Monday 3 December 2012

Anime REVIEW: Eureka Seven AO

Eureka Seven AO Nirvash

Sequels are often in a difficult position before they even get off the ground. If the preceding series was excellent, then they're already given the daunting task of living up to it. If it was bad, then they not only have to prove themselves good enough to warrant interest in the first place, they also need get out of the shadow cast by their predecessor. So when Bones (one of my favourite anime studios) announced a sequel to Eureka Seven (one of my favourite series) my reaction was both excitement and scepticism. The prospect of more Eureka Seven was brilliant, but the original series had such a perfect ending it was hard to see what direction a sequel would go in. Eureka Seven AO (Astral Ocean) aired this year between April and November, and ran for a total of 26 episodes.

Eureka Seven AO Cast Ao Elenor Fleur Pied Piper
The uninteresting cast of Eureka Seven AO

In the year 2025, Ao Fukai is a 13-year-old boy who lives on the island of Iwato Jima with Dr. Toshio Fukai, who took Ao in after his biological mother Eureka (from the original Eureka Seven series) disappeared 10 years ago. When the nearby Scub Coral is attacked by a huge monster (later revealed to be named a Secret), Ao finds himself tangled in the battle and activates a large IFO (Intelligent Flying Object) known as the Nirvash. Discovering the Nirvash once belonged to his mother, Ao joins research organisation Generation Bleu in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of his past and track down his missing mother.

Eureka Seven AO Ao Naru
Ao and Naru discuss her awful taste in headgear

While Eureka Seven AO is an ambitious series, its immediately clear that its links to the original series are tenuous at best. Prequel episode "New Order" tries to tie the undisclosed gap between the two series', but the fact its simply a clip show with new audio makes it all the more confusion. The only characters who appear from the original series are Eureka and (very later) Renton, but these appearances are fleeting and Renton is very different to the boy we knew at the end of the original. The only other link viewers have is the appearance of the Scub Coral, but the show keeps how everything ties together in the dark until the very end - presenting one confusing mystery after the other. The world of Eureka Seven AO is completely different to the world of Eureka Seven, and with no strong connection (both physical or emotional) it fails as a sequel. Unfortunately, Eureka Seven AO doesn't stand up very well as a side story or even its own show either.

Eureka Seven AO Truth
Truth. You'll learn to hate him.

The show centres around Ao and Team Pied Piper, a division of Generation Bleu that investigates both the Scub Coral and the Secrets. As a set piece, it works very much like the crew of the Gekko did in Eureka Seven. Except none of the cast have any of the charisma their peers had. Eureka Seven had an epic plot that involved science fiction, mecha and political intrigue, but at its heart it was always a character driven. Eureka Seven AO on the other hand is an event driven show, and this is clear at the expense of characterisation. Naru, Ao's childhood friend who is later played up to be a big drive of the series, has barely any personality at all, which severely affect her motivations. Fleur Blanc, fellow Pied Piper pilot and potential love interest to Ao, is perhaps the sole character who deserved more development yet remains mostly underused and reduced to primarily eye candy. Worst of all is Truth, the show's central antagonist. His origin and motives remain a mystery for almost the entirety of the series, but instead of adding interest renders him a completely overpowered villain that the audience can project their frustration at the series onto.

Eureka Seven AO Eureka
Eureka's back. Don't expect to see her much though.

So what little good does this series have? Well the art is to Bones' usual high standard, and the mecha design and fight sequences are a marvel to behold, even when the plot has been completely thrown out the window. The gunmetal grey of the Nirvash Mark I is quite difficult to the colourful white and red Nirvash of the original series, but is much more fitting with the show's heavier focus on politics and the military. Plus it makes it easier to tell them apart when both Nirvash begin to duke it out.

Eureka Seven AO Renton Thurston Nirvash
Renton's back too! Expect to see him even less.

Ambition will only get you so far, and it's a shame that Eureka Seven AO had to fall flat on its face for the most part. It's one thing to make your audience sit through 26 episodes of (well animated) dullness, but to reach the end of the series and practically tell them that nothing they've just watched is even important is nothing short of insulting (and to without giving away too much, yes that is pretty much how the series ends). Bones might be the masters of making a great series, but this is just another example that they have a lot to learn when it comes to making sequels.

1 comment:

Tom Badguy said...

A good review but I doubt I would watch this.