Today I take on Eureka Seven (Eu-Re-Ka, not You-Ree-Kah), one of the few mecha shows that decided to make the entire show about the two main characters and their relationship with one another. The real question is, did they get it right?
Well, that's a bit complicated in my opinion. We'll get to cover it all in the usual good-great-bad format.
Before we get to that, I'd like to point out that this is my first official TAY post. I'd like to give TheUnfathomableTruth a shout out for bringing me on the TAY team and I'll do my best to give you all quality material.
Now, let's get on with the review!
Given that this is a Studio Bones production, this show was going to be pretty well animated. This show isn't an exception, the show is animated very, very well. While it doesn't really take any chances and the designs aren't exactly "inspired", they are very well done. The characters are easy to differentiate because they all are quite unique.
Speaking of unique, the themes that this show presents are a strong point. Compared to mecha shows that came before it (and even after), this show handles a range of very unique themes to the genre, usually relating back to the show's pivotal relationship. Themes like love, discrimination and war are all touched on and intertwined with the relationship between Eureka and Renton. This creates a rather unique show that is pretty much driven by a romantic pairing, not a high-concept plot. Any other interpretation of this show is inadequate.
In accordance with that, this show has a good cast of characters that do their job well. The two main characters are pretty well conceived and complement each others' flaws well. Eureka plays the somewhat emotionless Rei Ayanami expy (she gets better) while Renton plays the clumsy teenager that's just been thrust into a strange situation because he likes a girl (see: Most of us when we were teenagers).
The supporting cast has some great moments through the series, being the source of much of the comic relief. This is another case of loads and loads of characters syndrome, although it does feel like too many might be knocking around sometimes.
When it comes down to it, the shining point of this series has nothing to do with the plot, the supporting characters, or the animation. This series has everything to do with the two main characters and their relationship.
Eureka and Renton's relationship development is probably pretty close to unparalleled in the genre and in animation as a whole. As I've said before, nearly every episode of this 50-episode series has these two on screen somehow expanding their relationship. Somehow, bafflingly, they manage to advance the relationship even when they aren't both on screen.
The relationship is littered with ups and downs (just like a real relationship). It ranges from pretty massive downer moments to huge, gigantic, maybe even unparalleled anywhere moments of heartwarming. Due to this relationship, the two characters evolve quite significantly. Renton manages to grow up and Eureka slowly becomes more, I daresay, human rather than the emotionless socially awkward person she was at the beginning.
In addition to the alpha couple, the beta couple Anemone and Dominic act as a complete foil to their relationship. Without giving much a way, it can be said that there is a very big reason that the fandom seems to ship the hell out of the beta couple, even more than Renton and Eureka. I must confess that even I was over in the beta couple camp. Just like Eureka and Renton, Anemone and Dominic evolve from pretty straightforward bad guys to a more relatable coupling.
So actually, it seems that Eureka Seven has two giant relationships that the show is based on.
All wrapped within these two relationships are a fairly complex mixing of themes. I can't go too deep into this one without spoiling the back-half of the series, but it can be said that Eureka and Renton's relationship hits rocky bits because of themes like acceptance. Similar things happen to Anemone and Dominic, although that relationship is just weird man (why the hell do I ship these two? I'll never know...).
This is where things in this review get complicated. As much as I loved the themes and character evolution that has occurred in the series, it has serious drawbacks.
The biggest offender here is how the overarching plot takes a complete backseat in the show. Maybe it was just me, but the early episodes seemed to a very poor job setting up the plot. Considering how the entire series is arguably just one huge excuse plot for a mecha show where two main characters fall in love, this isn't bad, but seriously I couldn't understand half the time what the "Gekkostate" was or what they were doing. In addition, most of the plot elements in the series (LFOs, trapar waves, and the towers) go largely unexplained. It can be infuriating.
What exactly is the green stuff you may ask? My past self still asks me.
As such, the whole show tends to feel a bit drawn out, particularly when the plot or a plot element is advanced to the forefront of an episode. On one hand you'll love the heartwarming of the character relationship, and on the other hand you'll be scratching your head in confusion when something important happens in the plot.
As an example, one of the episodes (probably about ten episodes in) the whole plot of an episode revolves around a giant trapar wave. What is a trapar wave you might ask? Well... I didn't really know either. You can figure it out if you pay attention in episodes but it never gets an exposition really.
My last big gripe with the series is how the power of love card got pulled too much. Whenever an episode looked like it wouldn't turn out well and there wasn't any hope, the writers would pull a deus ex love card out of the blue. It starts to grate really badly at several specific episodes.
This series is my definition of the phrase "mixed bag". In order to love it, you need to overlook the plot. You need to. Anything less and you'll start to lose your mind.
This show is for people who are looking for a good romantic plot with themes of acceptance and change thrown in. There isn't much for anyone else. If you want a good well thought out plot, you definitely aren't going to be impressed with this. If you're looking for a show about robots beating each other up, you probably won't be very interested in this either, since even that takes a backseat to the romantic story.
Regardless of anything I've said here, I do like this series. It did something that mecha shows have generally avoided and I like that. I enjoyed the relationship advancements of both Renton and Eureka as well as Anemone and Dominic as the center piece of the show. The plot leaves something to be desired, but the characters are able to carry the show to a high point in my anime review marathon.
If you enjoyed my previously reviewed show Sword Art Online, then I'd suggest this series. The relationship between the characters is at the center of both series, but the themes in each are different so it won't feel like a repetition.
As usual, I claim no ownership to the images herein. They are the work of Studio Bones. Credit to my fellow tropers at tvtropes.org for two of the images.
This is part of my Anime Review Marathon that I began in October 2013 to record my thoughts as I watch a variety of anime on my ever growing backlog. These reviews won't come out on a persistent basis, they'll come out when I feel I have seen enough of a series to pass a judgement on it.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner by using the "Dex's Corner" tag.
I'll be back next time with Eureka Seven: AO. This'll be fun.