Renton Thurston is a 14-year-old boy who lives with his grandfather, a mechanic, in the backwater town of Bellforest. Every day he dreams of escaping his mundane life, idolising the group called Gekkostate, a band of mercenaries who pilot mecha known as LFOs, even in spite of his grandfather’s best efforts to dissuade him from such ideas. When a young girl named Eureka, a member of the Gekkostate, stops by his grandfather’s with her LFO, the Nirvash, for a tune-up, she inadvertently attracts the attention of the military, forcing Renton to deliver a new upgrade to the LFO in the middle of a battle. When his heroic delivery saves the life of Eureka, Renton is offered a chance to fulfil his wish of joining the Gekkostate; however, he quickly discovers that traveling with a band of mercenaries is a very bitter reality.
Although it isn’t as instantly recognizable or iconic as other mecha anime released around the golden age of the mid 2000s, such as Full Metal Panic, Code Geass or Gurren Lagann, Eureka Seven has still managed to carve out quite the reputation as a classic in its own right. An original concept by the studio that animated it, Bones, in collaboration with Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Ergo Proxy scriptwriter Dai Sato, Eureka Seven has managed to garner a rather large following over a decade since its debut, even despite some franchise missteps, such as an ill received follow- up in the form of Eureka Seven AO or the recently released and critically panned movie Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution, so I was curious to see if the original series could live up to all the expectations set up by the community which, fortunately, it did.
If I had to come up with a quick sales pitch to any potential viewers of Eureka Seven, I think it could be best described as a cross between the pioneering retro classic Mobile Suit Gundam 079 and landmark 90s hit Neon Genesis Evangelion. Anyone who has seen those two shows know that, mecha aside, they’re poles apart in terms of tone, so the description may sound somewhat peculiar, but Eureka Seven is definitely a show that wears its influences on its sleeve, and mixes the action-packed fights and ship-based setting of Gundam with the laser-focused character emphasis and penchant for the use of both surreal and sometimes horrific imagery from Evangelion to create something truly unique and, perhaps more importantly, high quality.
The cast of Eureka Seven are far and away the best part of the show, to the point where I think that this should be held up as the gold standard that other anime of its ilk should be aiming to match in terms of quality. The four main characters, Renton, Eureka, Holland and Talho, all undergo substantial character arcs throughout the fifty episode run, growing and changing subtly. The best example of character development in the series comes courtesy of its main protagonist Renton, transforming from naive adolescent to courageous hero, shaped by the hardships he faces during his time with the Gekkostate, and how his childish and idyllic expectations clash with the harshness and cruelty of reality. Other character conflicts are also dealt with through different people, such as issues of identity, cowardice and motherhood, which are tackled incredibly well.
On top of the characters themselves being well written, the dynamics between the individual members of the main cast are equally as fantastic. No matter what combination of two protagonists you can think of, you’re guaranteed that the relationship will be both interesting and unique, and it’s executed to such a high quality that it’s genuinely astonishing that Sato managed to pull it off so effortlessly in his writing. Romance has a big emphasis within Eureka Seven, so the Renton/Eureka and Holland/Talho relationships definitely get the most attention, which I have no objection to, given how good they are. The depiction of adolescent romance between Eureka and Renton is almost perfect, covering the highs and lows of a relationship, and although it ends up about where you expect it to, it’s a rocky path to get there, and it genuinely makes you wonder how their relationship will turn out, at least early on.
In addition to the main four, there is a large secondary cast too, and although they aren’t as fleshed out as the protagonists, they are in the very least memorable, with the vast majority of them getting some great scenes and moments to shine. The same can be said for the antagonists too, receiving just enough attention to give them a little depth and make them interesting, whilst not taking time away from those that probably deserve it more. The only issue I took with the villains’ side of things was the relationship between Dominic and Anemone, which takes a turn towards the end that, whilst not totally out of left field, didn’t quite feel set up right, happening far too quickly for my liking.
Up to this point, I’ve only talked about the characterisation , but that doesn’t mean that Eureka Seven doesn’t have a solid story too, which it very much does. Admittedly, if you are coming to this anime for a plot, you may be left slightly disappointed, as character building always takes precedence, a fact that’s made abundantly clear when the story still hasn’t kicked in almost twenty episodes in, with the exception of a couple of episodes here and there and a peppering of scenes that set up pay-offs at the climax. When it does get going, it isn’t the most complex or unique of plots, but there’s enough twists and turns to keep things engaging, and some quality world-building really helps you get invested in the world.
A rarity within the medium, Eureka Seven also tries its hand at political commentary, which I found to be very intriguing. One episode in particular deals with a sick and dying girl being refused medical treatment and getting physical and verbal abuse from passers-by due to her being the same religion and race as a group of religious extremists. Conceived in 2005, Eureka Seven came about less than five years after the tragic events of 9/11 and the start of the War on Terror, kick-starting racism towards Muslims around the world, so the message of equality and coexistence found within this show feels very poignant and, sadly, just as relevant today as it did when it was first released.
Previously only released on DVD by the now defunct Beez Entertainment, Anime Limited brings Eureka Seven to Blu-ray for the first time in the UK and it looks gorgeous. Animated by the acclaimed studio Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, My Hero Academia, Darker Than Black, Space Dandy), Eureka Seven looks absolutely gorgeous, and despite its age, holds up amazingly, managing to look better than a lot of contemporary shows, so long as you can overlook the 4:3 aspect ratio, having some of the smoothest and most fluid animation I’ve seen.
Legendary mecha series creator Shoji Kawamori, known for his work on the Macross and Escaflowne franchise, is responsible for the mecha in Eureka Seven, and much like the show itself, his designs clearly show plenty of influences from shows that came before it, featuring a wide array, from the chunky and boxy military robots to the humanoid and organic-looking Nirvash and TheEnd.
Anime Limited’s release of Eureka Seven contains both the Japanese and English dub and, as most would expect of a mid 2000s dub from Bang Zoom, it’s absolutely fantastic, with the cast featuring a who’s who of famous voice actors from the era, including Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Akira), Crispin Freeman (Durarara, Fate/Zero, Hellsing), Stephanie Shea (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Sailor Moon, Your Name), Kate Higgins (Code Geass, Naruto, Initial D) and more.
Assassination Classroom composer Naoki Sato’s soundtrack for the show is also high quality, having a couple of instantly recognizable and catchy tunes. This is also a series that isn’t lacking in openings or endings either, having four of each, and all being pretty good in their own individual way, with my favourite no doubt being the third opening “Taiyou no Mannaka he” by Bivattchee.
Anyone who has bought one of Anime Limited’s Ultimate Editions should know by now that when it comes to content on disc and physical, they don’t mess around. Although the Ultimate Edition of Eureka Seven does come with a high price point, it comes with a substantial amount of extras that die hard fans are bound to love, and are too numerous to list here, but can be found on our article covering the release.
The exceptional character writing featured in Eureka Seven would be enough alone for me to give this a glowing recommendation, but the great story, world and top-notch animation only serve to make it that much better, easily earning its reputation as a classic that deserves to be seen.