions. Fights between the Gekkostate's LFOs and the Federation's KLF armored suits are always exciting to watch. Missiles and laser attacks are dodged with unfathomable grace by giant machines on liftboards.
Music is also an important part of Eureka Seven. Wikipedia claims that most of the episode titles are named for actual songs, performed by a myriad number of artists. Whatever the case may be, the show itself changes introductory and ending songs four times over its fifty-episode run. Music within the show doesn't vary often, but the songs are usually appropriate for the scenes. One of my favorite themes from the OST is "Storywriter," the perfect theme for the fictional sport of lifting.
By the end of Eureka Seven, I felt as if I had watched enough anime for one lifetime. The experience was draining. I typically don't watch shows longer than thirteen episodes because I feel quality is most easily preserved when creators impose limits on their creativity. It's easy for a story to lose poignancy as time goes on. Interestingly, Eureka Seven got better as time went on, as if it was being conceived and produced at the same time. I liked the show, loathed it, hated it, liked it, loved it... and then at the end, I didn't know how to feel.
As always, I encourage people to watch whatever I review. There aren't many shows like Eureka Seven.
Renton, Eureka, and her children.
* Eureka Seven was produced by Bones. It is available for free viewing through Crunchyroll.com.
- Elijah Lee