For me, a personal anime golden age is any consecutive run of 3 years in which the highest number of your favourites are gathered. 3 years may seem arbitrary, but I’ve chosen this specific range because, at least from my experience, the vast majority of anime fans tend to live and die in that time, leaving behind their lists and blogs as if time suddenly stood still, their scribblings, once filled with such joy and passion, now mere archives for the future generations of warbling young otaku to laugh at and build on, and so it continues. Anyway… before this all becomes a bit too existential, let’s crack on, shall we? Hi, I’m your local anime ghost, also known as bateszi, and here’s my personal anime golden age.
On the blu-ray packaging, Funimation trumpets the Eureka Seven television series as “The Greatest Love Story Ever Animated.” Where that series is centered around love, the movie re-imagination, Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers, is all about death. In particular, it is about the fear of death. Even the crew of the Gekko, an alternate universe version of the TV show crew, spends much of the film running from death using any means possible. Renton and Eureka are the only characters who aren’t defined by their fear of death and instead, focus on love.
I have many a faint and fond memory of Eureka Seven, but wasn’t sure how to feel about news of its sequel. It ended with a quite profound sense of finality, after all. Everything that needed to be said, was, and underscored with probably the finest insert song ever used in anime, too. I’m using a lot of absolutes in this post because that’s just how I feel about Eureka Seven. Holland, Talho, Dai Sato, Supercar and Denki Groove. It was a great series.
If you haven’t already, I urge you to read this recent discussion with anime “storywriter” Dai Sato. He’s pissed off with the current state of anime and you should care because he created Eureka Seven and Ergo Proxy, as well as contributing to, amongst others, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Wolf’s Rain and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
Sato‘s complaints hone in on two separate areas, the first of which concerns how the production of anime is being increasingly out-sourced to cheap labour in neighbouring Asian countries, but more fascinating to me are his latter comments on the quality of story-telling in anime (or, indeed, the lack there-of.)
It’s taken me two or three months, but today I finally finished watching Eureka Seven. Like whenever I finish reading a book or watching a long TV series, I feel like I’ve accomplished something big, but at the same time, I’ve grown attached to the Gekko-go and I’m not ready to wave good-bye. I adore Eureka Seven, but alas, I must accept this psalm of planets has come to an end — and by the way, consider that an advanced spoiler warning.
Dewey and Holland
One of the more interesting villains, Dewey was not as much driven by his often stated ambition to "take back" the Earth as he was simply unhinged and jealous of his younger brother. Dewey wanted to take back his father’s affection from the favoured brother Holland and when that became impossible, he lost meaning in his life, forever consigned to being a reject. It’s interesting that the he chose the target of his hatred to be the apparently "vicious" coralians; the “invaders” of Earth — after all, baby Holland "invaded" Dewey’s childhood. Even as he put that gun to his head, he was fighting the demons from his past.
Holland’s reaction to Dewey’s suicide revealed that no doubt, despite everything that happened, they still thought of each other as brothers. The look on Holland’s face and his subsequent mutterings suggested that he felt Dewey was not yet beyond salvation; his death was that of a lonely and deluded child, stabbing at the heart of a world that rejected him.
Eureka and Renton
The close bond shared by Eureka and Renton is carried through from the first episode to the fiftieth. It never felt forced or artificial; there was a real sense that they loved each other. By the end, their relationship had transcended physical attraction — after all, Eureka wasn’t even human. Through-out the series, she was battered, bruised, scarred and burnt — she wasn’t stunning to look at, but Renton still loved her just as much. They struggle through insecurity, embarrassment and unknown territory, yet still emerged from the series as utterly likable and heroic characters. It’s impossible not to root for them; they are the glue that holds it all together.
In a few of my previous posts, I’ve passed comment on the allegorical content of Eureka Seven. Indeed, it’s simply a story that, while based in pure fantasy, echoes the past and present follies of mankind. For a moment, let’s look at the conflict between the humans and the coralians — this could be taken as a parallel of the Japanese struggling to accept the increasing foreign population in their country. So basically, Eureka Seven could be seen as an allegorical tale of xenophobia; about how you should try to talk with, rather than attack, the "aliens". Someone like Dewey will manipulate the media, stir up fear and incite violence, but the "enemies" are invariably the same as us; afraid to live and afraid to die.
By the end of the series, it’s implied that Renton and Eureka are to unite, to blaze a trail forwards for the future of mankind and all life in the known universe. I wonder if this was an intentionally vague way of ending the series — when they talk of becoming one, are they literally talking about physically combining as one being? Or rather, is it hint that they are to start a new family — after all, Eureka and Renton conceiving a child will lead to a true combination of both beings.
Favourite opening theme
I adored all four opening themes enough to rock out to them in my car, however, if pushed; I have to say that the punky third opening wins out for combining some wonderfully fluid and atmospheric animation with a straight forward, balls to the wall j-rock anthem. It’s just the iconic image of Renton and Eureka falling through the sky, hand in hand, dodging falling scrap metal and breaking Anemone’s lonely heart.
I’ve talked about how great some of these characters are, and how interesting the story is, but ultimately Eureka Seven will stand the test of time because of its superlative combination of bright, colourful animation with a varied and outstanding soundtrack; it’s like the series was born as an idea when listening to particularly good song, such is the deep intermingling of musical influence with the narrative. Bands like Joy Division are regularly referenced, but, fittingly for a series that contains an impromptu rave scene, the one major point of influence is the varied genres of dance music. Two tracks in particular stand out, "Rainbow" and "GET IT BY YOUR HANDS" — both are energy generating, heart beating tunes which lace together the viewer and the burning emotion at the core of Eureka Seven’s world-effecting journey.
theEND, or bateszi=out
These are my last few sentences on Eureka Seven; I’ve had a lot of fun writing about it, but most of all, I want to recommend it. It’s not a formulaic mecha series, it’s not about battles-of-the-week; it values life, has a positive message and blossoms into a particularly gut-wrenching and epic tribute to love; not love on a superficial level, it’s hardly a "physical" series at all, rather it’s just brimming with feeling, the idea that peace is possible and that enlightenment is attainable. It borders on trippy and loses much sense of comprehensible realism, but this is pure animation, the boundless freedom and the feelings of artists conveyed through the power of a blank page and colour. I love that Renton can dive from an air-ship and surf through the clouds, just as I love that Eureka gradually sprouts wings and can fly like a butterfly.
In my previous E7 article, “Discovering Eureka Seven; subtext and pop culture“, I briefly touched on the pervasive themes of war laced through out the series, going so far as to compare it to Akitaro Daichi’s post-apocalyptic (underrated) masterpiece “Now and Then, Here and There“.
As a genre, we’re conditioned to believe animation is for kids, hence, it’s a medium synomonous with innocence. Even as a seasoned fan and knowing full well a lot of anime is intended for adult eyes too, I expect a certain degree of naive optimism. It’s the same with Eureka Seven; we’re seeing this world (largely) from the perspective of two adolescent protagonists, and because they aren’t jaded and don’t understand the reasoning of adults, they have a clear view of life; enemy or not – they see blood, they jump. Eureka Seven explores the exploitation of innocence, showing how children can be used as fearsome weapons simply because they don’t understand the impact of their actions. Up until a certain age, I suppose we all view life as a game to be won; Renton’s happy “playing mecha” until he discovers the mashed up remains of one of his opponents.
Mechas role in dehumanisation
In Eureka Seven, the mecha have two arms, two legs and “bleed” red engine fuel, so it’s fair to assume that they have been shaped in the image of man. Except they aren’t human, they aren’t alive and they don’t feel pain, therefore its just-fine to dismember them limb by limb. Forget the pilots inside, it’s okay to kill something provided it doesn’t look or seem alive.
In the previous article I cited an interview with Dai Sato, in which he reveals one of the major influences behind the war-torn landscape of Eureka Seven was Tibet’s national policy of allowing young children to join the military. The ultimate concern is that if a child is brutally conditioned to believe their targets are “sub-human”, any kind of “normal” moral development is thrown out the window and we end up with a bunch of care-free mass murderers on our hands. Obviously the mecha bleeding, as any “normal person” would, is an ironic jab at the militaries collective attempts to dehumanise the enemy.
Moral horror lies beneath the veneer of innocence
As noted above, we are seeing the world through the eyes of an innocent boy like Renton. Everything looks so exciting and new to him; piloting a mecha is like a dream come true. Of course, such a personal high is violently contrasted with the harsh and disturbing reality of Gekkostate’s true position as airborne terrorists. This shift in mood and the gradual realisation of moral guilt is best emphasized in the changing face of Eureka herself, originally an attractive and healthy looking young girl but now scarred and fragile. No doubt, this sense of exploitation and loss of innocence is the most chilling quality at the heart of E7’s allegoric narrative.
With all that said, one should keep in mind that this is essentially a kids TV show. Characters in E7 still find the time to smile, joke around and be stupid. In reality, that prevalent and undying sense of optimism and hope is rare and extremely valuable.
(NOTE: This was written having seen up to the 22nd episode of Eureka Seven, I’m still enjoying it just as much!)
Unawares and unwilling, often the best anime passes me by. Deep down I think I always knew I would love Eureka Seven, but for whatever reason, like I said, it just passed me by. That is, until now. Maybe because it’s spring time; the grass is green and the leaves are greener, and I’m just looking for something fun to watch.
There is no denying it, I’m pulled to Eureka Seven simply because it looks like fun; surfing mecha, blue skies and open, swirling landscapes; a fantastic paradise for wind surfing hippies, and naturally, escapist otaku.
Actually, think again. I am writing this having seen up to episode 9; a particular instalment of this so-called "childrens anime" that involves ethnic cleansing. We see the main character, an innocent-enough young girl oddly known as Eureka, take part in the massacre of hundreds of harmless civilians (some of them kids) simply because those were her orders.
According to Dai Sato — chief writer — the story of Eureka Seven is intended to be a subtle allegory of Tibet, a country where the young people [12 to 16 year olds] have few choices — one of those few is to join the army. Since Eureka looks so nice, and yet, is capable of bringing down such horror, represents an interesting dilemma within herself, and a conflict within the viewer. Is she to blame for her actions, or rather, is it the fault of a system that is scraping kids off the streets and manufacturing mass murderers, because after all, Eureka is just a young girl doing what she is told. Does genuiene free will exist within the young? In many ways, these themes are very similar to the excellent "Now and Then, Here and There" (1999, dir. Akitaro Daichi), right down to how the previously emotion-less girl turned weapon-of-mass-destruction discovers a chink of hope in a plucky young hero; in this case, it’s Renton.
Often being brave is simply being optimistic, having the belief that tomorrow will be a better day. I really adore characters like Renton; you can’t help but admire his optimism, his blind hope and fumbling balance. Like everyone else, he has his doubts, but rather than curl up into a ball of crying emo, he’ll run head-on and jump off a cliff (quite literally). He is a punk rock kid; even named after the lead character from Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. Amusingly, his father’s first name is Adrock (Beastie Boys) and grandfather’s Axel (Guns N’ Roses). Some funky family right there!
The pop-culture references don’t stop with the character names either — for example, every episode is named after a song, episode one is subtitled "Blue Monday" (famous song by New Order). I think that’s really cool, and it shows how much fun the writers are having with Eureka Seven, attempting to create a lasting resonnance with viewers young and old by referencing eras relevant to many generations.
I’ve talked about how Eureka Seven is a show with serious subtexts, but the bottom line is that this is first and foremost just a fun, colourful and vibrant mecha-surfing anime. Renton’s fallen in love with Eureka, and most of the time, he’s just trying to get on her good side. The rest is purely collateral!