Anime Reviews: Eureka Seven
Some Basic Information About the Series
Title: Eureka Seven a.k.a. Psalms of Planets Eureka Seven
Series Length: 50 episodes
Air Dates: 4/17/2005 to 4/2/2006
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, mild language, dark or disturbing thematic elements)
Summary: Long ago, mankind left Earth and began to populate a new planet similar to their old home. Over thousands of years, mankind has learned much about this new planet and its phenomena, the most enigmatic of which is called Transparence Light Particles (or Trapars for short), ionized particles that energize the atmosphere and seem to be a source of energy. Man eventually created devices and machines that could interact with this phenomena to facilitate low-energy flight, including boards that could surf the skies in a sport that would become known as "lifting." Renton, a 14-year-old boy that has been told all his life that his father was a great hero who saved the world, toils the days away as an assistant to his grandfather, an expert mechanic who works out of his garage. Renton's life seems to be doomed to drudgery until, one night, an emissary of the resistance group, the Gekkostate, lands on top of the garage in a mysterious white robot known as the Nirvash. The pilot is a lovely young girl around Renton's age, and during their initial interactions he begins to fall for her. Renton eagerly joins the Gekkostate to escape his mundane existence, and soon finds himself swept up in the biggest adventure of his life.
The Good: Rock-solid aesthetics; intriguing setting; memorable characters; a compelling story that goes out with a bang
The Bad: Plot loses focus at times, dragging its feet all the while
The Ugly: Poor Eureka spends half the series without any eyebrows
So, how did I come across Eureka Seven?
If there's anything that bugs me more than a bad anime, it's a good anime that grossly misuses its time. Especially when it's already demanding a lot of it by the sheer virtue of its episode count. But before we dive in, let's get a little bit of history. Eureka Seven is one of the many anime that has been featured on Adult Swim. Around the time it aired, I was just getting into college and I spent a couple years not really watching many new series. I certainly couldn't stay up until midnight like I did in high school, so this series just passed me by. Honestly, the only reason I picked it up a decade later was by pure chance. I was just browsing some of the more popular shows on MyAnimeList, and as I was scrolling through, I found Eureka Seven. I thought, "Y'know, this aired on Adult Swim, and I completely missed it. And it's got a good rating, so maybe I should check it out." And so, here I am, way late to the party.
Eureka Seven is a pretty beloved show. What's it doing right?
First of all, being a Bones production, it's no surprise that Eureka Seven looks nice, especially for being a decade-old show from the infancy of digital animation. The mechanical designs are deliciously 80s, but with a late-90s twist. The giant mechs look like they came from the Gundam universe. In addition to their jet packs, they fly around in the sky on metallic surfboards, using the ionized atmosphere to create electrical lift. It's a very cool visual. The characters themselves are quite varied in design, in both clothing and skin and hair color. There is the relatively normal-looking Renton and then there is Eureka with her crazy turquoise hair. In a surprise twist for a Japanese series, the main cast consists of no less than 3 black characters; Matthew, Hilda, and Gidget. You just don't see diversity like that in anime! Nobody can criticize the Gekkostate for not being an equal-opportunity employer, that's for sure!
The designs are neat enough, but it also helps that Bones is very good at making the vast majority of their shots clean and pristine while also occasionally pulling out all the stops in the action scenes. If you love the scenes in classic mecha or space anime where one ship is surrounded and bombarded by hordes of missiles, you will love this series. We also get fistfights, tactical stealth battles, ship-to-ship shootouts, and even some monster action later in the series. If you like your drama peppered with some well-animated action, you've come to the right place.
We only see bits and pieces of the setting, but the details we do get is full of neat valleys, mysterious caves, and derelict cities. The place feels authentic, like people and animals really live there. There are Industrial wastelands overtaken by tall weeds, jagged canyons, and mysterious salt formations. There's always something new to show us. You certainly can't fault the guys at Bones for lacking creativity.
The series also places serious emphasis on music, especially given that each episode title is the name of a song. It would be amiss for the show not to have a great soundtrack itself. Luckily, a man named Naoki Sato provides the music here. I can't say I'm familiar with the man or his work, but I can say that he gives the series a fittingly grand and eclectic sound of its own. There is a fusion of rock instrumentals with electronica that has great effect during the action scenes. We're also treated to a veritable smorgasbord of opening and ending themes! Personally, my favorites are the rockin' first opener, Days, by FLOW, and the more soulful fourth opener, Sakura, by NIRGILIS. Fans of R&B and hip-hop will be pleased to hear that those genres are also represented, so don't feel left out!
Where Eureka Seven truly pulls its weight is in its characters. Fresh off the heels of Fullmetal Alchemist, it's no surprise that Bones developed a talent for creating a diverse and colorful cast when the time came to work on this series. Renton is a very well-done child character; he has the earnestness and stubbornness of adolescence. He also reminds us that he's just a kid and that he is often thrown into situations he can neither change nor understand. As his story arc develops, he grows up in an organic and believable way. Eureka is by all appearances a child soldier, so watching her grow up and become more open to human emotions is likewise a very enjoyable experience. The time we get to spend learning more about the Gekkostate leader Holland, his right-hand woman Talho, the support crew of Matthew, Hilda, Moondoggie, Gidget, Ken-Goh, and so many others aboard the ship is truly a worthwhile experience. Even antagonists like the rival mech pilot Anemone and her handler Dominic get strong character development. The series works its magic in subtle ways. I never felt like I liked some of these characters that much, but as soon as their lives were in peril, I suddenly found myself caring a whole hell of a lot more. The show is quite the sneaky minx.
As for its flaws, Eureka Seven gets...complicated...
I must make mention of the story itself, as it is both one of the best aspects of the show as well as its crippling flaw. As you would expect from a sci-fi adventure series, we start off small in a rural village and conclude with a literal earth-shattering finale that puts the fate of all mankind in jeopardy. Because the setting is so compelling and the characters are so likable, it transcends being just another end-of-the-world scenario and it becomes nearly impossible to peel your eyes away in the final stretch. The main antagonist, General Dewey Novak, is a deliciously devious schemer. Watching his plan unfold and seeing our heroes try to counter him every step of the way is genuinely exciting. But, as I said, the very same plot that generates such excitement can also shoot itself in the foot spectacularly.
Early on, the show impresses with the Gekkostate. While they are a rebel force that opposes the world's main government force, they are still a ragtag band of nobodies who have to scrape by. By itself, this is a neat facet of the plot. However, it brings us a recurring problem: downtime. In the first half of the series, I've lost count of how many times the story tried to rev up its engines and take off, but was forced to cut the power a few feet from the starting line because the crew needed to stop somewhere and resupply yet again. We get started again, but then something happens to Eureka and we're stuck waiting for a few more episodes. We rev the engines up again, but this time Renton decides he's gonna run off and holds the series hostage for another 3-4 episodes. Eureka Seven feels less like a streamlined narrative and more like a really old car with a bad transmission that stalls dead on the road every 5 minutes. Early on, it feels like the series doesn't even know what it wants to be! Does it want to be a rousing action-adventure story, or does it want to go full-on hard sci-fi? Does it want to be a romantic comedy, or does it want to be a gritty war story? I don't know, and it feels like the series doesn't know either.
So, what's the verdict?
Though the fact remains that the series has major issues getting itself off the ground in its first half, those who stick with it will be very much rewarded with a satisfying and epic finale. I would've preferred it to be more consistent so that I didn't keep taking breaks in the middle of watching the series when the series itself took a break (it took 4 months to watch the damn thing in full.) For what it's worth, I consider my time with the series to be well-spent, and I give it a solid recommendation if you're a fan of adventure-filled sci-fi anime. Just remember to pace yourself; it's a long series, so you'll be in for a long haul.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10. The pacing can be frustrating to deal with, but it doesn't change the fact that Eureka Seven is filled to the brim with memorable and likable characters that populate its unique and visually-engaging world.