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.
Sakuya is introduced as a giant plant, who approaches Norb with handlike tendrils that touch and caress him in very human fashion. As her story is told, it focuses on a move from distance to intimacy, with the embrace – physical closeness and mutual support – being the epitome of trust and affection. This scene – of a man becoming physically intimate (specifically not sexually, though, for reasons that will become clear) with something so far past human as to have transcended a humanoid body, but using the same universal gestures of trust, picks up a theme that is established from this episode’s first visuals. As Eureka and Renton dismount the Nirvash ready to approach Sakuya, there is a closeup on them holding hands – a visual picked up when the children comfort each other, and then when Norb meets Sakuya’s tendrils (and then later on in the parallel-narrative flashback of Norb’s courtship of past-Sakuya). This is a supportive gesture, both in the physical sense – Renton helping his friend down from a high place – and the psychological – the older child holding his younger companions closely to reassure them that everything will be fine. When done between apparent “adults” – the aged priest and the divine alien being – it is still imbued with a similar innocence.
Distinguishing between intimacy free from shyness and sexual contact is something Eureka Seven touches on throughout its more private scenes; physical contact is a sign of closeness and trust be it among friends, lovers or even as a sign of family – as Renton’s closeness to Ray and Charles showed. The episode with the magazines showed that sex was not the ne plus ultra of relationships and to think so was immature; that perhaps one of Eureka Seven’s most genuinely romantic scenes is a man holding hands with a plant shows there is nothing childish about innocent closeness. Furthermore, it shows that even with the greatest of barriers – species, biology and even divinity – there are mutually understood languages that permit communication. In a series all about trying to communicate with the inscrutable – Eureka’s living as a human among the Gekkostate, Dewey’s insistance that it should be bombed and destroyed, and even Egan’s scientific theories to try and comprehend it – Norb is the only person shown to be able to effortlessly approach the unknowable. This is shown in the episode to be in part due to his innate humanity – he is a kind, if previously naïve, person – but also a result of a spiritual upbringing.
There is symbolism to the holy man being the one most comfortable with the unknown and uncanny which further complicates Eureka Seven‘s relationship with theology. Spirituality is apparently open-mindedness, if amiably misguided open-mindedness. Sakuya, since her birth, has been raised as a “saint” – Norb says she was “set up” as one and it is clear that this was the construction of an identity to comprehend her divinity. The Voderak are happy to accept the idea of the divine, and its messengers taking human form to engage with humanity – the idea of a Christ figure or incarnated God is completely natural to them and they have an entire tradition and culture built around it happening. Considering the theology of Eureka Seven, as I have, in Judeo-Christian terms (the Coralians as Christlike figures and the Scub as a monotheistic deity) is only one approach, however; the setup of the world – with the Great Wall, and Sakuya’s temple and even the outfits and accoutrements of Norb and the Voderak – evoke just as much Tibetan Buddhism. On a deeper level, there are philosophical similarities with this religion too. However, I do not understand the subject enough to authoritatively discuss this series’ similarities and possible commentary on Buddhist thought – yet, because of its unique science-fictional setup, there is a universality to its theology that invites consideration from the perspectives of a number of religions. The Voderak religion, I think, is not intended to be a specific commentary in a political sense on the role of Tibetan Buddhism in society (which would put the Federation forces as something evocative of the mindset of the Chinese), and at the same time neither is it wholly a Judeo-Christian analogy. It represents religion as a general concept – cultural traditions – as a way of understanding and engaging with a very real divine.
The flashback narrative of this episode, of Norb meeting Sakuya and their ultimate fate, spins the idea that the Voderak’s canonising of Sakuya was a knowing response to her divinity into something misguided. They understand, to a point, that she is “a child of the land” – something related to the Scub – but perhaps understate her importance, and do not understand fully what she is capable of. Norb claims the Voderak “set her up as a saint,” which is interesting phrasing; Sakuya was a messianic figure as a humanoid Coralian, and thus something far more than the religious figurehead that the Voderak comprehended her as. It is a restating, in effect, of the series’ focus on the incompatibility of religious tradition with the divine’s wishes; Norb sees great significance and profundity in Sakuya’s only eating a little of what she is given, but she admits to Eureka in her retelling of the flashback that it was simply the case she did not like it. The reverence and distance of the Voderak precluded them from ever learning, really, what their “saint” wanted; they had the perfect opportunity to commune with God, and squandered it in tradition. Norb, spending his life in service to Sakuya, gradually learns to communicate with the divine – first non-verbally, and then eventually verbally (initially seeing this as a transgression of holy order) until the time comes for the pair to – as a proto-Renton and Eureka – try and cross the Great Wall.
Yet for whatever reason, this fails; Sakuya begins her metamorphosis into the flower she is now, and the hand-holding gesture – picked up at the start of the episode as one of trust and reassurance – is all she has left. Sakuya tells Eureka “When I heard him call out my name like he did, I felt that he and I had finally become one.” She describes the sensation of learning what love is to Eureka, and in so doing lets Eureka realise what she really feels for Renton – and that it is OK to express it. But if this story is a parallel prefiguring of Renton’s progress, it raises implications for the remainder of the series; Sakuya was able only to feel true love when her journey was at an end, and became something more than human. Indeed, it could be argued she returned to the divine – her time as a human only transitory. The question remains whether Eureka will meet the same fate.
In this final conversation, though, there is one visual detail that is particularly interesting; Sakuya draws a page full of hearts to express the depth of the love she felt for Norb at the time. When she asks Eureka to do the same, Eureka draws a single large heart encompassing all the others – a subtle refinement of the thought from undirected feeling to directed. Eureka feels with all her body and heart – and maybe it will be this that will let her and Renton succeed where Norb and Sakuya failed.