Friday, May 4, 2012

Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean - 04

Eureka Seven AO - 04 - Large 10 Eureka Seven AO - 04 - Large 12 Eureka Seven AO - 04 - Large 32

“The one where stuff blowed up real good.”

I have to say that AO is working on pretty much every level for me, but what really impresses me – all the more so given the uncertainty about the writer going in – is how the series seems so carefully and skillfully planned out. There’s no sense of improvisation or uneven pacing at all – every episode has felt perfectly self-contained, and the overall impression is of a series that was carefully crafted start to finish before the first episode ever aired. Whether that will continue for 24 eps is an open question, of course, but this ep – like the ones before – absolutely flew by. The slider on MPC seemed to be be moving faster than the Nirvash in battle.

Speaking of battle, we had plenty of it, as was expected based on the staff list. But again the balance was excellent, with an action-driven first half giving way to a thoughtful and emotionally true second. There’s just nothing like a really good non-CGI explosion and this episode was loaded with them, including that of the G-monster itself. I think the interplay between Ao and the GenBleu girls was on target, as he tried to muddle through on minimal knowledge and a little help from the Nirvash (I thought “Easy Mode) was a little insulting). GenBleu was a little offended at having to babysit the newbie, but not too proud to accept the help of someone who could pilot a machine more powerful than theirs. The notion of a bunch of idol pilots isn’t my favorite element of AO on paper, but I like these girls so far – they’re honestly protective of Ao while showing just the right level of irritation at his ignorance of what they do. And Ivica is fast becoming a standout in the cast as he shows the commitment he has to protect the children in his charge – and even the boy who officially isn’t, yet.

With Ao’s help (and a very funny NGE reference from Elena) the G-monster is eventually destroyed, and Ao vey nearly with it – he ends up unconscious on a beach, where a kindly disposed local takes care of him. As it has consistently, AO is diligent in showing both sides of each of the competing political forces at play, and here is a positive face for the Okinawan side – a man who was saved from a G-monster as a child by someone flying an IFO that looked like the Nirvash (Eureka, presumably) and sees Ao as something of a hero for doing what he does. He shows Ao (and us) the modern side of the Okinawan State for the first time – a gleaming modern metropolis built on money from trapar mining – but here too there’s disagreement. There are protest rallies complete with hip-hop DJs and Gekko State logos (whether that’s foreshadowing or just self-reference I can’t say yet – nor do we know what the “Johnson Scriptures” are) demanding independence in the Capital every day, and the locals are clearly split. Even within families we see the good and the bad, as Ao’s savior has a sister with a ramen-ya, who would gladly sell Ao out to the International Forces for a chance to buy her way to America.

There are really several stories playing out here, subtly but elegantly interwoven with each other. The political and the personal are hopelessly entangled for Ao, as his desire to stay and protect the island he loves in spite of everything seems no longer possible for now. As he’s a target for the selfish desires of every side, his best option for now seems to be to join Generation Bleu, where at least he’ll be under the watchful eye of a commander who will try and prevent him from becoming either a child victim or a tool for selfish ends. This means giving up his home, and saying goodbye to Naru for now – and also to Toshio, who disapproves of Ao becoming a pilot because Eureka flew her “Mark 1” (in familiar colors) into a scrub burst ten years earlier, and never returned. Depicting simple unconditional love is a lot harder than it looks, and I really admire the way the feelings Ao, Toshio and Naru have for each other have been so effortlessly brought to life in these first four episodes. I’m certain that both of them still have major roles to play in this story.

The new information we received this week certainly beggars some interesting questions. If Eureka did indeed pilot the Nirvash into the scrub burst, what is the IFO that Ao is piloting now – the one which said “Welcome, Eureka” on his first trip to the cockpit? Is the Gekko State logo in the protest meaningful in any way? We know from Ivica that all the GenBleu IFOs are derived from the Nirvash design, because they were able to replace the arm that Ao dropped into the ocean (his slightly embarrassed reaction at doing so was spot-on for a kid his age). There are a lot of theories flying about, but I’m still holding my cards close to the vest. Some sort of alternate world scenario still seems most likely – a “sequel but not a sequel” – and that would likely mean that the Eureka that’s Ao’s mother isn’t the same one as the original E7 Eureka, and that Renton (despite Ao’s appearance) isn’t 100% confirmed to be the father.

For now, it’s a new direction, as Ao’s mindset shifts towards following in his Mother’s path and catching up to her somehow. Several new characters will be introduced next week, though for familiarity’s sake we’ll still have Gazelle, Pippo and Han – who stowed away on the Triton as part of Ao’s new harem. I want to belatedly credit the wonderful Kiuchi Hidenobu (Darker than Black’s Hei), who’s playing Georg, the Triton’s computer system. It’s one of the most charismatic I’ve heard since the peerless Gilliam II from Outlaw Star. It’s also interesting to note that the pre-order interest in AO (as measured via the imperfect but usually predictive Amazon “stalker points”) is excellent – this may just be a rare case where quality and commercial success go hand in hand. If the show continues at this level of excellence and proves a strong seller, I’d be very surprised if BONES didn’t add a second series within the next year or so the take AO to the same episode count as the original E7.

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7 comments:

  1. As much as I love this series, there seems to be one thing that is just forced down my throat this episode.

    This series still has some funk.

    In E7, there was clear funk 24/7, radios of truth, surfboard like maneuvering, magazines that were "underground." The list goes on and on. Although in this, the funk that made E7's charm bring the show to 11, is exclusive to a major city and then all of that funk is gone as soon as we leave. I mean in E7, you saw the funk in the pilots just like the pilots we have now, except they are less about the "beat" and more about the "manga/anime."

    I want to see if they can still bring the funk 24/7 that we all loved and make it feel new.

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    1. But I would like to add.

      The music in this series is what makes me rewatch, rewatch, and rewatch.
      It is just amazing to listen too.

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    2. You don't get many soundtracks and insert songs, and as cohesive of an idea, as the original Eureka 7 series. While this one is doing well, in that regard, I don't know if much will ever be able to top what Eureka 7 TV did.

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  2. I know Guardian has seen my posts on Animesuki forums about this, so I'll just continue with the "world speculation" a bit.

    [spoiler=Do these tags work?]
    This is a sequel for the Scub Coral. These Scub Coral are the same as from Eureka 7 TV series. The picture of Eureka in the OP effectively confirms this. Further, the bright Green energy cores go with the visuals of the Scub Coral leaving Earth in the TV series. Lastly, there was a world that the Scub Coral found, 3k years before the TV series, that 1/2 of them were leaving to go to (per Gonzy's statement).

    So, that's the direct sequel tie-in bit. Which means this is an alt-world story but direct sequel. Though likely 80-100 years after the TV series.

    Now, Eureka & Ao's lineage are the big questions. I really only have rank speculation to work from, as there's very little information. But a few thoughts.

    - I think the OP picture kills any chance this is some weird TV Series + Movie tie in.

    - The Scub Coral should be quite capable of making more Human-form Coralians. So Eureka & Renton could both be in this world, both be their TV series counter parts, yet they're actually Copies from the original (which the Scub Coral would know). The Scub Coral just decided to communicate with the new world in a slightly different manner. (Which leaves up the weird possibility that Ao is both Renton's son and immaculately conceived, haha)

    I'd take the view towards them being "copies" simply on the fact I don't think the BONES production staff would want to fiddle with Eureka X Renton's "happy end" from the TV series.

    Last point on this. They hid it a lot better than most series do (when doing the "constantly changing OP" setup), but the composition for the Eureka image should have another person on the right side. Otherwise it's actually framed below the standards of the rest of the OP. (They masked it well, but if you've done the work you'll notice the portions don't fit in where they really should) So I assume we'll see Renton in the OP at some point.

    Oh, and where are her Wings? Kind of goes to the "copy" concept, as Renton & Eureka had the ability to perform stellar flight at TV series end. [/spoiler]

    On the episode:

    I really liked the guy who helped Ao out. (I don't have his name handy) It was a good look to the type of characters Eureka 7 established. There are good people in a harsh world. Ended up a bit of a flipped character to Renton's Uncle, actually. Plus we got a very interesting bit of world information out of it. Trapars as an energy source will be an interesting dynamic.

    Oh, Gazelle, Poppo and Han are the Maurice, Maeter and Linck from the TV series. :) Calling it now! (Not really, but them stowing away was a nice homage to what the 3 kids always did) Now it's a matter of figuring out what their names reference.

    This series is on the path to be great, but I don't know if it can actually be better than the first series. They'd need a set of characters that are better written than Charles & Ray Beams + William Baxster. That collection of 6 episodes in the first series is what really made it a truly all-time great and completely changed the coming-of-age mecha series. But it's also one of those things that you need a lot of time for those type of characters, and (this may sound strange) I don't know if 24 episodes is long enough to do that. We'll see.

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    1. Honestly, I don't think 6 episodes out of 4 cours is enough to make a show an all-time great. The series was just too inconsistent and had too many flaws for me to say it was great. But I've made it clear that I love it above and beyond it's objective merits as a series.

      So far, in my opinion AO after 4 eps is better than E7 after 4 eps. Whether that will continue is anyone's guess.

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    2. We're talking past each other a little, so I wanted to clear up my last paragraph, as it really goes to my way of thinking about series.

      Those 6 episodes in Eureka 7 are what separate it from being a solid series and an all-time great. Without them, it'd have still been decent, maybe a little below RahXephon, another really solid BONES work. (Most of the creative staff was back on E7, as well)

      I wasn't trying to say it was "just" those 6 episodes that made the series. It's that story arc that propelled E7 to its status. Much in the same vein that NGE was a "monster of the week" Mecha series until the world story kicked into high gear.

      It's not to say that E7 doesn't have serious flaws. Episodes 3 to 17 are pretty plodding and the pacing is all over the place early. Rewatching it reminded me why I actually didn't make it past episode 22 when it was originally airing. This isn't a week over week series, hehe. But the first part isn't bad, just slow until we get to Charles & Ray, then it's a fairly consistent pace until the end.

      That being said, AO is much better paced at the beginning. E7 TV was a pretty slow affair after episode 2 until the 20s. AO definitely isn't taking that route, which is appreciated. So, I expect this to be a "good" series. But it's going to need its own defining moments to be a "great" series.

      Oh, and since this is the E7 TV sequel, we better get a scene as well animated as Eureka's fall in episode 26. I'd forgotten how good the animation was there. Entire animation budget + Moment of Awesome is always enjoyable.

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  3. E7 Ao has bee Consistently great so far, with plot progression that moves at a moderate yet gripping pace. If this continues in the next episode, ill have no doubt that this series will be vastly superior to its prequel. And as i stated before, this is definetly a sequel; eureka with the jewel on her head is a dead giveaway

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