Eureka Seven AO and the monster of the week
June 18, 2012 4 Comments
Eureka Seven AO is a series with numerous problems, many of which are fundamental flaws in the series as whole. It was a series that I initially approached with some caution, seeing signs of classic mistakes made when studios and producers attempt to make a sequel to a much loved original. There were numerous elements of this series that bore a remarkable resemblance to simile decisions within the Last Exile sequel, a series that, while interesting in places, ultimately failed due to poor characters and a lack of any meaningful story progression.
Eureka Seven was an outstanding piece of work, a series that had a scale so grand it often got lost and lacked a clear direction for entire arcs, and yet still managed to deliver a story that was heartfelt and beautiful to watch. One of the major flaws in Eureka Seven AO is the lack of this scale, it may have some interesting political elements, but the actions of the characters come across as inconsequential, and often pointless. Part of this is perhaps the setting, with Eureka Seven AO set in an alternate reality, thus removing all the outcomes of the original series in an attempt to start anew. This in itself is not a bad decision if done correctly, since it can allow for the new series to build upon and further expand the already existing universe.
In terms of Eureka Seven AO however, it appears that the series has taken out numerous elements that made the original so wonderful to watch, instead replacing them with dull plot devices, mecha and characters. One of the major flaws and problems that Eureka Seven AO has is its lack of colour, an odd statement when the series is itself quite colourful. In Eureka Seven, the world was filled with colours sounds and textures, showcasing what makes Bones such an excellent studio (you just have to watch Eureka Seven and X’amd to see the colourful worlds they create). It was a world that had its roots in real life, but was also full of strange colours and shapes that could only be from fantasy or science fiction.
The action while fast and frenetic was also colourful with those beautiful green Trapar trails, along with the brilliant pink explosions. As a series we were shown that aerial combat, along with mecha combat could be colourful, frenetic, and just slightly mad. It was a curious mix of deep political and philosophical plot with the mad action that had an element of 1960s counter culture thrown in for good measure. This was all helped, and indeed relied upon the presence of the Gekkostate, the central group of people who were all part 1960s surfers and part cold-blooded killers and ex-commandos. They added an element of realism to the series, with ideas of guilty consciences, dark pasts, but also the joys of riding the Trapar waves and living a relatively free life in the sky.
We had colourful mecha coming in different shapes and sizes, and all capable of surfing through the sky on those massive surf, or perhaps snowboards. This was a unique twist on the idea of flying mecha, as if we were seeing a cross between an action anime and counter culture. The idea of effectively riding the waves, while at the same time engaging in a fight to the death with unique and fascinating enemies helped to keep this action going forwards. Some of these action sequences, and in particular the one where Eureka takes a refboard and surfs out to find Rento gave this series an element of urgency, while maintaining the counter culture cool that the Gekkostate brought to the story.
There was also the added bonus of seeing enemies explode into pink clouds, giving us another element of colour to what was already a supremely colourful series. Eureka Seven AO doesn’t really have any of this, and while we do see some robots flying through the sky, there is a distinct lack of surfing and dog fights. The mecha themselves are also uniformly dull, with the Nirvash in particularly seemingly forgetting its old colours of Red and white, and instead appearing in a uniform and utterly dull grey. This lack of colour also seems to have spread to the fighting, with a lack of pink explosions and general colour involved in a fight, it is as if we are seeing Eureka Seven with half of the fun stripped out.
The Gekkostate added an element of freedom to the series, with the main base being their base of operations being the Gekko. Have the story centre around this group of people who both travel the world in search of new spots to ride, along with carrying out there other missions helped to give the series a feel of being on a journey. While Renton and Eureka may have been the central characters, they, along with the Gekkostate were in almost perpetual motion, never staying in the same place twice, always searching for new and more brilliant horizons to explore.
Eureka Seven AO has none of this, with the central base being a static monstrosity composed of different elements and entities, as if it were a leviathan growing out of the earth’s surface. But it is static, unmoving, a sedentary existence, and while Ao and the gang may constant deploy to deal with whatever new enemy is thrown at them this week, they will inevitably return to the same place. Having a base in a single location is not necessarily a bad thing, with numerous other series using this to great effect, but it feels as if part of the joy of Eureka Seven has been forcibly removed. There is no real sense of adventure, with Ao being more of an employee rather than an adventurer searching for something new and amazing.
Furthermore, we have a cast that sometimes feels to be made entirely up of children, something that again is not necessarily bad, with other series doing this. Having children piloting robots is nothing new, with Evangelion as a prime example, although we do see it in series such as Rahxephon, and to a lesser extent Full Metal Panic. However, there is a lack of maturity in this cast, with the adults, or at least the older members playing minor, and often inconsequential roles (at least that is how it feels). One of the strengths of Eureka Seven was its significantly diverse cast, a cast made up of people from all manner of backgrounds and different ages. But more than this, it was a cast where often the adults were the most immature people on board the Gekkostate, and could be the characters that would be the greatest liability.
Seeing Holland go into a rage when it involved the safety of Eureka and beat up Renton for example was a prime example of how the adults in Eureka Seven were not automatically the most mature, but often the most childish. Eureka Seven AO on the other hand has a cast where the adults are akin to sages; they are the ones with the responsibilities and can perhaps be described as ‘wise and almighty’. There is no feeling of responsibly, with the actions of the children piloting their LFO’s almost divorced from reality, as if they could blow up an entire continent but wont be effected by it. The sharing of responsibility, along with the ambiguous attitudes and mental states of the Gekkostate made for a fascinating series, one where the adults often came out worse off than the children.
The characters also feel inconsequential, as if their actions have no meaning or purpose. There is little connection, (although there clearly should be) between Ao and the story, with his actions seemingly meaning nothing to the plot as a whole. It is as if the characters are divorced from reality half the time, with the actions having no impact upon the story itself and the world within which they are supposed to live. The only character who has been particularly interesting so far has been Naru, and especially with her connection to the Sea Giant who is apparently he central villain. The dream sequence was particularly fascinating, with the implication that Naru deliberately chose Truth over Ao, although the way it was presented leaves this simple action open to numerous interpretations.
The ambiguity of this sequence, along with the ambiguity of Naru, and her importance as a character has been a highlight of the show, something that suggests a deeper meaning to Ao and the secrets. However, it is one small drop in a rather large ocean, and however good it was, it doesn’t make up for weak, or at times nonexistent characterisations and character development. Renton may have been lambasted for being a whiney little child, who of course he was at times, but his actions had meaning, and his connection to both Eureka and the Nirvash were concrete and immensely important. For being the central character, along with being Eureka’s son (and we assume his father is also Renton), Ao comes across as surprisingly inconsequential to the story.
Then we come onto the villains, who have been surprisingly camera shy, something that can work immensely well. Having an ambiguous or unseen menace in a series can help to generate an atmospheric and emotional story. It is the knowledge that you are surrounded by this menace, and while you may be attacked there is little knowledge about what is going on behind the scenes, and who, or what is pulling the strings. Eureka Seven AO does this to some extent, but the appearance of Truth, along with the subsequent abduction (or perhaps it was with Naru’s consent) of Naru takes away some of the mystery. Instead of this alien, uncontrollable menace, we instead have a character that looks more like an X-Men villain than an alien life form.
The other main threat are what we can call ‘Monster of the Week’, where each week a new, and differently shaped secret with a different power will appear to try and destroy a small part of the world. This is nothing new, with series such as Evangelion, Rahxephon and Gravion all using a similar format, although their use of it had significantly more impact. In the case of Gravion, the entire series was so over the top and mad that having a new large villain for Gravion to punch in the face worked very well, and fit with the whole aesthetic of a large robot anime. In the case of Evangelion and Rahxephon, both series had difference enemies, but they appeared either on a sporadic basis, or every few episodes, with the breaks used to further develop the story and characters.
In this case, the shows also had a almost larger than life feel, with a lot of philosophy and theology to add to what became a strange, and often ludicrous mix of robot action and random monologues. And yet, in all these cases there was a real sense of threat and imminent danger, with the enemies causing widespread damage and devastation. In the case of Evangelion we saw cities and town surrounding Nerve HQ regularly destroyed, along with the big robots freely stamping on buildings and power lines. It was a real threat, and while we did not necessarily see the human casualties, there was significant collateral damage done in all three of these series.
In the case of Eureka Seven AO, not only is there a lack of this immediacy, despite the best efforts of the Pied Piper crew, but also there often seems to be no real consequence of AO blowing up the big bad monster. Furthermore, the constantly appearing monsters become boring very quickly; as if the series is using these action sequences to cover up plot holes or a lack of a coherent story. Which is a shame because there appears to be a fascinating plot surrounding the true motives of Generation Blue, along with the true meaning behind AO’s connection to the Nirvash. The ‘bad guys’ or enemies in Eureka Seven were often ambiguous, and rather than have a new enemy each week, we saw constant harassment by different factions with the Gekkostate stuck in the middle.
This series does have a potentially very interesting plot, with an ambiguity surrounding the true actions of Generation Bleu; along with how they are related to the Scub crashes. We have already seen a vague photo of what appears to be another LFO in the basement of their headquarters, along with the fact that they continue to collect the cores of Sub Coral, although we have yet to find out why. There is also the large question mark over the disappearance of Naru, something that appears to be both forced, but also consensual. Naru as a character is fascinating, and appears to have a deep and important connection to Ao, and yet she has barely had any screen time.
However, my overall impression of this series is one of boredom, with characters that appear to have no purpose other than to shoot down strange crystalline enemies that come in all shapes and sizes. It is a series that appears to have divided people in a similar way to Guilty Crown, with those who suggest that it is the best series ever (these people we can ignore because there will always be a series that is apparently the best series ever), along with those who hate it. I wanted to like the series since I love Eureka Seven and consider it a classic; the idea of taking an universe and expanding upon it is excellent, however it has been done in the wrong way in this case.
All the things that made Eureka Seven such a joy to watch appear to have been stripped away and left in a pile somewhere. This series lacks character, it lacks colour, and it lacks characters that while annoying at times (hello Renton) were at least interesting to watch and had a real impact on the world within the series. I have been getting similar vibes to Last Exile Fam, a series that attempted to emulate and expand upon the original and failed miserably for similar reasons. I may have been cautious about this Eureka Seven sequel, but unfortunately it looks to be going the same way as Last Exile. This is just another case in a long line of sequels that attempt to expand upon an existing universe while simultaneously forgetting what made the original such a great series, thus failing miserably.