Eureka Seven: Surfing, Robots, Surfing Robots, and Young LoveOctober 12, 2009
Guest Review by Lothos
I went in to Eureka Seven knowing next to nothing about it. All I really knew is that it had aired on Cartoon Network and had something to do with a young guy, some girl, robots, and something like surfing. I was pleasantly surprised by the series; it just got better the more I watched. It’s brought to us by Studio Bones, the same group who did Fullmetal Alchemist, Sword of the Stranger, Wolf’s Rain, and Darker than Black. Eureka Seven, like the other shows I mentioned, takes a bit of a dark streak towards the end, which I was not expecting given that the overall tone of the story is rather light.
I will say that it shared quite a few similarities with Neon Genesis Evangelion. From characters to themes, you can easily draw comparisons between the two. Renton can easily be compared to Shinji, though much more likeable. Eureka of course to Rei. Holland is kinda like Kaji without the spy part, but just being a badass and awesome in general. Talho is very similar to Misato. Then you have the bridge bunnies; Gidget, Matthieu, Hap, etc. filling the roles of Maya, Hyuga, and Aoba. Mischa is a bit less sinister version of Ritsuko. Anemone I feel is a pretty close analog of Asuka. Dewey is a slightly more demented version of Gendo. The Council of the Sages is Selee. The Scub Coral can also be compared to the angels. You also have giant robots, with the Nirvash being pretty comparable to unit 01. Characters aside, there are also quite a few similar thematic elements and styles between Eureka Seven and Evangelion. Without giving away too much, the Scub Coral really are much like the angels in terms of their purpose in the series. There are some times of trippy introspection and metaphoric symbolism thrown in. There is also the theme, though definitely not unique to Evangelion, of a boy having to save the world with his robot. Things seem to get more tragic as the series progresses as well, with some characters falling into periods of deep depression to the point of being suicidal and hating their existence in general.
Despite all of these similarities, I still fell Eureka Seven is its own series and wasn’t trying to make itself like Evangelion for the sake of being like Evangelion. One might be tempted to think of Eureka Seven as Evangelion-Lite, I know I was at the start, but this would be doing the series an injustice as it really is great on its own. I just wanted to go ahead and get the Evangelion comparison out of the way since if you’ve seen it, you’ll likely see the same similarities I saw. I also wanted to stress that despite on the surface it having so many similarities it is not trying to be another Evangelion.
Our story starts with Renton, a 14-year-old boy who lives in the quiet town of Bellforest working with his grandpa as a mechanic. He loves two things in life, working on machines, and lifting. Lifting is a sport similar to surfing, but without water. There are flows of energy in the air around the world called trapar waves, and they use “ref boards” to surf these energy flows. Renton has a fair bit of celebrity towards him, since he is the son of Adroc Thurston, the scientist who is credited for saving the world during an event known as the Summer of Love, at the cost of his own life. One day, an LFO crashes into Renton’s room. The pilot is a girl name is Eureka, and Renton falls in love with her at first sight. He learns that she is a member of Gekkostate, a counter culture group of lifters lead by Renton’s idol, Holland Novak. Renton decides then and there that he’s going to follow Eureka and join Gekkostate, but he quickly learns that there’s a lot more to Gekkostate than just flying around having fun.
The interaction between the two protagonists, Renton and Eureka is very enjoyable. Their relationship develops slowly, and you get a real feeling of connection between the two. The supporting characters aren’t quite as fleshed out, with the exceptions of Talho and Holland who are dealt with quite a bit and really evolve throughout the story. Anemone and Dominic also undergo a fair bit of change in their characters, and I found their relationship to also be an interesting one but not quite as developed as that between Renton and Eureka. That and I think Dominic must be a bit of a masochist.
The movie, Pocket Full of Rainbows (aka Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers), was a bit odd to me. Rather than being a sequel it was more of a radically changed retelling of the story from the series. I must say that I preferred the version of the story presented in the TV series. In the movie Renton and Eureka have been friends since childhood, but one day Eureka is abducted by government forces and Renton is left alone for several years. During this time he enlists in the military, Gekkostate is a part of the military and is operated by the same people from the series, but some characters are very different in personality. Hap and Stoner being probably the biggest changes in character. Holland is still the leader of the group, but he and the rest of the Gekkostate members (minus Renton) have a much different past than that from the television series.
I suppose a possible reason for the radical changes would be that this version of the story works better in a condensed ~2 hour format. There is a more immediate need for urgency in all of their actions, so the pacing is much faster (which is to be expected in any feature length adaptation of a TV series). However, I felt that this diminished the level of attachment and involvement the viewer develops with the characters when compared to the TV series. Again, this is almost always the case in an adaptation to a movie. I also felt that while the plot was “interesting,” it wasn’t as well crafted as the plot from the series. Someone who had not seen the series could probably get a fair amount of enjoyment from the movie, but if you’ve seen the series you can’t help but compare the two.
The relationships between the characters are biggest thing that makes Eureka Seven stand out from Evangelion. Both series are heavily driven by the relationships and interactions of the characters with each other. While the relationships certainly develop in Eva, they are not given quite the same timeframe and overall attention as they are in Eureka Seven. Eureka Seven had what I felt to be a more natural flow to its character’s development. Things weren’t suddenly introduced and then within seconds completely changing a character’s view of another character/etc. Things developed more subtly, but you could still sense the development between characters. This was especially true between Renton and Eureka. While you can argue that Renton’s feelings towards Eureka didn’t really change, since he pretty much fell in love with her at first sight, it’s the depth of his feelings towards her which broadened over time through his experiences. Eureka saw a lot of overall development, to the point where she was almost a different person by the end of the series. The same goes for several other characters in the series. I don’t feel any of the characters in Evangelion had the same natural flow of development. Granted, the characters in Eva had to go through some pretty F’d up experiences and probably anyone who went through that on a repeated basis would have some drastic changes in character. So I suppose that while both series had the characters dealing with some pretty fantastical events, I guess the way that the characters dealt with them and the types of events they had to deal with were more “natural” or easy to relate to in Eureka Seven.
The animation quality throughout the series is pretty good. Some scenes, such as a lot of the combat sequences, are wonderfully animated and in high detail. The character designs, by Kenichi Yoshida, for some reason remind me a lot of Cowboy Bebop though I don’t know why since they really aren’t that similar. To even further question my reasoning for this, Yoshida’s one of the few people involved in the production who wasn’t involved in Bebop. So I chalk that up to my oddly working brain playing tricks on me.
I really liked a lot of the music in Eureka Seven, and you can tell that music is an important thing to the director/writer (Dai Sato, the screenwriter, runs his own record label). The fourth opening theme, “Sakura,” really grew on me. “Story Writer” is another favorite. There was a good mix of electronica, more standard stirring orchestral pieces, and a bit of J-Pop thrown in, but they all suit the scenes they’re used for quite well and invoke a fitting emotional response in the viewer. As I’ve said before, you can tell when music is really suited for a show because it will seem like the music was made for the scene, and that’s the feeling I got several times throughout the series.
Overall I would say that I recommend Eureka Seven. I went in with no expectations and practically no knowledge of what it was about and was surprised to find it to be a very enjoyable series. The character development and simply the characters themselves drew me in. The well orchestrated plot kept me coming back for more. Also the overall pacing of the series was very well done. It’s 50 episodes in length, and they use about 1/3 of the series (all at the beginning) to really establish the characters and the environment they’re in. From then on, with only a couple exceptions, it’s pretty much a non-stop ride of driving the main plot and multiple cliffhanger endings. I never really felt that the story was progressing slowly- or too quickly. I will say things take a bit of a darker turn towards the last 1/3 of the series (about as dark as you can get for a prime time shonen series), but even if that’s not your cup of tea, continue on. The ending is worth it.