Bafflement. For close to half an hour, I have been sat here, trying to think of a word which sums up both my immediate and my considered reaction to Eureka Seven, and I think "bafflement" is as close as I'm going to get. This is a show that combines good ideas with poor pacing, great characters with unbalanced development, and moments of transcendent perfection with stretches of mundane stupidity, wrapping everything up with an ending which seems to expect the viewer to take pages of detailed notes throughout proceedings.
The pacing (or lack thereof) is probably the most glaring of Eureka Seven's faults, and one of the main reasons why my feelings for the series swung between love and hate so fast I should probably have myself checked for whiplash. At points, the show builds action and intrigue up with finesse and expertise. It generates question after intriguing question, and encourages the viewer to wonder and speculate about what will happen next. Although it sometimes provides the answers within a decent time frame, it is just as liable to go off on some story-irrelevant tangent, introducing and dismissing pointless new characters, until the viewer has completely forgotten what questions they wanted answered in the first place. At its worst, the anime presents an extended series of slow-paced, filler-style episodes, before frantically launching itself into a flurry of revelations, plot twists and vital new characters, with the urgency and desperation of a someone who just heard heard boss coming round the corner and doesn't want to be caught slacking off.
I enjoy fast-paced action fests and I enjoy slow-paced stories, but Eureka Seven combines these two so artlessly that it often ends up presenting the worst of both worlds, hurling the viewer from boredom to bewilderment in the blink of an eye. If Eureka Seven were to run a marathon, it would alternate between a record-shattering sprint and an exhausted limp, looking on in genuine surprise as other runners overtake it by moving at a consistent jog.
Perhaps the reason why this uneven approach to story telling irked me so greatly is that Eureka Seven is an anime capable of purest brilliance, proferring scenes of immaculate beauty, fantastical wonder or eye-widening perfection. However, these sublime moments are not peaks in an otherwise even landscape so much as they are truffles in mud and it often feels as though you are expected to sit through the duller moments, and put up with the ubiquitous inanity in order to be worthy of such a prize.
In truth, I had no intention to sound so negative when discussing the series' story. Eureka Seven's worst moments - plodding and frustrating though they may be - are not significantly worse than the bad moments of other decent anime, or even the good moments of some poorer shows. Just be warned, when this show is good, it is very very good; when it is bad, it is plentiful.
Eureka Seven's animation ranges from the good to the majestic. It combines a high degree of competence with an imaginative aesthetic to craft some truly captivating scenes. Be it the rainbow explosion of the Seven Swell Phenomenon or the view of a boundless sky seen through the lens of a single tear, this is a series that knows how to create images which will last in the memory. More often than not, a single visual will capture and portray a plethora of emotions and feelings which hundreds of lines of dialogue could not.
Meanwhile, the character design is a little hit and miss. Although there are many unique and memorable figures among the cast, Anemone and Eureka being particularly striking, others are generic or even wacky for the sake of wacky. One character, for example, has a head twice as big as everyone else and a torso to match, and yet is apparently a human. Odd designs such as this cross the borderline between eccentric and laughable.
Other designs follow the same pattern. While the mecha look good - if not particularly intriguing or inventive - the design of the alien creatures is so bizarre that one has difficulty suspending disbelief and viewing them as a threat. Floating squid and giant eyeballs - boasting all the bright and varied colours of a bag of cheap sweets - aren't the sort of things that will send people cowering behind their sofas, in spite of the brutal power they possess.
The eight OPs and EDs on offer are well suited to the anime and of a passable quality, providing a welcome variety of music. The background music, however, is simply brilliant and quite possibly the best I've heard up to this point. I can only assume a huge amount of effort was put into this element of the anime as the quality of the music, its timing and its usage are all superb. A well chosen piece never fails to augment the action and frequently gives the scene an edge which the characters and plot are not always able to deliver. Along with the occasionally stellar visuals, the BGM works tirelessly to make stretches of action well worth watching twice or more.
The voicing is less remarkable, but still solid. There is enough variety in the voices of the main crew to deliver the personality which the character development is all too frequently unable to build. In essence, most characters sound exactly as you expect them to, which makes the experience a good deal more immersive.
When it comes to the characters, Eureka Seven manages to both succeed and fail at the same time. There are a handful of excellent individuals, with the unpredictable Anemone and the naïve but selflessly affectionate Dominic being at the top of the list. Equally, when the anime wants you to sympathise with a character or to understand their plight, it does this admirably and to great effect.
Nevertheless, there is another side to the coin, as character development is not the show's strong suit. Although it does possess the ability to explore the motivations and personalities of its protagonists, it does so unevenly, as if it is still undecided on who is important and who is not. To begin with a few gently paced episodes look at the crew of the Gekko Go and their interactions, but this is soon deemed unnecessary and attention is focused elsewhere. While I agree that there is no need to give background on most of the minor characters, this change of heart leads to what can only feel like wasted episodes.
Furthermore, when Eureka Seven has a good thing going - such as in the case of Anemone and Dominic - it often ignores the cries of the viewer, desperate to learn more about these two and instead veers off in a different direction, introducing a whole bunch of pointless and uninspiring personalities, each with a shelf-life of less than twenty minutes. Such a poor balance of character coverage is frustrating to no end and I would consider it one of the series' principal flaws. It also leads to some confusing and disappointing moments, as the enemies' motivations are rarely given enough attention and one is forced to conclude that they are evil for the pure and pointless sake of it.
When I was younger, I enjoyed a breakfast cereal called Lucky Charms. It contained marshmallow pieces, which were delicious, colourful and cut into interesting shapes. It also contained chunks of oat, which were dull-tasting, brown-coloured and cut into boring shapes. Although I understood that I had to eat the boring brown cereal in order to enjoy the awesome marshmallow, a mischievous, rebellious part of me wondered why they couldn't make the box so it was ALL marshmallow. And this exactly is how I feel about Eureka Seven. At times it gripped me and refused to let go. At times it left my eyes and mouth wide open. At times it stared into my soul. But these moments are just twinking stars of joy in a huge mass of cold, black, empty space. Eureka Seven is greatness diluted beyond recognition.
Like most boys his age, the young Renton thinks of nothing but reffing – riding trapar waves on a board – and idolizes Holland, the leader of the renegade group of reffers named Gekko State. As an orphan of a famous hero, he lives a boring life with his grandfather until the beautiful Eureka crashes, literally, into his life. Now, with the help of his newfound friend and crush, Renton finds himself living amongst the crew of Gekko State. The errands are hard and the bullying is fierce, but with Eureka by his side, Renton just might find the courage to tough it out and even save the world!
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When it comes to anime, I tend to be a fan of comedy, shoujo, romance or anything else that will put a smile on my face. However, I'll review pretty much anything. Whether you like or dislike my reviews, I'm always glad to receive feedback, and I'm always happy to get into intelligent discussions.