So this week I’m doing one of my favorite series, Eureka 7. Technically the real title is Psalms of Planets Eureka seveN, but no one ever calls it that, and I won’t either. Anyway, it aired in Japan from April 2005 to April 2006, and aired in the US under Adult Swim later (that’s when I caught it). It’s animated by bones, who have done a ton of other popular series from both Fullmetal Alchemist series to Darker than Black, and I have no complaints there. As a preface, this is a mecha series, so that’s obviously a good part of the reason I enjoy it so much, but at its heart it’s a story about a boy, Renton Thurston, and how he grows up and finds love. In fact, I’d say the story is more about Renton and his path to adulthood and less about the mecha, which is more a product of the setting. Now, with all that said, let’s see if the Eureka 7 can hold up to a more objective review.
To say it clearly, the plot is all over the damn place. Fortunately, Eureka 7 has the benefit of being 50 episodes so the pacing isn’t horrible, but there’s a lot of exposition to be covered in Eureka 7 that just isn’t for the longest time. Luckily, the show isn’t totally about that, and I think at times it can add to the show, but there are plenty of problems with this approach. While the show has several “cool” factors that may hook you on the first episode, the plot will certainly not be one of them. The show shoves you into a setting and circumstances in the very beginning of the show that you’re not going to be familiar with, but all the characters pretty much are, and so you’re kind of left in the dark. Of course this was intentional, but I don’t think it’s particularly effective. Moreover, there are new threads to the plot constantly being introduced to make it more complex, and while most things get resolved at the end, the first several episodes, and several in the middle become kind of bogged down with lots of minor things.
For a small overview of the plot, the main character is Renton Thurston. He lives with his grandfather in the middle of nowheresville and loves to ref board, which is pretty much surfing in the air. One day a crazy machine crashes into his house; it turns out to be an LFO (what the mecha in this show are called) called the Nirvash, and its pilot Eureka, a cute young girl. And of course, Renton falls in love at first sight. He makes no secret of this and through delivering the Amita Drive joins Eureka’s organization called Gekko State, which is essentially an anti-government terrorist organization. Of course Renton doesn’t care about any of that, he just does it for Eureka.
Anyway, that’s the beginning of the plot in a nutshell; it branches out several ways from there. Despite that, there’s a main theme of Renton’s eventual growth into an adult that’s always at play. But you can see from the first episode there are a ton of unanswered questions. Why is Gekko State fighting the military and the government? Who is Eureka, and why is she kinda weird? What is the Nirvash, and why are it and the Amita Drive so important? One thing I didn’t mention that is mentioned in the beginning of the first episode is that Renton is the son of Adrock Thurston, a very famous military man who saved the world years earlier (and that’s why he’s not around). And that’s another important point, what did he save the world from and why?
Now you may be thinking, well, this is just the first episode, isn’t it normal to have these many and these kind of questions? And ordinarily I’d agree, unfortunately Eureka 7 makes nearly no move to address several of these questions until at least halfway through the series (one question in particular isn’t really addressed until nearly the end). And that’s where it kind of falters. Sure, it’s plenty interesting when they DO address it, but I think the way it’s done is more sudden and less gradual. In fact, one of the episodes near the end is just a lot of exposition about the world and its circumstances, which I generally do not like. It always seemed to me like a “oh crap, we forgot to explain this stuff” button that shows sometimes use.
That being said, from these major questions Eureka 7 goes into several minor plotlines that, while not the greatest, are fairly interesting to watch. And indeed, Renton does develop throughout the entire series, so that’s one area where I’ll really give Eureka 7 some credit. In terms of character development, I thought the story was paced very well and 50 episodes was a good way to fit everyone in, giving them the proper development they deserved. In a nutshell, I think in its core plot Eureka 7 falls apart in delivering a well-paced coherent series (not that it’s bad, but it could be handled better). However, this failing is made up for by the characters and their personal development. While that may not be the main plot, it is certainly a part of it, and also the best part of the show.
The characters of Eureka 7 are easily its best aspect. The main story aside, I think the story of Renton’s growth is far more important and interesting to watch. I’ll be honest, for the first twenty or so episodes Renton’s pretty boring and nigh-unlikeable. However, as certain events unfold and his life changes in several ways, Renton learns a lot. He learns what it means to be an adult, and take responsibility for his own actions. He becomes a reliable man. Of course, that stuff happens on the other half of the series. He has to grow, after all. Renton is a character that grows via his interactions with other characters. At first he’s a bit stupid and has to be told “Hey, don’t do that” or “Hey, you’re being an idiot”. And in the beginning, he may not even listen.
But as situations break down around him, Renton has this kind of single-mindedness that allows him to accomplish some pretty great things. Of course this single-mindedness is about Eureka and his love for her. Which, I might add, is kind of unrequited at first. Luckily for him Eureka is a pretty important character to the plot, so him valuing her and her life above all else works out for the series pretty well (there wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise, I guess).
Anyway, Renton is tested through many events, and meets many people who teach him about life. Through them, he learns what it means to accept your own mistakes and move on, and take responsibility for your own actions. One of the major themes of this show is to get out and get what’s yours, in your own hands. I can’t recall the specific quote, and I don’t have the dubs on hand (that’s the version of the show I watched), but it’s something to that effect. And Renton grows into the kind of man that can do that. His journey is a treat to watch (at least past the first twenty episodes or so).
Of course, there’s this mysterious girl called Eureka he falls in love with? Who is she? Well, that’s not totally important right now (though it is of vital import later). For now, its fine to treat her as the girl Renton fell in love with. Well, she’s certainly cute enough. And she has this kind of mature air around her, like nothing will faze her and she can be an adult when the situation calls for it. And, of course, she shows very little interest in Renton besides being coworkers. Of course, Renton doesn’t give up so easily, and does end up melting (though that term might be a slight over exaggeration) Eureka’s heart as the series goes on, and they become a happy loving couple (with their own share of troubles, of course). And so, that’s Eureka and her development in a nutshell. It sounds kind of boring when put in text like this, but it’s, like Renton’s development, a treat to watch. And attached to a cute girl, to boot.
The last two characters I’ll cover are Dominic and Anemone. They’re introduced a little later, and not really on the level of main characters as Renton and Eureka are, but I think their story is a nice parallel (and in some ways, a foil) to Renton and Eureka. Dominic and Anemone are another young, romantic pair (… kind of), but unlike Renton and Eureka, who enjoy a relatively stable relationship, Dominic and Anemone’s relationship is just a little bit crazy. Anemone is a human weapon made for the army to pilot a specific LFO, TheEND. And Dominic is a young second Lieutenant and subordinate to an important character of the series, Colonel Dewey.
Dominic and Anemone are a bit older than Renton and Eureka, and that shows in their relationships and how they handle life. Dominic is quite a bit mature than Renton and has a good deal less growing up to do (which makes sense, since he’s not the main character). However, the same themes come into play for both Renton and Dominic, that of personal responsibility and grabbing what you want with your own hands. In both cases, what they want is a woman, but there are of course certain sacrifices and such to be made to get to that point. Anemone on the other hand… is more similar to Eureka than one would think, but for most of the series she’s kind of a deranged psychopath that has a kind of hero worship for Colonel Dewey. She’s a difficult character to get used to for Dominic, but there’s still a certain affection there that blossoms, and I think the culmination of their relationship is the most touching part of the show. This comes to a head in episode 48, Ballet Mechanique, which incidentally is also my favorite episode of the series.
There are a ton of other characters in Eureka 7, and quite a few of them go through their own development, such as Holland and Talho. However it’d take ages to cover everyone, so I covered who I thought was most important. The characters in Eureka 7 are really great to watch; they all go through some personal development that makes them better people and generally more likeable. The romance is cute and kind of over-the-top in a way only mecha shows can do, but I love it for that.
Moving on to the art, it… Has its ups and downs. I think the characters just look a little weird sometimes, though that in retrospect may be more of an animation issue. Insofar as character designs go and mecha design goes, I think the series is pretty cool. Starting with mecha design… Well, Eureka 7 isn’t like a Gundam series where there are hundreds of different mecha with different modes and armaments and forms. There are a few, but I think they’re pretty cool. They’re all sleek designs, and kind of more minimalist.
Mecha combat in Eureka 7, at least for the Nirvash, is done more at the melee range. In fact, I think its main armament is the boomerang knife, though it may have either missiles or homing lasers as well. But this reduced emphasis on weapons leads to a simpler design style for the mecha I kind of like.
And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that all the mechs in Eureka 7 are pretty much constantly riding air surfboards. That’s just the way things are done in this show, and I think it’s so cool.
Anywho, moving to character design, it’s alright. I really like Eureka’s character design (particularly how it changes as the series goes on), and Renton’s is kind of cool too. Renton has that kind of design where you could see it in the first episode and think “Wow, what a kid” and then look at it again in the last episode and think “Man, that looks kinda badass”, so I think it’s well-done in that respect. Moving away from that, there are some other cool designs, like Kengo being some sorta Russian and Anemone’s design being that of an innocent young girl, despite her kind of violent nature. All in all, while I like the designs of the show on the whole, something about the art or animation is kind of jarring to me.
The animation is alright. I think it’s a lot better when mecha combat is involved (for good reason, I suppose) but something about the way characters (particularly their faces) are animated makes me feel as if something’s just a little bit off. I can’t really place my finger on it, but if I had to guess I’d say they kind of cut corners on the budget there and didn’t do a very thorough job on that front. Kind of like Persona 4 the Animation, I suppose. I’m not 100% sure on that, but that’d be my guess, anyway.
Lastly, the music. I always say something stupid about the BGM because I never really paid attention to it, but this time is just a little bit different. I DID pay attention, and I loved it. Sato Naoki composed it, and I totally love his work. Honestly, I’ve only heard it on Eureka 7, the Eureka 7 movie, and the movie Sword of the Stranger. Still, I think his work is incredible and the BGM for this show is just another thing it does right, which I’m glad for. Moving on to the opening and ending themes… There are several, since this was a fifty episode show. Four openings and four endings.
The openings are Days, by FLOW, Shounen Heart, by Homemade Kazoku, Taiyou no Mannaka he by Bivattchee, and Sakura by NIRGILIS. They’re… Kind of all over the place in terms of sound and style, I think. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of any of the openings, except maybe Days a little bit. I don’t think they’re bad songs, per se (well, Taiyou no Mannaka he is), they’re just not my cup of tea. I’m sure someone appreciated them.
The endings on the other hand I liked a good deal more. From the beginning, Himitsu no Kichi by Takada Kozue, Fly Away by Izawa Asami, Tip Taps Tip by HALCALI, and Canvas by COOLON. The random all caps band names are kind of annoying, but I enjoyed the ending themes quite a bit more. And I think on the whole, the ending themes had better animations to go with them. Outside of Sakura, I can’t remember any of the opening animations very well (though Sakura’s was quite good), but the ending theme animations are pretty good. This is one of the few series, I suppose, where I preferred the BGM to the opening and ending themes. It doesn’t happen often.
Director: Tomoki Kyoda
Writer: Dai Sato
Character design: Kenichi Yoshida
Music: Naoki Sato
Original run: April 17, 2005 – April 2, 2006
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