July 4, 2009
Eureka seveN is about saving the world! …Eventually!!
STORY – A strange girl and her mecha enter Renton’s life one day. He quickly develops a crush on her and decides to leaves his home and stay with her by joining Gekkostate, a group of outlaws and his childhood heroes. Shenanigans follow. There are vague and unclear plot developments that happen in the background, but the actual story will not really start to manifest for another twenty or thirty episodes, and even then, it’s difficult to figure out what exactly anyone’s try to do, much less how they intend to do it. Eureka seveN has some of the most frustrating and ridiculous pacing I’ve ever seen. Many of the first dozen or so episodes feel like filler — some characters are developed and some histories are uncovered, but you are pretty much following the Gekkostate around as they take odd jobs to pay for food. You know they are rebels, but you don’t know why they’re rebelling or what they hope to accomplish. People attack and they fight back. They investigate things, but there is no clear sense of purpose.
As the series progresses, there are several high-tension and climatic moments, but again, thorough explanations are difficult to come by and many of the characters don’t seem to really know what’s going on either. They are just compelled to put themselves into situations without understanding why, and when each climax is over, life goes on… to even more filler-like episodes; it’s as if they’re trying to make you forget about any plot-relevant developments by inserting that pointless soccer episode. Instead of devoting time to the overall plot of the series, Eureka seveN spends a lot of time developing more general themes like religious discrimination, family relationships, responsibility, and identity. While that isn’t terrible in itself, it would have been infinitely better if plot progression (and explanation) didn’t have to be sacrificed for them (and if the characters involved were more sympathetic).
Eventually, and by eventually, I mean like, the last ten episodes, things finally start falling into place and there is a lot of late exposition. Some of the overarching ideas could have been deduced from earlier clues, but a majority of the details couldn’t have been, further making the bulk of the series feel scattered and unimportant. There is also a lot of “surprise” revelations and character “development” near the end that feel incredibly cheap and unnecessary. The final plot of the series, when all is revealed, is actually pretty interesting. A lot of the concepts presented are thoughtful and unique, if a bit far-fetched in some regards. It’s a story with a lot of potential. Unfortunately, because of the insistent, terrible pacing leading up to the late explanation, my patience was completely gone and I couldn’t force myself to care about the story so late in the game. So I sat through the last few episodes just hoping for a good fight to wrap everything up. (But I got rainbows instead.)
CHARACTER – Renton and Eureka both start off as pretty typical archetypes — the protagonist boy who wants adventure, and the mysterious girl that you know is special for one plot device reason or another. Neither of them interested me. Instead, it was the crew of the Gekko that initially attracted me and kept me going through those opening filler episodes. Since there is so little going on plot-wise for the first half of the series, most of the focus was on character interaction and relationships. Holland, the captain, quickly establishes himself as an interesting and sympathetic character; he is the one with the rough past and a goal, even if you have no idea what that goal is initially. Talho is also sympathetic, partially because it’s rare to see characters with established romantic relationships. The rest of the ship’s crew offers little beyond the basic support roles; now and again, there were be attempts to spotlight them, but it was never anything really meaningful.
Unfortunately, as the series progressed, all of the characters got more and more irritating. For someone who is supposedly fourteen, Renton’s perspective and train of thought is incredibly juvenile most of the time and the idiocy of some of his thought processes frustrated me to no end. He chooses to leave his “boring” life behind in pursuit of a girl he just met and knows nothing about and is upset when things don’t go his way. Am I supposed to sympathize with that? He is absurdly naive (can’t even realize when the entire crew is trolling him) and sometimes seems forcibly ignorant, especially when it comes to fighting and his role aboard the Gekko. Eureka is similarly clueless, though she has the excuse of not being “normal,” for whatever reason. But the most aggravating thing about the pair of them is their relationship.
To some extent, there is the illusion that their relationship actually develops and matures throughout the series, but the truth is that their relationship is completely idealistic from beginning to end. Renton’s attraction starts off as just infatuation, and yet he immediately decides that he wants to follow her and “be with her.” Eureka is more ignorant, but as soon as she starts to realize it, there are no longer any doubts. Their misunderstandings are grounded in stupidity and they don’t seem to feel much conviction in their fights, implying that they are too purely “in love” to have serious disagreements. The bumps in their road are superficial at best, including Eureka’s adopted children, who have little point or personality beyond (over-)emphasizing the familial themes present throughout the series. As the primary protagonists, Renton and Eureka’s failure to really make me care about them alongside the haphazard pacing of the story makes me wonder how I managed to finish the fifty episodes series at all, since unsympathetic characters is my #1 reason for dropping series.
Meanwhile, Holland also falls down the immaturity path where many of his actions and views are decidedly juvenile and illogical. A believably character flaw, certainly, but as the story refuses to allow him to explain his conflicts and frustrations in detail, it’s difficult to sympathize with the way he acts, and he just gets annoying after a while. Talho was the last character I had any respect for; her jealousies and frustrations were the easiest to deduce and thus the easiest to sympathize with, especially since she actually confronted them now and again. Sadly, the maturity of her character seems to take her out of the spotlight during much of the latter half of the series.
Dewey, the primary antagonist, takes his damn sweet time coming into direct relevance since he spends the entire first half of the series lurking in the shadows and vaguely putting together his grand plan. Even when those plans are put into motion though, his motivation remains unclear until the finale, so there’s no chance for understanding or sympathizing with what he’s trying to do. In the interim, Dominic never really presents himself as an enemy and never does anything particularly interesting or relevant; most of the focus is instead on his abusive relationship with Anemone, who, aside from being obviously tsundere for him the whole time, isn’t properly explained until the last five episodes or so (and even then, not very well at all). Additional characters include Charles and Ray, who are unnervingly creepy in their parental affection, and Norb, who is an expository plot device more than an actual character (though he does have an ironic personality).
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – Eureka seveN has some really great battle scenes, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from BONES. Everything is smoothly animated and fun to watch, so even though I has very little emotional investment in the characters and subsequently, the actual outcomes of the battles — I still liked watching them. The mecha designs are a bit reminiscent of those from Evangelion, but there’s a lot more variety between the various suits, including the way they’re piloted (especially when you consider the typeZERO VS the typeTheEND). The giant boards and surfing parallel seemed kind of ridiculous at first, but it really grew on me after a while (besides, Code Geass had rollerblading mechas, though Eureka seveN debuted first). At the very least, the concept makes flying sequences much, much more interesting, and the added danger of a pilot losing their board mid-fight is fun.
The character designs in the series are simple and attractive, and I really liked that a few of the characters made a point to change their appearances at certain points in the story, usually in correspondence with a significant change in their mindset and goals. More series should do this, if only to accentuate the fact that their characters actually mature over time.
MUSIC – There’s obviously a ton of hiphop influence in this series, so it was no surprise to see it reflected in the music as well. It’s always nice to mix up the game a little by injecting some atypical genres into the soundtrack, and Eureka seveN does a good job here. Additionally, there is a ton of really, really epic music that is occasionally paired with a scene that’s quite a bit less than epic, which makes things feel out of place. — those tracks would probably sound better independent of the series so they don’t seem so pretentious. About halfway through the show, I finally noticed Naoki Sato’s name in the opening credits and had an “ahha! that’s why the music is awesome” moment. The last time I heard Sato’s work was in the X TV series, where the music was its single greatest asset. It’s not quite as true here, but it’s close.
To be honest, I didn’t pay attention to most of the opening and ending themes in Eureka seveN. I enjoyed the rap in the second opening, “Shounen Heart,” by Home Made Kazoku, but most of the others were pretty forgettable, especially since I’m indifferent towards most of the involved artists. All the themes were also much shorter than usual — they hovered around thirty seconds in length, rather than the usual minute.
VOICE ACTING – I saw this series dubbed, which probably further contributed to my lack of sympathy towards Renton. I didn’t realize that Johnny Yong Bosch was Renton for a long time since the voice was incredibly different from his other roles. Renton sounds (and acts) incredibly young, and his voice was both over-the-top earnest, naive, and whiny. On one hand, it’s actually an incredible fit for the character; on the other hand, it was annoying as hell, especially when coupled with lots of fail dialogue. Stephanie Sheh as Eureka was also rather fitting, but much less irritating. Honestly, the dub cast did a great job: each voice was distinct and unique, and every voice fit their character very well. Crispin Freeman as Holland was pretty badass in particular.
Still, there was a quite a bit of awkward dialogue and word usage. A lot of lines were unnecessarily corny or just outright awkward (like, “Mm, smell that? That’s the smell of your Papa!” “…It smells good.”) though that can obviously be attributed to awkwardness in the original script. I found the use of “Mama” and “Papa” in place of “Mom” and “Dad” kind of strange though, and it sounded unnatural coming from a lot of the characters, especially Renton. Lastly, there are a handful of slips in the pronunciation of “Eureka” throughout the series. Most are by minor characters and not particularly notable, but it’s an indication of sloppiness all the same.
OVERALL – Given all the positive recommendations I’d gotten for this series, I’m pretty damn disappointed with how things turned out, especially since the finale revealed that the story could have been ten times more interesting if presented in a more efficient manner. The pacing, along with the quick evaporation of my sympathies towards the cast, really destroyed the little enjoyment I was getting from technical aspects of the show. I really wanted to drop the series around the halfway point, but I figured I’d already invested so much time into it, I might as well finish it (what a stupid train of logic rarely does it reward you in the end). A recap movie of this series might work a lot better since it would, theoretically, cut out a lot of the excess filler crap and force the actual plot out into the open much faster. The recently released Eureka seveN movie, Pocketful of Rainbows, isn’t a recap movie though, so I’m not going to watch it. I’ve had enough of rainbows.