There haven’t really been any lulls in this outstanding series so far, but there have been degrees of excellence – and I’d rank this episode up there with the very strongest episodes, which for me are the second (still the best overall) and the third. I remain intensely curious to know who’s writing this thing along with Aikawa Shou, because there’s a thoroughness and maturity to the scripts that I haven’t seen from a true mecha series in quite a long time. I’m still not madly in love with the notion that all the pilots are little girls for some reasons (a restriction that obviously doesn’t apply to Allied IFOs) but the conceit is more tolerable here than any time I can remember.
One thing stands out for me especially, and that’s the issue of consequence. In a funny way the original Eureka Seven felt like several interconnected series rather than one seamless whole, and as such suffered from a lot of inconsistency, but pretty much throughout its run E7 never lost sight of the fact that actions have consequences – physical consequences and emotional, too. When things happened it had an impact on the cast, we saw the cost paid for risks taken, and the damage caused to relationships when people treated each other badly. When I talk about a maturity to the writing here, that’s part of it – even as something as basic as Ao being rushed off onto a mission as soon as he arrives at HQ is part of the story, as his lack of sleep causes him to pass out in Chloe’s hospital room. It extends to the larger issues, too – and Bruno was clearly someone who was very aware of the consequences of the job he held, and tried his best to make sure Ao was aware of them too.
There are a lot of positives I want to stress, starting with the music. I’m a big fan of the OP and ED for their classic feel (especially the OP) and the BGM by Supercar’s Nakamura Kouji is great in its own right, but also great because it sounds so different from traditional anime soundtracks with its mix of electronica, guitar rock, and strings that always seems to bolster the impact of a scene. Also, I continue to be extremely impressed by young Honjou Yuutaro as Ao. He’s equally strong both in the more martial moments – his voice-cracking battle cries give these scenes a certain added poignancy – and in the quieter ones, where an understanding of the emotions of the scene is required. And then there’s the pacing, which continues to have the persistent effect of making me feel each episode is over almost before it’s started. I almost feeli as if I’m being shortchanged but the counter always says 24:27 after the preview, so I guess I have to accept the evidence. There’s just no drift here, even in slower eps like last week’s – everything seems to be in its proper place and there’s always a plan.
The two most important elements of this episode are Bruno’s sacrifice and the emergence of a new force on the scene. We first meet a mysterious shapeshifter at the beachfront palace of a miscellaneous dictator, and later at the mountaintop hideout of what looks to be a drug gang. I’m not sure who this person is – indeed, it seems likely not to be a person at all, as they have the aforementioned ability to take on the form of anyone they see, as well as to destroy IFOs with the flick of their finger. The motives for the wanton destruction this entity causes aren’t clear, though there seems to be a “cleanse the Earth” vibe – “Why isn’t the world listening?” – but what is clear is that this entity has a connection to The Nirvash, which they recognize on sight. The most obvious guesses would be either some sort of anthropomorphized form of The Secret or – much more in-line with the mythos of the first series – the human form of a Coralian. That doesn’t totally fit either, but until something or someone convinces me otherwise, it seems the least unlikely of all the minimally educated guesses I could make. What we do know is that “he” is referred to as “The Truth” – and that he’ll be played by Inoue Kazuhiko, a seiyuu so unfailingly excellent that I won’t even bother praising him further – his career speaks for itself.
The Truth is clearly going to be an important part of the next run of episodes, but the more impactful portions of this one surrounded Ao and his continued education as to just what he’s gotten himself mixed up with. Pied Piper’s initial mission doesn’t involve taking on The Secret hiding in the hurricane so much as recovery & rescue, and they are able to retrieve the three Goldilocks pilots – the two older girls being seriously wounded, and Chloe moderately injured. But Bruno has sacrificed himself, apparently crashing the Medon into The Secret to reveal its full form and to buy time for his pilots to be rescued. By the time the IFOs have been salvaged and Goldilocks brought to hospital, Ao is so exhausted that he falls asleep in Chloe’s hospital room, and misses the departure of Fleur and Elena to take on the Secret.
We learn a lot about Bruno after his death, and about Chloe too – who refuses to cry when she learns of his passing from Rebecka after Ao had tried to keep it from her (some fine work by Rin herself, little Matsuura Ayu, in this scene). Even 11 year-olds understand the consequences of the task they’ve undertaken – but it was something Bruno himself never accepted, as demonstrated so powerfully by the “Never Let Children Die!!” written in bold letters on the memo Ao finds in his room after his death. I still sense the truth of Generation Bleu is even uglier than what we’ve seen already (which is hardly pretty). When Chloe wakes him to find his teammates gone to attack the secret, Ao does what he always does – exactly what he has to, without complaint – reasoning that the ones who love him would be sad if they knew he’d let others suffer because of his inaction.
These are decisions 12 year-olds shouldn’t have to make, and while some shows <GUNDAM AGE cough> gloss over this issue with clumsy writing, E7:AO confronts it head-on. It’s remarkable the impact Bruno made in one brief appearance, both on us and on Ao – because it was Bruno who showed Ao that there were other adults besides Toshio that cared about him (with the appearance of his Okinawan friend this is becoming a recurring theme, too – the random kindness of strangers). Again, it’s consequences – the notion of wars being fought by children is a common anime conceit, and an old one too, but here’s a series that seems intent on forcing everyone in its cast to stake a moral position on the rightness or wrongness of the practice. The fact that Ao is courageous and compassionate (and talented) enough to take the responsibility on his shoulders doesn’t mean it’s right that he should have to. Like its predecessor AO is good at asking the tough questions, and there’s every indication that it will go about casting insight on the answers in a more consistent and coherent manner. If so, we’re looking at a very, very special series.