I want to compare Eureka Seven‘s opening episode to its sequel’s opening episode. But first, some perspective: one episode alone cannot decide the fate of a series. Having said that, the start of a story sets the stage, and if we’re comparing and contrasting just the first episodes, Eureka Seven is to Eureka Seven: AO as A New Hope was to The Phantom Menace.
Yes, I realize that I make too many comparisons to Star Wars, but that saga is so culturally ubiquitous in our contemporary society that it just makes it easier for me to illustrate my point. And what is my point? Early on in their respective stories, Renton and Luke Skywalker both embody a hero yearning for journey and adventure, and this same embodiment of a monomythic hero is, I feel, missing from Ao.
Monomyths identify a common thread in our storytelling, and the concept serves to explain how mankind can find certain tales so relatable. I realize that I’ve just vastly simplified a complex thesis, but for the purposes of this post, the definition above will suffice. And in Renton’s case, we can see how the start of his journey bears a lot of similarities with Luke’s journey.
They are both hopeful and reckless souls yearning for a life outside the confines of their domestic trappings. Early on, we see Renton grimace as he suffers through another boring day of class; likewise, Luke whines about having to stay another year on his uncle’s farm when his buddies have all moved on with their lives. Renton idolizes a counterculture figure he sees in his air surfing magazines; Luke wants to enlist in the Imperial Academy and see the galaxy. Even though they both exist in an exotic world much unlike our own, we can nevertheless relate to Renton and Luke. The first episode of Eureka Seven thus ends on a perfect note as our hero charges off on his own to realize his dreams. He has wanted to take flight all episode long, and now, at his grandfather’s urging, he will enter the larger world he has always dreamed of seeing.
In a lot of ways, the Eureka Seven sequel tries to emulate its predecessor. Like Renton, Ao is without either of his parents. Like Renton, Ao is haunted by a past he knows little about. Renton has to live in his father’s shadow and Ao is judged for whatever his mother has done. The difference, however, lies in how they see and challenge the world around them. Renton yearns; he wants to escape. We get none of the same characterization from Ao before events set his fate in motion. In fact, we know little of Ao’s personality as much of his time onscreen is bantering with Naru, a female friend.
“Big things come from humble beginnings,” so goes the saying. Eureka Seven is a long story full of twists and turns, but it adopts a simple approach in how it introduces Renton as just a kid who wants to fly through the air. From there, the plot can balloon into something complex, but more importantly, it can do so organically. I have no idea how long Eureka Seven: AO will end up being. And to be fair, Eureka Seven‘s plot seemed strained at times in its attempt to fill up its fifty episodes. Nevertheless, the sequel’s first episode feels impacted as though too much is happening at once; we are introduced to too many characters at once. As a result, it’s not as character driven as its predecessor.
Immediately following the Scab Burst, a seemingly pivotal moment in Ao’s life, the episode jumps to different locales (one of them being a command center; see the screen cap above) full of different characters despite the fact that the plot has yet to establish an immediate goal. Although Renton’s initial goal, i.e. to take flight, is fulfilled pretty much by the predecessor’s second episode, it is nevertheless a goal that frames the first episode adequately.
Within a story, there are sub-stories each punctuated by climactic moments. Renton charging off on his own is the end of one sub-story, whereas I can hardly discern if a sub-story has even begun in Eureka Seven: AO. By opting to cut away from the main character, we instead get to see countless talking heads drone on about countless things we yet know nothing about. I’m sure that the anime is dispensing pivotal plot information, but said information carries with it no meaningful weight when we have yet to form an emotional investment with any of the show’s characters. I’m instantly reminded of how The Phantom Menace, a prequel to A New Hope, decided to open with a dispute with a Trade Federation. Eureka Seven: Ao‘s execution isn’t quite as bad as Lucas’s colossal failure nor is the series already doomed, but the first episode is a definite misstep when held up against the original series.
One of the greatest scenes in Eureka Seven would occur in just the second episode. Having just jumped off a cliff to join the action in the skies above him, Renton initially struggles with his resolve. He fights through it, however, and it almost seems as though his determination summons a Trapar wave. He takes flight and Storywriter kicks in, creating any early climax in, at that point, a young story. This very scene only has emotional weight by establishing Renton’s character as a hero yearning for journey in the first episode. Perhaps an analogue of such an event may occur in Eureka Seven: AO‘s second episode, but it’s hard to imagine that the scene will carry the same energy and exuberance considering Ao’s characterization or lack thereof in the first episode.
It’s all very early, and as much as I love how Eureka Seven started, I felt it really stumbled near the end. Likewise, Eureka Seven: AO may not have cleanly left the starting blocks, but it could get better. Nevertheless, the execution in each series’ respective opening episodes is staggering.
On a less serious note, “Days” pretty much gets you amped up for Eureka Seven. Why is there no OP for the sequel’s first episode?