After Last Exile wrapped up, I found myself looking for another animé series to get into. Sure, there was the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex. However, anything GITS-related isn’t necessarily something I enjoy, or get a kick out of. It’s certainly a title that I admire and find completely fascinating and absorbing. But even the most ardent GITS fan would have to admit that it’s not exactly the most enjoyable material out there, if you’re looking for something that’s fantastical and just a whole lot of fun to watch.
As soon as I caught wind of Eureka Seven, I immediately had a sense that this could be the animé to fill that particular hole in my life. And having just seen the first five episodes, I’d have to say that my initial judgment proved almost 100% spot-on. Eureka Seven is nothing if not a whole lot of fun to watch, and it’s just getting started.
There are plenty of reasons to get excited for Eureka Seven. Certainly, one could start with the quality of the artwork and animation. But that’s not really a surprise, seeing as how BONES (Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, RahXephon) is the studio responsible for the production. To say that there’s a wealth of talent involved in Eureka Seven would be a gross understatement.
Not only do you have the talent of one of the top animé studios, but you’ve also got folks like Tomoki Kyoda (Full Metal Panic!, RahXephon), Dai Sato (Cowboy Bebop, Ergo Proxy, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex), and Shoji Kawamori (too many classic titles to mention) at work on the series. In short, the series simply looks and sounds amazing, with detailed and distinct character designs, solid mecha designs, and plenty of solid action (featuring a couple of Kawamori trademarks, such as over-the-top aerial fighting).
The storyline is also solid. It’s out there, but too out there so as to be completely fantastical. The series is in the distant future. Mankind has left the Earth, and settled on a new world. One of the unique characteristics of humanity’s new home is the existence of “trapars,” strange particles in the atmosphere that can be used for flying and sky-surfing. Technology has also advanced, with the discovery of LFOs, or “Light Finding Operation,” mysterious humanoid robots that can “lift,” or use the trapars to glide through the sky.
After several centuries, a terrible event known only as the “Summer of Love” happened, almost destroying humanity. Afterwards, humanity reverts to an almost militaristic state, and society has slipped into something of a lull, no longer pursuing development and progress. Some folks seek freedom, striking out against the military and seeking to make the skies free. And while their efforts are naturally decried by the authorities, they do start sowing the seeds of rebellion in some folks.
Which brings us to Renton Thurston, Eureka Seven’s main character, and the reason why the show is as enjoyable as it is. Renton isn’t some great warrior, nor is he some tortured soul, a mystical guardian, or a top secret government agent. He’s just your typical fourteen-year-old. He hates school, he’s bored with his hometown, and he generally thinks that his life just plain sucks, a point he makes quite often and quite loudly. And the fact that his father was the man responsible for saving humanity from the “Summer of Love” does nothing but give him more grief, as he’s forever doomed to live in a shadow.
He wants nothing more than to fly through the skies with his hero Holland, and the gang of the Gekkostate, a ship full of the aforementioned rebels. Unfortunately, he’s stuck living with his cranky mechanic grandfather, who wants Renton to stop daydreaming and start living a normal, practical life. And Renton has basically resigned himself to that fate. Until the day that a mysterious LFO crashes into his grandfather’s garage. Piloting the mysterious LFO is an even more mysterious girl, and Renton instantly finds himself in the throes of his first crush.
Soon enough, Renton finds himself living the life he’s always imagined. He’s flying through the skies with Holland, onboard the Gekkostate. And he’s getting to spend time with Eureka, that mysterious girl. But sometimes, dreams aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and a life full of adventure and “lifting” actually ends up being a whole lot of hard work and drudgery.
Much of the enjoyment I get from Eureka Seven comes from the constant tension between Renton’s dreams and the cold, hard realities of the “dream” life he’s now living. Dreams are certainly important, but they rarely come true freely or easily. Renton doesn’t want to be stuck in the garage like his grandfather, but at the same time, he’s still just a kid, and isn’t quite ready for the real world, with all of its dangers and grey areas. And he’s most certainly not ready for the rocky terrain that comes with love and romance.
The series plays a lot of this tension for laughs, and Renton, who has a big mouth and always wears his heart on his sleeve, makes for the perfect foil. But the series also knows when to slow things down and let the viewer feel Renton’s frustrations, doubts, and anxieties, be it from the constant heckling he gets from the Gekkostate’s crew, from his troubles with Eureka, or from suddenly finding himself in the midst of aerial combat.
I’ll admit that I’m a little worried that the series is 50 episodes long (most animé series are only half that). I find myself wondering if there’s any way that the series can keep up the momentum, fun, and charm on display in these first five episodes. However, these first five episodes have only scratched the surface. There’s plenty of material for stories; the mysteries behind the LFOs, the histories of the Gekkostate’s colorful crew, Eureka’s past, and of course, Renton’s dreams and aspirations. And all of it has potential to be interesting and exciting. These five episodes have started things off with a bang, and I’m definitely looking forward to future volumes, to see where the series goes from here.