Episode 43 of Eureka Seven significantly advances the main, alien-contact plot in its scenes of Renton and Eureka on an unusual beach. They have travelled to the Promised Land, as expected, and face new challenges even with Norb’s clues about its identity. The viewer learns, in time, about Earth’s role in this setting (and the difference in perspective from which the characters view it) – yet what is more interesting by far, beyond the actual main plot, is the subtle building up to a subplot for Dominic and Anemone and how the revelations this offers about Dewey and Holland reflect on what Renton and Eureka are seeing. It is one of the points in Eureka Seven, much like the Ray and Charles subplot, where it deftly redefines and arguably surpasses its roots in Gundam. Eureka Seven is indebted to the Gundam franchise, yet – much like the similarly referential and reverential Rahxephon has its uneasy relationship with Evangelion – it is at its most fascinating when it diverges from it.
The episode begins with a scene of Dominic in the ruins of the city he has had a hand in destroying, surveying the damage. He is repelled, physically nauseated by the slaughter and this – this restating of his inherent “unprofessionalism”, the weak humanity which means he cannot so easily inure himself to what he thought he had wanted as his internal monologue claims “I thought I had been wishing for it to happen” – humanises him. Nausea as a device in Eureka Seven is put into focus here as a signifier tied, in opposing ways, to maturity and sensibility. Renton, through the earliest arcs of the series, fought to no longer be sick when Eureka piloted the Nirvash – his inability to control himself in a way a pilot must was a sign of his immaturity, his unreadiness within the Gekkostate. That Dominic is human enough to feel sick when he sees the effects of his actions – that he is “young” enough in a world of cynical, uncaring adults to have a physical response to atrocity – does more to humanise him than the times he has met Renton. “Sympathetic enemy” characters in mecha anime are usually either humanised by their exposure to the “good” characters or by those good characters inherently; their values are questioned. Eureka Seven plays on this with Renton’s straightforward ethics concerning the Voderak, and saving everyone who can be saved; he sees injustice in the world and tries to fight it. Dominic’s conflict is the more interesting one. He sees injustice and atrocity and cannot square that with the fact that he is – in his mind – doing the right thing. He wants – in some way – what Dewey wants and yet is doubting the methods by which it will be achieved, and so in turn doubts what he wants without the need for any moments of cliché companionship. He is given enough agency as a character to be shown to make his own mind up based on what he sees and does – much more of a protagonistic journey, which is quite befitting of the parallel plots at the centre of Eureka Seven.
Yet he is “young” – not necessarily young in a simplistic moral sense (for opposing a campaign of bombing cities and summoning alien invaders is hardly immature morals) but young in many other ways, ways that make him powerless. He – despite his rank – does not have the status or influence to act on it, and does not have the life experience to do what he does set out to do. This is made clear in the episode as he returns to Anemone, the other “sympathetic enemy” in Eureka Seven and on the surface the more typical one. She, on the surface, fits neatly into what is a fairly lazy archetype in mecha anime, the brainwashed damsel who exists mostly as tragic love interest. That is not to say that such character arcs cannot be good entertainment, or engagingly written in a way that encourages you to care about the characters, but they are a cliché exceptionally well worn and positively reductive in their worst examples. Piloting The END causes her physical discomfort, and she is drugged and abused until she complies – manipulated with the promise of affection by a man many years her senior.
Yet Anemone is among the best-written characters, the most interesting ones, in Eureka Seven because she is as human, as realised on a protagonistic level as Dominic – and given a role throughout the plot, and an arc based as much on her own development than the drop-everything urgency of a man saving her. Dominic brings her anemones, seeing the name resemblance, and is told that the flower symbolism of her own name is “disappearance of hope.” He did not know this, but it is a telling scene; he is trying to act in his own, inexperienced way, to make her life better on a small, personal level when she is well past that. Flowers and a cute name joke – and her typically tsundere response – are well past what is needed for someone Dominic has in the past helped Dewey abuse.
She replies to his gesture by saying “you don’t know why it is I fight, or what’s going to happen to me if I keep failing… will you save me” – a fatalistic realisation that she is a tool to be thrown out when used up, and even the person who supposedly – and at one point really endeavoured to – make her life better is complicit in this. There is a parallel here, almost, with Norb and Sakuya; it is left open whether Norb’s emotions got in the way of Sakuya’s religious role, whether his betrayal of his spiritual duty of care (in the eyes of the Voderak) caused great problems down the line. There a sheltered girl was given a hint of a “normal life” by her guardian, and it helped her become who she was (and in turn help Eureka). Dominic’s feelings for Anemone are limited by his low status and inability to fully condemn a course of action he has been a part of. When Dominic does offer platitudes about helping her, her response is what really sets her out as a character rising above her forebears. She claims “you don’t know anything about me… don’t cling to me desperately” – and this is crucial to what makes her a compelling character. The traditional role of a character in her situation is to be the catalyst for a male protagonist to learn to fight, or a wavering villain to switch sides – by dying, or failing to be rescued.
She is actively, in her dialogue, opposing traditional roles given to cliche’d women characters, insisting Dominic help her for her own sake, understanding why she is in the situation she is in – and, as the viewer may imply, how he has contributed to this state of affairs. In many ways Anemone is still catalysing Dominic’s development, but she is doing it in a way that keeps her status as a character herself, rather than reducing herself to a tool for Dominic. The only way she will let herself be “saved” is on her own terms, by someone who cares about her as a person – and for that Dominic must not only be “humanised” into a suitably redeemed role (by his own hands, as the series’ ongoing motif emphasies) in rejecting Dewey’s evil, but also accepting his own role in Anemone’s abuse and proving himself to her. Yes, there is the potential for romance to develop but this is not the unrequited love of an exploited damsel for her Prince Charming, it is a vulnerable girl at rock bottom looking for someone who once cared for her to get both himself and her out of a cycle of abuse.