Were Eureka Seven’s 42nd episode to be the beginning of its immediate end, the setup to a resolution of the whole plot in episode 43, it would be a fitting and powerful ending. As the introduction to a longer final arc it is just as powerful, and definitely the point where for all its superficial resemblances, the series moves far away from Gundam via a damning exploration of the same themes. It is – in a series built on build-and-release moments of emotional intensity – a long-deferred moment of emotional power for every character, not simply a barometer of Renton’s maturity or Holland’s coming to terms with his past, but absolute closure for plot threads which have been running for 41 prior episodes. Emotional release – the climaxes of past arcs, the moments of revelation and resolution that have preceded this point, implies a build back up, a temporary moment of clarity from which lessons are learned and the next conflict will build on. The whole focus of episode 42 is on moving on in the most physical sense, driving forward and looking to definitively close the past off.
Episode 41 of Eureka Seven is the point where revelations about the true nature of Sakuya – the being at the Great Wall who the Gekkostate have been moving towards, and will fight to the end to protect, are laid out. Who she is – and why she is important – is told via a narrative that stands as a parallel to Renton and Eureka’s own story, turning the events of Eureka Seven‘s opening arc into a kind of replaying of an in-setting myth. Sakuya, being a Coralian much like Eureka, exists as a parallel Christlike figure (for as I have mentioned previously it is hard not consider the Corals’ ambassadors as children of the divine sent to observe – and even judge – the mortal world) but one who, as Norb suggests, failed to cross the Great Wall and could not complete whatever cycle needs completing.
With the final preparations complete – in the form of an episode of down-time – Eureka Seven is finally ready to begin its ultimate confrontations. Renton is going beyond the Great Wall to find out some kind of truth, Stoner and Holland are preparing their expose of the Coralians and Eureka, and Dewey is planning his own operations to bring an end to the Coralian “threat.” The shift in focus is established with a new opening theme tune, probably the best of the series’ four themes. The theme tunes and credits sequences have throughout the series tonally reflected what is happening – the third, the punk-esque To the Centre of the Sun, played through the series’ impetuousness and kicking out – and now Sakura, the fourth theme, comes with its very heroic and spiritual sound for the show’s climax – established as something that must be religious.
There are, really, two approaches to discussing the comparatively unpopular Episode 39 of Eureka Seven. One can either focus on what actually happens and talk about it as a sports animé, or one can discuss what it “means” within the framework of the series. It is ultimately a very silly episode, filled with visual jokes and cartoonish visuals, and its characters even admit themselves it is entirely superficial to the plot – yet it at the same time is so blatant and explicit in its exposition of the series’ themes it can be seen as clever in its stupidity. The plot is entirely incidental, and pure super-robot fluff; Holland, on orders from Norb, decides the Gekko’s crew must play a game of football before continuing with their mission. It is reminiscent of the strange training regimes of Gen Fudo in the later series Genesis of Aquarion, a series which is only really memorable for those episodes (which variously entail cross-dressing, characters parodying each others’ mannerisms, running foot-races and, in one case, playing football) and has the same heavy-handed way of delivering a “message” (in Aquarion‘s case it is usually punctuated with a suitably-themed special move for the main robot.)
This article also includes discussion of the plot of the serial Nearer My God To Thee (Abnett, Harrison, Parkhouse), printed in 2000AD issues 1883-8.
While the A-plot of Eureka Seven episode 38 continues the story of Dewey’s coup d’etat and how it has put Stoner and Holland on the back foot, the more interesting story is the B-plot of Renton and Eureka trying to reconcile after an argument. In a recent article about Captain Earth I discussed how a real high point of the series was its treatment of the alien child Teppei’s relationship with his biological father, who he had never seen in his life. Teppei was presented as so alien he could not comprehend why it mattered that he met his father, and why this man was so attached to him. It was a strong episode, approaching a stock mecha plotline (of the alien prince, or the half-alien half-human such as Eiji from Layzner – with whom Teppei’s father shared a name) from an interesting, more human perspective. Eureka Seven 38 approaches the same plot with the benefit of almost 40 previous episodes to build up its concept of a relationship between the human and the alien; it is by now the most important theme of the story, and that finally it comes to the foreground in plain terms continues to drive on a steadily-building sense of tension.
The William Baxter episode of Eureka Seven offered an, at the time, different take on religion within a setting which had hitherto presented it in skewed terms. It presented personal faith – a desire to do right – as something linked to self-reliance and isolation, as opposed to a view of organised religion that was intractable, morally apart from society (in the episode in which Renton encounters a conflict surrounding medical treatment going against religious views) and most of all viewed with suspicion. Even as Holland works to help the Voderak and save Norb from Dewey, it is out of a sense of humanitarian duty and the need for information and allies – he is standing up, where it is profitable, for people. Yet episode 37, the first half of which is an extended debate between Norb and the eccentric scientist Greg Egan, sees Holland apparently embracing the Voderak viewpoint.
Episode 36 of Eureka Seven is arguably archetypal in its structure – a slow-paced chapter of the ongoing story that clarifies, in a fashion, both past and current mysteries. It follows the formula of many episodes in this way – presenting a series of character portraits that modify the viewer’s preconceptions and opinions both via dialogue and unspoken action. Its first half offers, in sequence, insights into Dewey, Norb, Eureka and Holland – all of which are focused on cutting through mystique or mystery to explore a unified theme for the episode of identity and honesty. In some ways Eureka Seven uses character development as its “enemy of the week” – a series like Rahxephon uses each physical enemy, in the form of the alien rock-monster Dolems – to explore a character flaw or interaction. Eureka Seven, by contrast, presents the characters’ crises and failings as its conflict points, eschewing the actual robot conflict that might be used by other mecha animé to hash out disagreements for physical, in-person, confrontation or action.
There is more action in the first half of episode 35 of Eureka Seven than there has been in much of the series previously; it is an episode about acting, about taking responsibility for what must be done and doing it. Holland claims the Gekkostate’s mantra is “do it yourself or you won’t get anything,” while Dewey claims that “the only thing I ever wanted was to win, using my own words as a human being.” So much of the series has been about people trying to avoid action, or refusing to accept what must be done – on all sides – but now there has been a sea-change. Dewey’s actions have motivated all the characters to act, because there is now a quantifiable, known threat. If anything this vindicates Renton; all along his resistance to acting has been whenever he has felt he does not know why he should act, and his impetuous actions have come from what he perceives as a proper understanding of a situation. Dewey’s wanton slaughter, and his realisation of his feelings for Eureka, have given him the reason he needs.
Throughout Eureka Seven, the emphasis of the story has been on characters reliving past events – both secrets and past vendettas being played out, as with Ray and Charles or Renton’s father and grandfather, and recapitulation of story themes in new settings. Episode 34 begins with this clearly laid out; Renton is now the trusted confidant of Holland, and Moondoggie, previously the mentor figure, is now doing the menial jobs and being troubled by the children aboard ship. In this way, life on the Gekko is clearly seen to move on; although the growing sense of community and the obstacles to it have often been explicity laid out and used as major plot points and arcs prior to the major plot reveal, now the focus is almost entirely on Dewey’s plan, the emphasis of the story moves away from the petty matters and childishness.
Eureka Seven continually marries action to personal stories, both in straightforward ways with cause-and-effect conflicts (showing how careless actions can have unexpected consequences) and with longer, satisfying plot arcs such as that of Axel Thurston brought to a climax in episode 32. It also works in cycles, using more relaxed episodes to provide a relief of tension after its infrequent action peaks. What this structure does is mask, to an extent, the traditional point-to-point journey narrative that the series it draws inspiration from (perhaps most notably Mobile Suit Gundam) rely on. In those stories, action sequences come as punctuation to an always-forward progression – as part of their roots in the more episodic super-robot tradition, the emphasis is on a steady stream of enemies and problems interrupting a journey. It is a subtle difference, for it is quite possible to argue that Eureka Seven punctuates its forward progress with a series of problems that need resolving in a similar fashion, but consider an arc such as the mine where the Gekko is repaired; there, the protagonists spend significant time without the urgency of combat, recovering from a battle. The emphasis of such sequences is on showing the consequences of action on the primary characters without needing to tie this always back to an ongoing conflict.