At the heart of Eureka Seven AO is the story of a half-alien boy, Ao Fukai, abandoned at the age of two, trying to find and save his mother. Ao, at thirteen, is now flying his mother’s mecha (or IFO) Nirvash, as part of Generation Bleu’s Pied Piper team, fighting Secrets and helping to extract Quartz from the outbursts of alien Scub Coral. His best friend Naru, whose health has been affected by the Scub Coral, is now with the shape-shifter Truth and frequently pitted against Ao. The Quartz collected by Generation Bleu, once in Ao’s hands, transforms into a Quartz Gun, which has the power to change history – and does. Now competing nations want to get their hands on it too… but who can Ao trust and who will protect him in a constantly changing world?
Some anime TV series eke out their plots. Not so Eureka Seven AO. There’s so much plot here, unravelling before our eyes at breakneck speed, that the series almost implodes under its own momentum. Events happen too fast – not necessarily a bad thing, for the viewer will never be bored although frequently confused – yet ultimately a handicap in telling a coherent story. The action zips along on the surface of events, much as Ao’s Nirvash surfs Trappar waves through the sky, but moves too swiftly. It’s one hell of a ride, but it’s hard to tell what’s important and what isn’t. Are the Secrets (also known as G-Monsters) the enemy? Or is the Scub Coral the enemy? Are the Americans the enemy? Even Ao, the titular hero, never really dominates the action (until the end) as there are so many other characters competing for screen time. And the constant side and allegiance swapping seems to gain little except to extenuate the plot and further confuse the viewer. No. VII in Robert McKee’s Ten Commandments from his influential Story Structure is ‘Thou shalt not complicate when complexity is better’. Sadly, the writing team didn’t remember this valuable piece of writerly advice.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that the series doesn’t only have time-travelling but also has Truth, a seemingly indestructible shape-shifter, as the main antagonist, leading to endless situations where Truth changes the dynamics by pretending to be someone else.
And then there’s the curious over-emphasis on the differences between the children (child pilots of mechas) and the adults – and, yes, the choice of the name Pied Piper is significant – although the significance is sometimes confusing even to the script writers. Ao’s father, Renton Thurston, the central viewpoint character in Eureka Seven, was always being treated like a child by the crew of the Gekkostate in the original series and resented it like hell. Often criticized (fairly or unfairly, depending on your perspective) for being a whiner, his character was given plenty of time and opportunity to develop. So when grown-up Renton eventually appears from the far future searching for Eureka (and this isn’t a spoiler, because the episode title is ‘Renton’) we have the inevitable father-son confrontation. Ao has had to do most of his growing up without his parents, so there’s some issues that need resolving between them. It’s good to see both Eureka and Renton all grown up but this just doesn’t quite deliver the emotional impact that it could have done.
However… Eureka Seven AO still makes for compelling (if confusing) viewing, as long as the viewer is prepared to just sit back and enjoy the ride. The aerial combats are dazzlingly animated and the backgrounds are richly realized. This is sometimes at the expense of the characters themselves who are only detailed in close-ups and can look a bit sketchy at other times.
In the US dub, there’s a nice touch where the voice actors who play Renton (Johnny Yong Bosh) and Eureka (Stephanie Sheh) return to reprise their roles.
The new Opening Theme is “Bravblue” by FLOW who provided the Opening Themes for the original series and the new Ending Theme is “Iolite” by Joy which taps into an Arakawa under the Bridge-type vibe in both animation and song-style.
As the final episode (24) ends rather abruptly, we are treated to an OVA episode: The Flowers of Jungfraujoch which follows Pied Piper pilots Ao, Fleur and pink-haired fangirl Elena as they attend a spring festival in Switzerland and attempt to evade a keen reporter determined to interview them. This ends up with Ao disguised as a girl and looking, of course, a lot like his mother Eureka. Then a Secret appears… It’s fun and fluffy but doesn’t really distract from the fact that it’s an OVA and doesn’t add anything to the storyline, taking place about halfway through the story.
Extras include commentaries for Episodes 13 and 24 and a video commentary – yes, you actually get to see the US voice actors! – for Episode 21. There are also the usual textless songs, promotional videos and English language trailer.
Eureka Seven AO tries to juggle too many issues and plotlines at once to make a satisfying watch. However, it can’t be beaten for thrills and spills – and it looks great. It just doesn’t have the wit or imagination or gravitas of its predecessor.