Talking to Women in Episode 38 of Eureka Seven

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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.

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The episode begins where 37 left off, with Renton and Eureka alone together discussing the past; Eureka claims she knew Adroc Thurston, Renton’s father, and this immediately gets his attention – he asks why she never told him earlier, and becomes aggressive as she does not understand why he needed to know. In this scene – a quite believable, if heightened, sequence of a still-immature boy who has never come to terms with his father’s death – and the lack of contact they shared beforehand – the same themes as Teppei’s strained reunion with his father, but played out indirectly. Renton sees in Eureka someone who had more time with his father than he ever did – he feels betrayed by Adroc and unable to properly understand his father’s legacy. He asks, crucially, “what’s wrong with you?” – demanding to know why she withheld information she should have (had she been aware of human culture more) shared about his past. Her reply is equally simple; she is “not human”, and does not know why parents matter. Indeed, with the implications of what has gone before regarding the Coralians’ attempts to understand humanity, unity – not argument – is vital for future peace. Norb intercedes in this after Renton drives Eureka away, asking him if he knows what sort of a relationship he wants with her – and this drives Renton to introspection. Captain Earth had its revelation – and Teppei’s reaction as the climax of the episode, where it was a catalyst for future action; Eureka Seven already has its motivations and its conflicts, and presents this as one of many misunderstandings. The episode is about Eureka learning to understand what she did “wrong” in Renton’s eyes, and at the same time both parties learning about the appropriate way to act.

After hearing Norb’s words, Renton returns to a preoccupation with relationships, particularly romantic ones; his “love” for Eureka has been a source of internal conflict throughout, since he ultimately has problems admitting it. As Stoner muses on Dewey’s coup, Renton muses on how he should reconcile with – and possibly further his relationship with – Eureka. Here the dialogue offers a subtle humour – Stoner reasons that “the information from the mass media… is sinking into peoples’ hearts” as Dewey gains supporters and manipulates information to further his cause. At the same time, Renton is looking secretively to trashy mens’ magazines for advice on relationships – a hyper-masculine, idealised mass media depiction of love. The magazine he chooses has a girl who looks like an idealised Eureka in a bikini on the cover, making this parallel particularly clear. When he is discovered, the Gekko’s crew immediately convene to try and “help” him – the women of the crew feel some sympathy for his inability to communicate his feelings. This is set in contrast with the attitudes of the men, who simply think he needs to man up and be plain with himself. Both sides have an ulterior motive which in turn services the ultimate motive, that of passing the Great Wall with the Nirvash. The women want to help Renton be a more sensitive and pleasant person, at ease with his feelings and at ease with Eureka; the men want to help him find love in the most physical sense. Moondoggie says it most clearly; he asks if anyone has considered if Renton can even biologically sleep with Eureka. He is immediately condemned for it, and rightly; such a question represents the culmination of the masculine approach of plainness of feeling and the idea that sex is the endpoint of male/female relationships. It is hardly appropriate in this situation – but at the same time this scene serves as a reminder of something that will define the episode. Eureka Seven has been coy around the matter of sex, as befits its perspective of an inexperienced boy. It is something unwanted and hormonal, a desire that works against Renton’s aims of friendship with Eureka – and something that Talho has in the past used against him. Perhaps more crucially, it is the realm of adults. The only real foregrounded sexual relationship is that of Holland and Talho, which has resulted in a child. What follows is a divergence of approach, men versus women; the men of the Gekko continue to try and “train” Renton in masculinity with their magazines and bravado – assuming a sexual interest – while the women show a similar assumption from a different angle. They fear that if Renton is sexually interested, Eureka is too naïve to understand consent, and teach responsibility.

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Of course, that the entire argument is definitely not about sex – but is about its corollary parenthood – makes the episode’s progress an inevitable farce. Eureka’s ignorance of parental roles leads to the reconciliation; she assumes that Renton’s concern for his late father is because he himself wants to be a good father, not understanding the reciprocal nature of parent-child relationships. It is talking to Talho, the expectant mother – and seeing how Holland is handling the issue – that brings this on. Eureka has no concept of the sexual at all (perhaps a clearer reinforcement of her non-human nature than any naïve misunderstanding about relationships), not making any mental link between the sex act and parenthood. It is once this is made clear to all parties that progress in the matter can be made on a useful level – not one of misunderstood (yet valuable, in Eureka’s case) advice but instead proper conversation.

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Eureka learns what the symbolic and social value of a parent is – someone prepared to “protect [their] children, even if it means sacrificing [their] life”, and someone who can share a “feeling of deep affection.” Renton learns – or is reminded – that relationships should not be means to the end of sex, and this is recapitulated in Eureka’s closing words in which she, having helped Renton come to terms with his father’s death and legacy, compares herself to a sister, not a girlfriend. If anything, the episode’s progression offers an all-encompassing examination of how someone with no concept of family would understand a family; childbearing, parental love and indeed romantic and sexual love. In all these areas Renton is as inexperienced as Eureka – and indeed the Gekko’s other crew. Whether or not Holland is a parental figure – for he tries to reject that duty, and is fairly poor at it – is an ongoing mystery of Eureka Seven, and an ambiguity which sets him quite apart from his logical robot-anime parallel of Bright Noah. Yet even if he is a poor parent, he has enough suddenly-learned knowledge of the duties of a father – from an informed, adult perspective – to explain the matter to Renton.

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