Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean, developed by the studio Bones, and brought to the West courtesy of Funimation and Manga Entertainment, is a mixed bag of sci-fi tricks, backed against an eclectic mix of interesting themes and motifs that spans the gamut from alienation, childhood and acceptance, to adult ignorance, family and parental love. A lot to process, and certainly its ambition cannot be faulted. It’s execution, however, leaves a lot to be desired.
A sequel to the anime/manga series, Eureka Seven, Astral Ocean picks up ten years after the events of the original run, chronicling the adventures of the now slightly more grown up thirteen year old alien child, the titular Ao, as he begins to delve into his shrouded past after becoming involved with self defense force Generation Bleu. Himself piloting a surfing mecha robot (yes, that’s right: surfing), Ao, quickly embroils himself in the political intrigue that also permeates through the story as Okinawa seemingly battles everyone else for a claim of true independence. All this whilst attempting to explore and determine his true identity, as well as searching for a sense of family and belonging. Growing up, essentially.
The set I was given only contained the first twelve episodes, and I’m glad for it. The series, although looking solid; with bright colorful art and bold mecha designs, despite the surfing nature of them, loses itself within the complexities of the themes it hopes to explore. Characters are introduced that are then instantly put on the back burner, confusing their purpose and importance to the story, such as a character named Truth; who, incidentally, I thought looked quite a lot like Riku from Kingdom Hearts. I’m sure the importance of characters like this will play out over the course of the second half of the series, but insofar as introductions go, especially in developing what I imagine will be one of the series’ big bads, it was a lackluster effort in writing, narrative and character.
Even the main characters that do get a reasonable amount of screen time and/or character development constantly relegate themselves to confusing turns of one dimensional tirades; attempting to show depth, but only highlighting their immaturity in the process. I suppose some could argue that isn’t too far from a real life conversation with a teenager, but it doesn’t stop it from causing a handbrake like reaction to their development within Eureka Seven: AO. Either constantly questioning, or being confused by, everything to having little fights between their team, known as ‘Pied Piper’, will play to some viewers as banter or horsing around, but for others simply comes off as what appears to be a forced playfulness or, at its worst, children whining on screen about the grander elements of life that they do not yet understand; not in itself wrong, if handled correctly, something that Eureka Seven: AO isn’t capable of doing, in between its balancing act of grand themes and surfing mecha robots. That surf.
It’s a shame that a series that looks as good as Eureka Seven: AO is, ironically, let down by its ambitious sci-fi tone, as opposed to being bolstered by it. Props to them for attempting to address themes that are so bold, but the final product doesn’t match the enthusiasm it clearly stems from. It’s easy to get lost and confused within the themes, narrative and character development of an anime such as this, especially if you haven’t watched the original series, something that I would recommend you do, if you intend on watching AO, but at the end of the first half the show do not be surprised if it leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled. I feel no compulsion to complete this series, I feel no sympathy for any of the characters as I do not think I have formed any connection with them, and I do not feel this is a show that will go on my ‘Go watch it NOW’ list in the way that the far superior sci-fi of Steins;Gate has. Eureka Seven: AO is a brave attempt to tackle real, and interesting issues, let down due to uninteresting characters and its overly convoluted execution.
Steve Russell // @stevetendo
Eureka Seven: AO is available now, courtesy of Manga Entertainment
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