Catching up with Eureka Seven: AO

This is me trying to make sense of how AO relates to its predecessor. Bear with me for a moment. I’m sure everyone has discussed this particular subject to death, but until now, I had only managed to watch a single episode of the sequel. I haven’t been reading any blogs either so I don’t have a clue what the popular theories are. So anyway, I was under the impression that AO would be a direct sequel to the original show. After eleven straight episodes of geopolitical drama, however, this is clearly incorrect to some degree:

Eureka Seven takes place 10,000 years after humanity has made a mass exodus into space…

Right. That’s what I thought. But in AO, it’s only the year 2025. In fact, we still have political entities such as Japan, Okinawa, the US, etc. The characters on the show even reference the Kosovo War. So, uh, what’s going on? Three ideas immediately come to my mind:

  1. Eureka time-traveled to the past, giving birth to Ao.
  2. Eureka traveled to a different dimension, giving birth to Ao.
  3. I’m being punk’d.

Hey, maybe all three are true! Whatever. I’m sure the anime will spill the beans eventually. As a minor aside, Bones loves to rush most of its series, but it sure as hell doesn’t mind dragging things out for Eureka Seven.

In any case, the rest of this post will just assume that I’ve never seen the original and thus know nothing about it. Why? Because if I so much as make a single comparison, I’ll be accused of wanting AO to be a carbon copy of the original.

Oh yeah, I may end up repeating what has already been said on other blogs. If that’s the case, sorry. Like I’ve said above, I have not read what others have been saying about Eureka Seven: AO. Personally, I like to go into an anime with as little information as possible, and this includes blogging as well.

The good
Let’s quickly run through the positives. First, I suppose that the geopolitical stuff isn’t half bad. I mean, it’s about as nuanced as the worldview in the Metal Gear Solid series, but you could do worse.

When it comes to the show’s morality, that’s when it gets murky. As always, the main character attempts to serve as the moral compass of the show. Ao will always be pure-hearted in contrast with the adults and their vested interests. In the ninth episode, Ao has to prioritize retrieving a Quartz over fighting a Secret. Naturally, Ao chooses the course of action that will save the most immediate lives. Still, wanting to prevent Japan from attaining military supremacy isn’t exactly a crazy concept. I mean, put yourself in South Korea’s shoes. I’m not, however, blaming Ao’s for his naivete; I just don’t think he’s the clear-cut moral compass of the show.

Regarding Okinawa’s independence, I wonder how prominently it will feature in the show’s plot now that Ao has long left the prefecture. What was all that setup in the first four episodes for? What is the show’s stance on the issue, if any? As you might’ve already known, a lot of Okinawans died near the end of WW2. Since then, there has always been a lingering sense that Japan abandoned the islands to the Allies. To compound matters, present-day Okinawa is home to quite a few US military bases. When a schoolgirl was raped in ’95 by three American servicemen, the tragedy became a launching point for political outcry. A poor girl, despite having her own trauma to deal with, became the poster girl for Okinawa’s victimhood.

Well, that’s enough of a history lesson. To tie everything back to the anime, isn’t trapar just a metaphor for the current situation in Okinawa? There’s a perception that the islands’ economy benefits from the continued presence of the US military. As a result, not everyone wants the military bases to disappear. In actuality, however, it has been estimated that the military presence only accounts for about 5% of the prefecture’s economy. The presence of the bases also cuts down on the fishing waters available to the locals. Sound familiar?

Sure, money talks and trapar brings in the money, but Ao quickly learns in the fourth episode that the wealth hasn’t exactly trickled down to everyone. Plus, tourism and fishing is now dead ever since trapar came into existence. It’s safe to assume that fishermen don’t just instantly turn into trapar miners overnight. As a result, you get the screenshot above.

Anyway, what’s going to happen to Okinawa now? Ever since our hero started zipping across the globe to fight the mysterious Secrets, Okinawa and its independence has gone on the back burner. It’s interesting to note, however, that almost every adult in the anime is wracked with guilt. Almost every grown up seems to have sins to atone for. Coincidence? I certainly hope the anime doesn’t just drop this plot thread completely. I’ll be watching to see how the show resolves the issue, if at all.

Moving on, I like the running commentary that you can only generate public outcry through the clear delineation of good and evil. Otherwise, the general populace remains apathetic and disconnected from the world around them. Hell, you could say that this applies to anime. I think I may have written something somewhat related to this very issue of good vs. evil…. Continuing on, Ao emphasizes the world of appearances and this includes the role of the media in shaping and manufacturing conflicts. I suppose that this only makes sense considering how the main antagonist appears to be a shapeshifter who keeps rambling on and on about finding truth in the world. Does truth even exist? Is it something we can even hope to find?

Pacing issues
It’s not until the eleventh episode that Ao decides to address the elephant in the room:

Oh, you mean those things we’ve been fighting all this time? Yeah, what are they? Even then, Ao doesn’t really get an answer. In the very next episode, Team Harlequin decides to drop the bombshell on Ao and reveal his origins. But why now, after twelve long episodes? You could argue that Generation Bleu wanted to spare the kid the potential shock, but they sure as hell were content to use him for the time being.

I want to know what Truth’s intentions are. I want to know what the Secrets are attempting to accomplish. I want to know why Eureka appeared out of nowhere. After twelve episodes, however, I seem to be no closer to answering any of the above questions. On the other hand, I love how anime acts all coy about the identity of Ao’s mother as if fans of the original series couldn’t have guessed it from the very start. As for newcomers of the series, it’s not like they even know who Eureka was.

Kids, kids, and more kids
Only kids can fly IFOs? You don’t say! C’mon it’s practically an anime tradition at this point. No sense in the show bucking tradition now, right? The only problem, however, is the lack of variety. Actually, screw it — I will make a comparison to the original series.

Holland was a great foil to Renton. Whereas the latter symbolized childish innocence, the former had bloodied his hands long before the original series even started. Holland’s cool facade belied a man with a short temper — a man prone to running away whenever the going got tough. Now, Renton was undoubtedly the main character of the original series, but Holland shared a significant portion of the screen time. Renton might’ve played hero, but there were things only Holland could do by virtue of the fact that he was not innocent.

The adults in AO do have skeletons in their closets — don’t get me wrong — but they’re not prominent characters like Holland was. Neither Rebecka nor Ivica really get all that much screen time. So who gets to be Ao’s foil? Truth? Dude only shows up every now and then to ramble enigmatically. Gazelle? His character’s a bit paper-thin, isn’t it? Maybe if he got more screen time. All I’m trying to say is that I’m searching for depth, but all I see are kids, kids, and more kids.

Look, I don’t want another Eureka Seven. I’ve got the original right here within arm’s reach. I can pop in the DVDs anytime I want. I only compare the sequel to its predecessor because it’s easier that way, but you could replace Holland in the paragraphs above with any notable foil in storytelling. Sancho, anyone?

Hell, I don’t even believe that Ao necessarily needs a foil. I just want someone who doesn’t act like a kid all the time. Hey, it’s fine if a single character is clueless and naive. I don’t hate Ao, because if I did, I’d have to hate Renton too (and I didn’t). But goddamn, they’ve decided to surround Ao with just more of the same. Fleur’s sole gimmick at this point is that she hates her dad for a childish reason. I’m not saying that she’s unrealistic; sure, her character makes sense. After all, what teenager hasn’t, at one point or another, resented their parents? But still, I ask for variety. And speaking of kids, what does Team Goldilocks even add to the story?

Tunes? What tunes?
Especially during the battle scenes, I expect a strong track to get the blood pumping, but I’m just not feeling it.

To each his or her own, but personally, the soundtrack has been really forgettable thus far.

Wrapping things up
The anime still has me watching because I have questions that I want answered. The show isn’t without its issues though. Since I’ve already detailed most of my misgivings with the show, I won’t sum them up again. I’ll just add one more thing: is it just me or is Eureka Seven: AO just lacking… fun? I don’t know how else to put it. While I appreciate the political issues being brought up every now and then, there just isn’t enough levity to break things up a bit. As a result, the episodes didn’t go by as easily as they should have. Sure, not every show is necessarily constructed for extended periods of viewing, but I certainly expect more from Bones, especially with one of their marquee shows.

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10 thoughts on “Catching up with Eureka Seven: AO

  1. Marow

    I pretty much agree with everything you said. It feels as if AO lacks something, call it fun or whatever you want. For me, it doesn’t work as a sequel, not even as a stand-alone!

    The pacing is poor, with a lack of character development and world-building. We are get info-dumps about the world sometimes, but none of it seems to matter anyway, especially since we never get a clear picture of it (in the original, at least we SAW how the world was). The characters are thin. Ao is not too bad, but I would personally love hearing him… think and reflect on what happens around him. He is very much like Renton to be honest, only that so far, we don’t follow his thoughts nor see him develop.

    … it really is impossible to write without comparing it to the original, heh. Although, just remove how weak it is compared to the original, and you still have a weak show. It doesn’t seem to have a proper goal. What is the motivation? Where is the pacing? It started as a Secret of the Week, but now it seems like it will have an overarching story. It completely ignores to further delve into things, like Naru’s disappearance, The End, Ao’s eyes and whatnot… only to bring some up in later episodes in a random way.

    It’s just… lacking.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      It completely ignores to further delve into things, like Naru’s disappearance,

      Yeah, it’s funny how quickly and calmly Ao takes it. Oh, we don’t have time to go on side missions? Okay. *forgets about it*

      Reply
      1. Marow

        I think that episode takes the prize of this year’s worst episode so far. I can’t come up with any positive stuff about it.

        Reply
  2. Naota

    I have yet to finger exactly why (save maybe that the supporting characters just aren’t as loud, colourful, and immediately interesting), but I also just don’t find myself enjoying Ao as much as the original Eureka Seven. Even without making any direct comparisons to the original, it just feels more flat and less invested in its own story.

    The secrets are faceless monsters with uninteresting gimmicks and no obvious goals or nuance, the battles are simultaneously brief and dull, and yet the airing time just seems to get sucked into a black hole. Episodes seem to cut short before delivering on any of their themes in any satisfying fashion, yet also make no progress towards an over-arching story. Paradoxically it feels like there isn’t enough time spent on the characters, the world-building, or the plot… yet if not to any of those, where is it all going?

    Maybe it’s the episodic plotting? The huge shift in focus from world building and character development to simple monster of the week planet-saving? I don’t hate the series by any means, but I could swear it’s just got less of what I like.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Maybe it’s the episodic plotting?

      This may be hitting the nail on the head. I felt as though the original had arcs. You spent a few episodes exploring one character, then moving onto the next. This then brings up a related issue: the original was more character-driven, even if they were just minor characters within the overall framework of the narrative. Right from the very start, I feel as though Renton’s grandfather had more personality than his counterpart in in AO. Then you met the badass lady that Holland was contracted to capture, but eventually helped escape. You met a monk with the freaking ability to disable machines. You met surrogate parents for Renton in Charles and Ray Beams. The original was just jam-packed with memorable characters. On the other hand, I’m afraid I can’t really describe anyone but the main characters in AO.

      Reply
      1. Naota

        Most baffling to me is the Gazelle trio. They were introduced as loveable rogues and smugglers, and at the time I thought they were going to fill a similar role to the Gekko’s crew; teaching Ao more about the world while they themselves lived on the run, fighting against the established order of things. At the very least they felt suited for the part of joking, rascal-ish family figures. They had their moment “doing some fucking justice” on Okinawa, but since then it really feels as if the show is just dragging them along so we don’t forget they exist, and I can’t imagine what for.

        Most scenes involving these poor guys either don’t go anywhere or don’t do anything which actually requires or plays off of their character dynamics. They’re running around doing grunt work that could have been accomplished by anyone else or cut entirely. They’re not particularly close to Ao, and we never get much insight into why they’re working for Pied Piper or what their motivation is. Since they don’t have any agency of their own and the plot has no use for them other than running errands, I have to wonder: why are they there every episode?

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          The trio just seems to be a constant reminder that the “truth” is out there. Y’know, between the constant clamoring that there’s the real truth in the world and the “Secret of the week” storytelling, I’m starting to get reminded of Blood-C.

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