Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean – 13

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Gonna need the thesaurus to try and do justice to how amazing this episode was.

I wasn’t sure if AO could possibly have an encore that would live up to the expectations created by the blockbuster ending of last week’s episode.  But it did – amazingly it exceeded the sky-high expectations and delivered an episode that succeeded on every level.  It connected the new series with the old, it shed light on many of the pressing questions AO has raised while at the same time opening new possibilities, and perhaps best of all it offered some of the finest character interaction of either series.  I’ve never wavered in my love of this show and never doubted that it knew exactly what it was doing, but it’s still exciting to see long built-up events realized so gloriously.

The true introduction of Eureka and even more her first on-screen meeting with Ao were probably the most anticipated events for the first cour of the series.  Needless to say, I was thrilled with the results.  I thought every scene between Eureka and Ao was spectacular, and a lot of the credit goes to the seiyuu – it’s great to hear Nazuki Kaori’s familiar tones again, and Honjou-kun once again shows he was a brilliant casting decision to play Ao.  I found these scenes really moving, especially as you consider them from Ao’s perspective – this is his first time meeting his mother in ten years, and she doesn’t know him.  Yet, she’s the same kind and loving woman he vaguely remembers, and she acts like a mother towards him even if she doesn’t know he’s her son.  Eureka, obviously, was always inclined to take lost little birds under the protection of her wings, and whether she suspects Ao’s identity or not, she clearly sees such a lost boy in him.

The writing and the performances get these scenes just right.  Ao’s eagerness, held in check by shyness as he tries to get closer to Eureka and understand who she is – it’s really heartbreaking stuff.  Imagine Ao’s reaction when he saw Eureka was pregnant.  Initially, he probably thought this was a younger sibling, then came to realize over time that it was most likely he himself – or some version of him – that was six month’s along in Eureka’s womb.  And all the while, he’s under orders from GenBleu to try and win Eureka over to their side as combat ships from all sides converge on their location.  How is a child supposed to deal with all that emotionally, exactly?

The question of just who is “this” Eureka is of course fundamental to everything.  There’s a very interesting dynamic here in the role reversal with Eureka and Ivica: during her appearance ten years earlier, she know who he was (as well as Japanese officer Endo (Sasaki Satoshi)) while he didn’t know her, but during the “current” appearance it’s he who knows Eureka while she doesn’t know him.  The implication of course is that she’s from another time, and the Eureka with the two year-old Ao remembers the current visit we’re watching unfold – and that Renton was building the Nirvash Ao currently pilots during that visit two years into her future.  This seems to set up a fairly straightforward time travel scenario – indeed, Georg identified the Gekko-Go as being from 12,005 AD.  Eureka is from the future, and has the ability to appear at various points in the past due to scub bursts – seems simple enough.

But you know, that just doesn’t feel right to me – or at the very least, it’s not that simple.  The two words that keep coming to mind when I watch events unfold in this world are “ant farm”.  I can’t shake the feeling that this reality is a science experiment, and periodically someone shakes the box to see what the ants will do.  The Truth’s shouted “You cannot change, this world, Ao Fukai!” could be his own way of saying, “What are you doing in there, Ao Fukai – you’re not an ant!”  It seems very likely the The Truth is (or is very strongly connected to) The Secret that Eureka did battle with during her visit ten years into this world’s past but two into this Eureka’s future – the one she “took with her” as a last resort to save that world.  But we also have another Eureka, appearing to Ao as an apparition  (not a hallucination, as Gazelle sees her too) telling him that something very bad is going to happen soon, and that “The Secrets are not your enemies”.

There’s no question that a lot of stuff happened in this ep – a brain-bruising amount of stuff, so much that there’s no wonder there was no time for an ED (a wise sacrifice, though as we’ll likely get a new OP/ED next week I was hoping to hear it one more time).  But I feel that moment with the spirit Eureka was uber-critical.  Apparition, spirit, whatever else you call it – another possible term for what Ao saw might be “astral projection”.  The implications of that are obvious enough.  The relationship of these worlds is deeper and stranger than merely a gap of 10,000 years in time, I’m sure of it – and Eureka’s ability to move between them is at the heart of the mystery.  And we seemingly have mother and son poised to do battle, in twin Nirvash, with Truth.   If you’re curiosity isn’t piquéd now, you should probably drop Astral Ocean because you’re probably immune to its charms.

Why this all works for me – as usual – is character, and how much I care about the ones here.  This episode did so much to deepen our understanding of both the old cast and new.  This exchange between mother and son jumps out at me:

“We were like children back then.  He was a crybaby too, and kind of useless…”
“You didn’t love him?”
“Nope – I did.  Every bit of him.”

What a wonderful recollection of the original E7 that was.  And equally great was Ao’s reaction to it – relieved, a little embarrassed – and the fact that he was wearing what looked like Renton’s jumpsuit when the conversation took place.  There were great character moments all over the place here – Fleur’s frantic worry about Ao.  Ivica’s true motivations revealed – his dismay about taking Ao’s mother away from him, and his resolve both to care for Ao and prevent more children from losing their mothers.  Even new character Endo’s determination to keep his promise to Eureka and protect her child.  In the end it’s the character moments that make AO a great show for me, and since as much as anything AO is a show about a lonely boy who misses his mother, to see their reunion brought off so brilliantly marks one of the highlights of the year in anime.

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  1. w

    The best evidence that the world of AO is "illusory" remains for me that moment in episode 12, where the camera pans out from Truth and Naru to reveal dead soldiers littering the ground. Neither of them cared much, and the former is convinced he knows the way of things–so could it be that they are unconcerned because they know that the soldiers aren't real people? If that's the case, then who is real, and who is unreal, and does that define what makes a person?

    Alternatively, something even more worrying: what if Truth is wrong? What if the truth is even more complicated than he assumes, and all those people he might have slaughtered without considering them human WERE real people? Could an even higher power be playing both sides for fools?

    The previous Eureka Seven was very much about love and compassion, embodied in an impossible bond between two species. Assuming the same holds true with AO, what we're looking at is most likely a problem of miscommunication, where two sides attempt to destroy each other without knowing the full story. AO's already set itself apart from its progenitor, so I dunno whether this will hold true or not, but it's a thought.

    tl;dr: the next episode is going to be a DOOZY. here's hoping!

  2. T

    Even though I knew it was a long shot I was kinda disappointed that the ship was empty. A small part of me really wanted to see Holland telling Ao off. Even just the three kids grown up would have been an interesting crew. The this was handled though made alot of since.

    In the future this ship is a relic and the crew has moved on to other things. Most likely a second Gekko-go was built to replace it after the Second summer of Love. That would easily explain why the upper deck was never repaired and Renton and Eureka were able to put it in the Scub.

  3. Honestly, I'm happy the ship was empty. I wanted that moment to be just Eureka and Ao, and it was perfect as-is. The only caveat is I'd love to see Ao beat the crap out of Holland as a sort of payback for his father, but I don't expect that to happen!

  4. i

    All that crazy good action, it still makes me wonder…

    What if Truth actually been able to do what he wants without GenBlu's intervention. Would there be a E7? Or are the current characters going to change the future (ala. Back to the Future)?

    Though all this may just be an alternate timeline…

    On the other hand, Ao's interaction with Eureka felt a bit like one between a mother and child (eventhough Ao was on the fence on telling her that he's her future son).

  5. T

    Time travel in shows always brings up the question of changing the past. It's hard to say what the rules are to this. There are some clues though. Time travel could have been going on the entire time and just wasn't known about.

    In the original show there's a scene where Renton and Eureka are on the beach(On the planet earth underneath the scub coral). They find a ring encased in amber that had been there for obviously a very long time. The letters R + E are clearly marked on the ring. It was one of those WTF moments in the show that didn't make any sense and didn't fit into anything that was going on.

  6. S

    Important point on that Amber scenes from E7 TV:

    It's never really been addressed what was going on, but the amber wasn't there the day before. It was the Scub Coral that made it, though we're not sure why, beyond some form of communication. About the only hints are the cover to E7 TV's 12th disc. It's a picture of 2 children, with the boy having wings (not the girl), though they look roughly like Eureka & Renton. It could end up being a tie in, but there's no way to assume that's true (at the moment).

    On the time travel issue, I'm still firmly in the camp this is an alternate world. It seems to be being manipulated rather than just a previous time-line Earth. But we still have a lot of information drop to come. (Assuming it's all spelled out clearly, as they've been pretty subtle with some things)

  7. M

    Is there any picture of that disc?

    Also, what episode is the amber from?

  8. S

    This is the Japanese 13th (12th here State side):

    They find the ring in either 43 or 44 (I think 43) and the Hill of Amber scene should be in 46.

    There's also a short surfing scene at, I think, the beginning of 33. Might need to take a really close look at that again, as well.

  9. K

    I loved the image of Christophe Blanc climbing the Scub Coral, with Ivica at the top. Mirrors the opening scene of the series. Great imagery. That flashback with Eureka making Endo promise to take care of Ao really gave him a complete turnaround in my books. AO certainly isn't shy of killing people on the spot, dispatching Endo right after he shows his colours in defending Eureka and Ao.
    I'm clearly not alone in secretly wishing Holland was in the ship, be it him giving a beating (Or taking one? Really Enzo?) to Ao.

  10. Why does Ao merit a beating??? That scene from the first series was one of my least favorite, and I never really forgave Holland for that. When Ao went after Gazelle that was one of the many things that came to mind – along with the fact that Ao is very different from Renton to have gone after him in the first place, and Gazelle is very different from Holland in the way he reacted.

  11. T

    That's odd. I started to post something about how Gazelle reminds me of Holland. I'm not really sure why. Seeing the fight between him and Ao was very reminiscent of the fight between Renton and Holland. Especially with Ao in that silly red jumpsuit. I would like to add that I'm much prefer seeing him wear that jumpsuit or anything else for the matter other than the ridiculous Genblue uniform that he wears. Not the flight suit, that's tolerable.

  12. Perhaps that uni is why GenBleu hasn't been able to recruit more male pilots.

    Gazelle does put me in mind of Holland – there's a certain "insecure alpha male" quality that they share, and something similar in the muted sneer that's their default facial expression. But I don't think Gazelle would ever beat the crap out of a child the way Holland did.

  13. A

    Yeah, I actually hated Holland in the original E7. I mean this guy was just a child abuser(and the abuse went on for several episodes to the point where I had to drop it for a while), even if a kid if whiny, there's no excuse for beating the shit out of a kid. I'm surprised that pretty much Enzo has been the only person I've seen address this, ever. It's like most people actually condone Hollands actions. I'm not going to even go into the fact that Renton looked up to holland as a hero/hollands hero was rentons father who he is taking care of now/sister was his long lost girlfriend. I mean really I was hoping Adrock would come in at the end of the series and punch the shit out of Holland. -.-

  14. I've always been surprised to see so little revulsion over what Holland did to Renton too, TBH. But anime fans will tend to turn a blind eye towards mistreatment when the child being mistreated is male.

  15. T

    I apologize if this comes across as spam but I was re watching the original show and there's two (long) quotes I wanted to post here. I think they'll turn out to be relevant information. Whether this world of AO is real or not I think this will show a connection between the two series. In episode 47 "Acperience 4" Diane says the following
    "10,000 years ago the scub corals touched the earth for the very first time. Whether or not what created them was something artificial or deliberate or some kind of natural phenomenon even the scub corals do not know. However, when they first gained consciousness, they were at the bottom of the ocean. They swallowed up all sorts of creatures living in the sea and fused with them. To become one with them. It's the only way that scub corals know of to communicate. In the beginning it was small. However as they repeatedly communicated they forgot about time and became much larger than any other life form on earth. Humans started to fear the scub corals. However the newly born scub corals didn't think they posed a threat at all. They continued to use their methods to aggressively attempt to communicate with every living thing on the planet. The more aggressive the scubs became the more the humans feared them. Finally mankind left the earth. That happened 10,000 years ago."

    The other quote is also from Diane Thurston,"3,000 years ago the scub corals directly experienced the limit of questions. Back then they evaded the ultimate consequences by forcing themselves into hibernation. But later it was revealed that there was another universe in existence on the other side of the tear in our universe. We've no time left. If the control cluster is destroyed the entire world will show the signs of the limit of questions and when that happens not one of the beings who exist on this planet right now will be spared.

  16. J

    The story seems pretty straight-forward to me, and honestly I'll be glad if it isn't an 'experiment' or 'ant-farm'. Truth wants them to see the truth, not because an outside force has put an illusion in front of them (matrix-style), but because they are deluding themselves.

    They are fighting the scub coral rather than embracing it, like Eureka says in the future they live together with the Scub Coral and the Truth has shown it is helping Naru. On the other hand the Truth is murdering them and treating them like worthless beings, because he believes the scub coral is more essential than their lives, and thus is too far off the other end. The story is about balance.

    On top of all this the Truth seemed to have a similar attack as the Secrets, and the Secrets are trying to cause scub-bursts (almost like planting it). They seem like architects that are taking bits of scub to the past to have it spread across. Of course this past civilisation does not see the truth of the positive effects of the scub, and sees it as an infestation destroying their world.

    Anyways that's how I'm viewing it right now. I watched Eureka Seven so long ago I can honestly not remember what the over-arching story was, so I apologise if anything I say seems obviously wrong.

  17. J

    Thanks for a great write up again. When a show starts introducing time travel, it can be a make or break things. While this has made AO interesting, it's introducing a paradox against the original series. If it is true that AO is set 10,000 years in the past, does this mean that the action taken her directly lead to the scub takeover of Earth? And what was Renton and Eureka experimenting with that they needed to encase the Gekko-Go in a Scub? And now she's traveled back twice, in two different states in her life? Bones has quite the story telling to do to pull this off.

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