Personal Stories in the Aftermath of Tragedy – Episode 33 of Eureka Seven

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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.

Indeed, it is Eureka Seven‘s apparent lack of a clearly-defined conflict outside of indirect rebellion against a cruel government that permits this; the traditional structure of the journey-style “real robot” series adds narrative urgency in the form of an omnipresent enemy army actively trying to attack the heroes as part of military operations. The Federation’s pursuit of the Gekko, however, is much tamer – it intensifies as the series progresses (and revelations about Holland’s past and the Nirvash explain why) but it is always one part of a wider range of plans – made clearest when Dewey makes his bid for power. The Gekkostate are important because they are the protagonists, but their importance within a wider, established setting is not overstated as a result. In my very first article about Eureka Seven I said its world, while fantastical, was very believable in its presentation; it avoided direct exposition unless there was good reason for it. Episode 33 begins, in many ways, as that very first episode did; we return to the Gekko’s crew producing a documentary (a reminder of the existence of their magazine, Ray=Out, which has always existed in the background as a means for them to communicate with non-members and keep up their facade of being a cool surfing gang rather than a haphazard military outfit.)

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Yet this sequence – long panning shots of surfboarding and explanatory narration – quickly becomes uncanny; the Gekko’s crew are apparently enjoying a beach holiday, yet in the background Ray and Charles are present. The exact nature of this is not properly explained; the action transitions back to Renton and Eureka in the Nirvash with the music picking up from where the big action scene at the end of episode 32 ended. The true first scene of the episode (for there are no opening credits) mirrors Dominic in the ruined city in the previous episode; the Nirvash is examining the scene of the second Coralian attack, and the revulsion felt by the witnesses is the same. These scenes of human cost are blunt reminders that the real conflict has begun, and it is appalling members of both factions. What Renton and Eureka’s conversation in this scene shows is his newfound maturity – and how this has changed him. He is taking the more expected utilitarian line of other members of the Gekkostate, arguing that there must be a point where they give up searching for survivors and that this time, they were simply too late to help. Eureka on the other hand has his idealism, arguing that they cannot leave any open threads while there is still hope – the sort of naïve yet applaudable idealism that got Renton into trouble earlier in the series. Subtly, this is a very effective scene; it shows both how Renton has “matured” (the thing that the audience has wanted for so long) and knows the limits of what can be done to help, but also that this has caused him to lose something; his growing distance from Eureka has been an ongoing story and she has always been a conscience and empathetic presence. The revelation that she is an alien ambassador redefined this – her apparent naivete and distance was a result of unfamiliarity with humans – but now she is becoming a much-needed foil to the others. Yet for all this utilitarianism and hardness, a simple shot of Holland himself reduced almost to tears by what he has seen allays much of the tension; this response is not the same coldness that Dewey might show, but instead a simple admission that in the face of such overwhelming tragedy nothing can be done.

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Perhaps the most interesting revelation from this short scene on the Gekko, though, is that it marks the point where Talho, and by extension the rest of the crew, learn that not only are the Coralian attacks artificial but that someone within the Federation is keeping this information from the people – and the rest of the military. It is the moment where – even if Dewey himself remains an unknown – the characters catch up with the audience. These moments are key to long-running narratives; as my ongoing series of articles about Rahxephon show, that is an entire series based on exploiting the tension between what the audience knows and what the focal character knows. The fact that this has taken so long – even with the clues provided at the laboratory where the research into Dewey’s arsenal was taking place – makes the payoff all the stronger. The conclusion of the Ray and Charles episodes showed how Holland personally approaches a threat once he understands it, and the revelations here in episode 33 is likely to be the point where a new cycle of preparation and violence begins. Dominic being exposed to Dewey’s atrocities and abuse of Anemone provided one foil to him, but in the form of a character traditionally shown as powerless; Holland, now possessed of more information than before, represents a proper threat.

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Yet Renton is now the one unsure how to proceed; his apparent maturity came from obeying orders and (in a much softer fashion) trying to get Eureka’s compliance in Holland’s plan. It was a militaristic scene, one of orders and missions to complete. In personal terms, he is still somewhat lacking as his subsequent dialogue with Egan shows. Eureka has left the Nirvash and shut herself away – mirroring how Renton responded to his first exposure to death on a comparable scale – and Renton is not there for her. He admits he doesn’t know how to talk to her, and Egan offers him advice. This – ultimately the other “side” to Renton’s growing up – has always been the core of Eureka Seven; it is above all a love story. That this scene, where Egan spells out plainly where Renton is going wrong socially, is juxtaposed with one of Talho reminiscing provides a charming comparison; while Holland and Talho are individually flawed people whose interactions with others are awkward and cause conflict, their ongoing sub-plot shows an innate humanity. Yet the scene is disarming; the implication at first is the couple are together looking at past photographs, but as the scope widens it is revealed she is alone. This was implied in the earlier scene on the Gekko’s bridge (where they were seen arguing about whether there was actually time to rest with the outside situation so grim) yet ultimately it shows, even if there is the potential for humanity, Holland is still unable to escape his utilitarian ways. His authoritarian secrecy is distressing Talho, and driving them apart.

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It is a recurring theme throughout the series that with idleness comes tension; shown here with Renton unable to talk to Eureka, Talho abandoned by Holland and then, as a third and perhaps most significant recapitulation the Gekko’s crew expressing doubts about Holland’s course of action. Finally, the revelation about Eureka’s identity has sunk in properly, and now in the light of the Coralian attacks the proposed co-existence between species seems impossible. For once, Holland is shown as powerless; he cannot deal with the changes he has seen, and is retreating from his problems rather than facing them. By this point, too, Renton has failed; he is reintroduced fresh from his meeting with Egan as a petulant, confused child again who has shut himself away to try and find a way of approaching Eureka. He has returned to being the ridiculous, out-of-touch character whose devotion to Eureka is a source of amusement, and Talho, too, is able to return to her more immature past-self. Yet that the scene moves into the two having a sincere conversation – and Renton being given useful advice rather than being made a fool of – shows that both have changed. He is prepared to listen, and she is prepared to talk. Indeed, the scene is shown to be as much about Talho coming to terms with her own relationship (rejecting the memories of the past that she was shown dependant on earlier) – and it ends, in a way, with gratification deferred all the way from the opening episodes these scenes in some way evoked. Talho points out that the area they are in is a good spot for lifting, and suggests they actually relax with some sport rather than just remaining indoors. The avoidance of this apparently carefree lifestyle which the Gekkostate presents as its outside appearance defined Renton’s early life on the Gekko – but now, as Holland demands people “rest” while he hides away thinking, it can finally be permitted.

This episode’s recapitulation of themes from past sequences is at times subtle; there are not the visual homages or direct comparisons made obviously. Instead it – in a story about the characters taking a moment to take stock of their lives and ponder their next moves – reminds the viewer what has been and invites them to make the leap about how it compares with the new status quo. Without any physical threat (only the evidence of what is at risk to provide the impetus for progress), there is the chance not only for introspection but for pleasure – and this episode makes plain the importance of finding that chance for respite.

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