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.
The first scene is a short one yet very incisive; the action begins not long after Holland’s confrontation with Dewey, and Dewey is trying to restore face after having been defeated – or at the least put on the back foot – for arguably the first time in the series. He talks with members of the Ageha unit about how it is important to increase the power of his new warship the Orange, but at the same time he does not “want to shed any more blood than is absolutely necessary” – a line that should portray him as a humanitarian, idealistic villain trying to do what he perceives as the “best” thing and cogniscant of the cost of it. However, the picture of Dewey that has been portrayed so far is someone for whom the “necessary” cost far transcends what any reasonable human would consider acceptable. He has already sacrificed countless civilians to test whether his plan is even viable, and is planning an open, unprovoked war against an apparently non-aggressive alien entity that has – as the viewer knows – reached out to humanity through Eureka. The problem is not that he is sufficiently committed to his principles to make sacrifices for the greater good, but instead that his concept of what is an acceptable sacrifice is so far out of line with social norms that he is unforgivable. Here is it worth comparing him with another thematically similar villain – Char Aznable, from Gundam (the series which so strongly inspires Eureka Seven.) Come the end of Gundam’s Universal Century timeline, Char has become simultaneously a wide-eyed idealist determined to pursue what he perceives as the noble culmination of failed administrations before him (the Zeon ideals of the Zabis, then Haman) but also a petty, revenge-obsessed fool whose actions can be as easily seen as a fit of pique against Amuro Ray, the pilot who has bested him again and again.
The parallels with Dewey seem apparent; both sides have plans for truly cataclysmic attacks on society, Dewey via his provoking the Coralians and Char via the bringing of the space station Axis down on Earth to create a nuclear winter. Both sides have a very flexible idea of what is acceptable action in the name of a higher goal – Char sees the crippling of Earth’s ecosystem as exactly the kind of cataclysm that will force long-term social change to a more responsible way of living, the culmination of a strategy of dropping large objects from space on Earth as a weapon that began with the end of the One Week War and continued through the timeline, while Dewey thinks nothing of a first-strike against an alien race which he can profit from if it fails thanks to the natural scapegoat it creates. Indeed, it is worth noting that both parties think nothing of using children – be they the Ageha unit and Anemone and Dominic or Quess Paraya as the latest in Char’s obsession with militarising the young (a self-loathing obsession, in many ways – his conduct stems from the death of Lalah Sune in Mobile Suit Gundam, a character who was the first such tragic child soldier in the franchise’s history). However, there are fundamental differences in their methodologies and ideologies that both distance Eureka Seven from its inspirations and also make Dewey into a positively unpleasant subversion of the expected villain of such an animé.
Char is not – throughout much of Gundam – a simple amoral character. His actions, from the first things he does that mark him out as the series’ most interesting villain (betraying Garma Zabi, killing Kycilia Zabi, and pursuing a rivalry with Amuro ahead of furthering the ideals of Zeon) through his apparently heroic persona of “Quattro Bageena” in Zeta Gundam to his demise in Char’s Counterattack, are all motivated by a quite relatable code. He initially acts to set right wrongs against his family – for he operates entirely under a pseudonym to hide his identity as Casval Deikun – and then pursues what he sees as a fairer, more refined cause of rights for the space colonies. His war in Zeta is as much against the Earth Federation’s corrupt Titans faction as Haman’s imperialistic aims to restore the Zabi dynasty. As this in turn proves ineffectual, and brings only more loss of innocence (culminating in the almost-death of Kamille Bidan at the end of Zeta), his development into a less moral, more extreme villain seems logical. While what he is doing come Char’s Counterattack clearly paints him once again as a villain (with the return of his eternal rival Amuro to the fore, and a new Gundam-versus-Superweapon climax with the Nu Gundam versus the Sazabi), much of the film is spent exploring why he has returned to villainy. He wants to be the agent of change, taking sole responsibility for the unthinkable (destroying Axis to pollute the Earth to the point of nigh-uninhabitability) while letting his followers – including the idealistic Quess – be the next generation, the ones who will help rebuild the fairer society he will use Axis to demand. He is at all times a charismatic leader and also a responsible – if cruel – one.
By contrast, Dewey has none of the relatability or rationale of Char. His plan is no less decisive – and if anything is far crueller because it lets thousands die to start a war (and provide a casus belli in the same action). There is the personal rivalry – both directly with his brother Holland and through the proxy of Anemone to fight Renton – but it is not even an understandable one. Char’s distress at Lalah’s death was shown also to have affected Amuro, and created a kind of political dichotomy with both sides trying to prevent another such tragedy from diametrically opposed positions. Dewey’s position throughout Eureka Seven is one of seeking to do things one way and surround himself only with compliance – an intractable amorality focused on furthering his own position and trying to divest responsibility elsewhere. This is made clearest in his use of the Ageha unit to provoke the Coralians; his plan both starts a hugely costly war and makes him the hero for saving the day, placing the blame for the deaths elsewhere. Furthermore, unlike Char, he acts decisively and with no quarter or chance for compromise; his only concern is finding a method he considers the most efficient use of resources to “preserve life” after orchestrating a massacre. He wants to be an agent of change himself, creating a world that suits his own worldview and acting purely on it, rather than the at least small veneer of selflessness that informs Char’s discontent with the Earth Federation. His use of children – in the Ageha unit – works only because they are impressionable and indoctrinated en masse to create an innocent, purely utilitarian force whose moral development is stunted by the presence of a completely amoral parental figure. Char is exploitative, for sure – but Dewey represents the unpleasant extreme.
The other character-studies in episode 36 are themselves interesting, and will be covered later; what the small introductory scene of Dewey trying to rationalise his failure does is present unequivocally that he is not only a cruel villain, but his principles – those aspects of an antagonist that present a dramatic conflict and challenge the viewer’s understanding of their motivations – are so skewed from the norm that he is both completely intolerable and all-powerful. The ideas that society might try and not even consider the possibility of a figure like Dewey existing – or do everything to make sure he is held back (as his initial status as a prisoner suggests) – empower him. He is surrounded by obedient sycophants and actively oppresses all those who do not toe his line (Dominic as a particular example), and by insulating himself from all consequence he acts how he wishes.