First Impressions – Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean

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If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

To what I’m sure will be the great disappointment of the throngs who declared this series a disaster before they’d seen a single frame (I’m sure they’ll say they predicted this all along – that, or insist it actually did suck), Eureka Seven Astral Ocean didn’t suck. In fact, it decidedly did a lot better than that – it was excellent. It looked, sounded and felt like Eureka Seven – much more than the “Pocket Full of Rainbows” movie did. I can’t say I’m surprised, because I never felt the same unease about this sequel that I did in the lead up to Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam. I can’t say why, exactly, but there was something in the promo art and the manga chapters and the short descriptions that felt more true to the spirit of the original to me than “Fam” did.

Of course part of that might be that I hold Last Exile to be a true masterpiece, a half-step above E7 to begin with. That said, though, I have a love for E7 that transcends the serious flaws the series had (and trust me, it did). There was just something about E7 that captured everything “anime” to me – when I was first becoming interested in this art form, E7 was somehow exactly what was in my imagination when someone mentioned the word. it also encapsulated everything that was BONES in its glory days – huge and sometimes indecipherable hard sci-fi plot, iconic characters, an earnest and even naïve world view, gorgeous visuals, and very sugoi mecha. E7 was BONES and anime in its pure form – a grand boy’s adventure with metaphysical overtones and superb production values.

BONES has been in a bit of a slump lately. They’ve hard some good shows in the last couple of years, but nothing in their classic mold – UN-GO is my favorite of the recent batch and it’s about as un-BONES as any BONES series could be. Eureka Seven AO signals to me that BONES is (perhaps a little desperately) trying to reconnect with their roots, and thus far, they’ve succeeded. This doesn’t feet like an E7 cover band – it feels like the real thing. This is BONES’ A Studio, and most of the staff is back from the original, including director Kyoda Tomoki. Character designer Yoshida Kenichi appears to have contributed designs for main characters Ao (14 year-old Honjou Yuutaro) and Naru (Miyamoto Kanako) while stepping back from day-do-day involvement, and most of the army of mecha designers is back, too. Notably absent is writer Satou Dai, though veteran Aikawa Shou (who adapted Oh! Edo Rocket) has signed on, and brilliant composer Sato Naoki is sadly gone, but I’m happy to report that well-known guitarist and songwriter Nakamura Kouji has done an admirable job with the BGM.

As to the plot, there’s some controversy in the fanbase as to whether this is a direct sequel to the original E7 – but BONES says it is and I’ll take their word for it. We begin in a ruined Tokyo in 2025, in a world divided into super-nations where private security companies seem to have a pretty free reign, including “Pied Piper”. The scene soon shifts to Okinawa, where 13 year-old Ao is racing through the skies in what looks like a flying VW microbus. Ao rendezvous with best friend Naru for a trip to the wooded hills above town, where they pick up a sloth Naru calls Noah (that’s the second sloth I’ve seen in an anime today). Naru appears to be a sickly girl, as she needs an oxygen mask at times, and curses how “inconvenient” her body is.

Here’s what we know, and what we can piece together. Okinawa is apparently still – as now – full of locals none too keen to be part of Japan. A local gang of couriers led by Gazelle (Kirimoto Takuya) appears to be involved with some smuggling business with the American/International forces anchored at sea in their warship. Gazelle’s vehicle malfunctions while they’re about to deliver goods stolen from the Japanese army and Gazelle almost hits Ao as he crashes his vehicle on the beach, and in the confusion Ao picks up a turquoise-colored bracelet that later appears to be very important to the Americans. There’s a scub coral entity on the island, too, and the residents are used to dealing with the dangers this offers, when another entity called “The Secret” (which Pied Piper seem very interested in) seems to attack the coral and cause all sorts of kerfuffle on the island, disrupting the entrance ceremony for Ao’s first day in middle school. Gazelle and his gang come looking for Ao in the confusion, correctly believing that he might have the bracelet. But at that moment it begins to glow, and appears to be sending a message directly to Ao, and he’s none too willing to give it up…

The $64,000 question, of course, is how all this fits into the big E7 picture – and that’s not fully clear yet. To be honest one of the weak points of the original for me was that the plot was hopelessly confusing, so I’m not expecting a full grasp of events after one ep here. It seems certain that Ao is Eureka’s son – the bracelet confirms that – and one look at him should confirm that Renton is his father. We have the coral of course, and I suspect we’ll be seeing the Nirvash very soon (ED spoils that if you didn’t know already), and somehow, there’s a line that connects the ending of E7 with the beginning of AO – we just can’t fully see it yet. There are a lot of parallels between Renton and Ao, starting with the fact that both live with a kindly old man – in this case Dr. Fukai Toshio (Hori Katsunosuke) who seems to love Ao despite not being a blood relative, and the fact that Ao seems much-disliked for being a “foreigner”. That’s surely connected with his mother, and she (and Renton) live on in his unusual appearance, which doesn’t help.  Ao for his part seems feistier and more self-confident that Renton did when we met him.

If AO ends up with a coherent and fascinating plot, I’ll consider that gravy because as with E7, I’m in this for iconic characters, mecha and hand-drawn 2D action sequences – and the premiere delivered all that splendidly, along with Nakamura’s terrific soundtrack. Giving Ao’s role to young Yuutaro is a gamble, but it pays off as he and Miyamoto actually sound like a pair of young kids, and not adults pretending to be. You may remember Yuutaro-kun from Xam’d, where he played the important role of Yango – it’s clear BONES did. The most important thing for me was that the look, sound and feel of the premiere was all spot-on – and what I enjoyed the most was seeing so much action and scale in hand-drawn animation. There was hardly a drop of CGI to be found here, and I didn’t miss it – great traditionally-animated action is the anime equivalent of using real stuntmen instead of CG and real locations instead of blue screens. You just don’t see much sci-fi anime made like this anymore – the animation is old-school, and I suspect the story would be considered old-fashioned by some critics. But all of that is why I’m here, and why Eureka Seven AO was at the top of my list going into an already strong season. That’s the BONES I know and love, and the style of anime from when I became a fan of the medium. It’s great to be back.

Note: It was confirmed today that Eureka Seven AO is going to be 24 episodes, plus an OAV. It’s not 50 like the original, but should be plenty of time to tell a compelling original story.

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ED: “Stand by me” by Stereopony

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13 comments

  1. I

    I didn't finishi Eureka Seven, only about half of it. So is this like a remake with different characters or a sequel?

  2. Heh, that's a loaded question.

    It's a sequel according to BONES – how direct I can't say. At least one E7 character made an appearance here – from the back, anyway – and another is in the ED. Given that I didn't really understand much of E7 even after finishing it, I think you could watch this without doing so and be no more confused than the rest of us will be.

  3. I

    Cooleo then

  4. w

    It was..alright. Not as good as E7's first episode, but there's a ton of potential here. The spirit of Eureka Seven is strong: I agree the first series had a convoluted plot that was hard to follow, and AO is already throwing terminology at us left and right. But I like Ao, even if he's a bit dull. I couldn't say the same for Renton or Eureka.

    Long-story short: I'm pleased, now if Bones can do this series justice, I'll be ecstatic.

    ~coming from a 'hater' of the original, according to some

  5. A

    His eyes spell part coralian. Them purple eyes.

  6. S

    I really enjoy the first episode. Old school Bones is back and I love it. I wonder if we would learn more about what happened to Renton and Eureka. Mecha action next week, it's gonna be awesome!

  7. S

    Dai Sato is doing series comp. Mostly as the person listed is someone's pen name. Given that Sato names all of his characters really specifically (look up the wikipedia listing for Eureka 7 and where all of the names come from), there's going to be some funky meaning to the name he used here.

    Which means we have pretty much all of the major players back. Which is a really good thing. Though I actually liked the movie, as it wasn't intended to be a retelling but simply an alt-world story, I can see why the fans weren't too happy.

    I liked episode 1. I have no idea how this officially ties in with the first series. This could be set 2k years in the future or in the past or even 20 years after. A lot of things could be true. We'll find out, probably around episode 20.

    Oh, and Eureka 7 wasn't confusing. At least from the R1 subs. I imagine a lot of people got confused from the fansubs, which definitely had problems in the later phase of the series. It got pretty technical and that was important, which probably caused a lot of the grief. Actually, any confusion about the "Limit" and what that meant probably rendered the last 13ish episodes a complete mess for a viewer. (Especially since it was a founding fictional world principle and dictated most of the actions of the world-plot.)

    Oh, and if you're like many that got really bogged down around episode 20 of Eureka 7, don't worry. There's about a 6 episode span that's rather hard to get through, but the series kicks into a wonderful place around episode 26 and keeps it rocking from there to the end. It's just a matter of getting there.

  8. Until I see something concrete, the Satou Dai thing is strictly a rumor – or a guess.

  9. d

    I never watched E7.someone tell me whats it about and how it relates to this? Are there aliens?

  10. I'd wiki that if I were you – extremely long and involved answer that not everyone would agree on. There are definitely aliens, and as for how it relates, it's hard to say yet – except Ao (and I think Naru) are most likely descended from major characters in the first series.

  11. A

    what the orignal to understand

  12. A

    Might be the only one, but I don't really want to accept the sequel to Eureka Seven. I only know of one character from the original (Being Eureka), and that doesn't make much sense, because at the end, Eureka and Renton go back to the planet, not Earth. And in the manga, Eureka dies and Renton and the children are in bell forest at the end. So this is not really a sequel to the manga. I prefer to think of it as a spinoff. Not bad though.

    Ao, I don't like to much either, he's a bit dull in terms of Eureka Seven.

  13. A

    TheFrench

    Im going to describe as best as I can my feelings as a whole

    Eureka Seven felt like a perilous and exciting adventure, and you couldnt wait for the next episode

    >you felt thrills
    >you laughed
    >you giddy
    >hell, some of you may have even cried…..;_;

    it was like a good book, and you felt bad when it was over

    I will fess up to having watched only about 6 episodes of Eureka Seven AO, but there is no doubt that its design has been rendered with some fatal flaws….

    >ao is no renton
    hes boring,this is a disastrous mistake. You watched Eureka Seven because you loved the main characters….hell, isnt that what makes animes live on and be remembered?

    >supporting cast
    children….a sloth…..an epileptic girlfriend(?)….stow away yuppies….thanks, i shudder

    >progression
    as ive said, im only 6 episodes deep and im metaphysically stuffed and throwing down my bib in disgust. I mentioned E7 feeling like an adventure, it had a bright and colorful feel to it….E7AO HAS MORE OF A PALL OF BLEAK, DOOM, AND GRUNGE.
    Eureka Seven was like a random raft ride, it seemed like fun, but no one could have known of the white waters ahead.
    E7OA feels like a cast mold……even if it did change its tone, i couldnt imagine it being refreshing or exciting with such a HORRENDOUS cast…..how can a cast comprising of little children,a girl,stow away yuppies, a sloth(A FUCKING SLOTH), and a young boy feel so boring and uptight

    I’m sure they’ll say they predicted this all along – that, or insist it actually did suck

    this is one double edged sword of a statement, and is taken sympathetically by some, but others, depending on where the sayer stands….

    PS, this isnt some anonymous swing at bees nest, in a sad attempt to garner up some entertainment
    i really loved the show, and it will always be a fond and staple memory from my angsty youth, and im sincerly hurt that they murdered the very spirit of its predecessor

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