Spoilers for part one ahead, as Andrew Osmond gets timey-wimey
The blue-haired Eureka, enigmatic mother of the hero Ao, returns in the second half of Eureka Seven Ao, produced by the Bones studio and released to DVD on Monday. If you’ve seen a previous anime series, Eureka Seven, then you’ll know who Eureka is already. If not, then Eureka is a half-alien visitor from the very far future, who travels back in time to have her baby. The reasons why aren’t fully explained till the end, but they reflect one of Ao’s main themes, the burdens which parents carry for their children and vice versa.
Beyond Ao and his parents, the same theme’s expressed through the show’s other characters, major and minor. Most obviously, Ao’s mecha teammate Fleur has a whole load of daddy resentments, which are only exacerbated by said daddy presiding over the mecha defence force where she fights! Parent-child issues are an old staple of robot shows, and were cleverly reworked in the adopted child subplot in last year’s Hollywood tribute, Pacific Rim. They’re also big in anime generally; Studio Bones’ Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was obsessed with the shadows cast by the older generation on the young.
For readers wanting to know how much we see of Eureka, it’s good and bad news. She has a restricted supporting role, yet at the same time she’s made central to the plot. Eureka, you see, is unstuck in time, meeting characters out of chronological order, and appearing and vanishing like a ghost. She’s also pregnant some of the time, unusually for a medium that usually doesn’t let its young poster-girl heroines grow up enough to become mums.
As for Eureka’s husband Renton, you’ll have to see, but expect sparks to fly when father and son finally meet! Sadly, none of the other ‘old’ Eureka cast members return, barring the Nirvash robot. We see the Gekko craft again, but none of its crew. A nice bit of continuity, though, is provided by the show’s second title theme (from part 15 onwards), which remixes the original Eureka Seven music.
The introduction of Eureka, Renton and time-travel naturally complicates the show’s plot. Wait till you get to the superweapon that rewrites reality when it’s fired! Another new wrinkle is a “first contact” plot strand, when one of the entities (called “Secrets”) which has been causing havoc on the Earth abruptly opens communications with mankind. In what follows, Ao is increasingly unsure who he should be fighting, and if he even still belongs in Generation Bleu. He’s pulled conflicting ways by his newly-discovered mother, his peers in Bleu, and his childhood friend Naru, who’s growing up to superpowered status in the background.
Like parent-child conflicts, the confused war is a staple of anime epics; Code Geass (especially the R2 series) and Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing are recent cases. It’s a way to inject unpredictability into genre storytelling, and not only in Japan. (The American Hunger Games series heads into similarly troubled waters in its final volume, Mockingjay.) But you could also suggest it says something about anime’s home country. Japan fought its last war on the losing side, after all, and is still vilified by its neighbours to this day.
If that wasn’t enough baggage for one series, Ao turns increasingly into a tribute-cum-reworking of shows which came before it; especially Evangelion, down to a secret artefact hidden in Bleu’s basement. But then Studio Bones has never hid its debts to Eva. One of the company’s first hits was 2002’s RahXephon, one of the most successful robot shows made under the influence of Gainax’s blockbusters. In Ao, in-jokes abound – spot a scene which references not only Evangelion but also the “Another village has died” opening of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind.
There’s also a whole plotline which, following Eva, might be described as anti-Mary Sue wish fulfilment. It’s a portrait of a fan as a maniac, desperate to escape to a brighter, more colourful reality. We wonder if the show’s makers had read about so-called “Avatar Depression Syndrome”; the release of James Cameron’s blockbuster reportedly left fans gutted that Pandora wasn’t real.
And yet the show’s finale is squarely in anime traditions, combining heartfelt child-parent reunions, a boy’s resolution to ‘lift the curse’ of his origins, and an orgasmically explosive deus ex machina that lets a character write the end he wants – one that happens to have shades of another Gainax anime classic, Gunbuster. There’s fanservice for you!
There’s still more fanservice in the video episode included on this volume, a bit of cross-dressing fluff called “The Flowers of Jungfrau” which mainly serves to point up just how much Ao resembles his mum. It’s included at the end of the volume, but it would better to see it first – insofar as it fits into the show at all, it’s presumably set amid the early episodes. Really, though, it just serves as a break from all the exhaustingly heavy plotting and reshaping of the world.
Eureka Seven AO Part 2 is out on Monday on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.